I Can't Orgasm

Reasons Why You May Not Be Having Orgasms

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There are many reasons why someone may feel like they can’t orgasm. The first thing that’s important to know is that just because you aren’t having orgasms, and even if you’ve never had an orgasm, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have an orgasm. It’s also worth pointing out that there are lots of great sexual acts that don’t involve orgasms. But if you’re goal is to orgasm, read on.

When people email me with this question, which they do with some regularity, I start by asking a few questions of my own. Questions like:

  • Have you ever had an orgasm (and yes, this includes an orgasm from masturbation)?
  • Do you masturbate with any regularity?
  • Do you think you’d know an orgasm if you had one?

The first question is important because, particularly for women, many people who have never had an orgasm simply need the right information to know how to have one. On the other hand, if you’ve already had orgasms and you can’t orgasm, it’s probably not something as straightforward as knowing where to touch yourself and how. Not that one situation is more hopeful or hopeless than the other, they’re just different and the paths to orgasm may be correspondingly different.

The masturbation question is important because if you aren’t having orgasms, it can be much easier to learn to orgasm through masturbation than through sex with a partner. If you aren’t comfortable with masturbation it can make the process a bit more difficult (though again, not impossible).

Once we’re passed the preliminaries, it’s time to do some sleuthing and figure out what might be the reason you can’t orgasm. The best way to do this is start to think of the component parts involved in orgasms and see where there might be something getting in the way. First, consider where the problems may be happening:

  • Are you not feeling any desire for sex, which in turn leads to you not wanting or enjoying sex, and therefore not orgasming?
  • Do you want to have sex (the desire part) but find that once you start having sex you don’t get very turned on (the arousal part)?
  • Do you want to have sex, get turned on, but find you can never quite make it over the top to have an orgasm (the actual orgasm part)?

Next, think about some of the more direct causes of not having an orgasm. Here is a list of some of the main reasons people have difficulty orgasming.

Maybe It's Your Body
Because orgasm is an event that involves so many systems in your body (neurological, anatomical, muscular, hormonal, respiratory, the list goes on) there may be physical reasons you aren’t having orgasms. Reduced sensation as a result of paralysis, aging, or some medications, the indirect effects of chronic illness and some diseases, and physical effects of medications can all get in the way of orgasm. If you can’t orgasm a good first step is to talk to your family doctor to either rule out, or discover, potential physical causes. The good news is that there are very few purely physical causes of orgasm that can’t be worked around.

Maybe It's Your Mind
Many definitions of orgasms describe orgasm as equal parts mental and physical experience. So it makes sense that our mental state, both how we feel and how we think, can get in the way of our ability to orgasm. In order to orgasm you need to be able to relax, focus, and concentrate enough to take in the pleasurable feelings. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD can all make it difficult to orgasm. Aside from mental health labels, if you’re feeling very stressed out, very down about yourself, or generally “off” it can prevent you from experiencing orgasm.

Maybe It's Your Relationship
It’s not uncommon for someone to be able to orgasm during masturbation but have difficulty orgasming with a partner. If you’re consistently able to have an orgasm when masturbating but never do with a partner, there may be one of few things getting in the way. The easiest one to fix is when the problem is one of sexual technique. It also might be a problem in the relationship unrelated to sex. While this isn’t necessarily the case, having an orgasm requires relaxation and trust, and if you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel safe, or where there isn’t enough trust, orgasms may not come. Lastly, if you are having orgasms on your own but can’t with a partner it may be related to pressure or anxiety you’re feeling during sex with your partner.

Maybe It's Your Medication
Many different medications can get in the way of you having an orgasm. Medication can impact orgasm either through direct effects on your body or indirectly by making you feel more tired, reducing your ability to concentrate, or negatively affecting your mood. If you can’t orgasm and you are taking any medication, check with the doctor who prescribes the medication.

Maybe It's Your Sexual Technique
The right sexual technique won’t guarantee an orgasm, but without it the chances of having one go way down. Fortunately, the right sexual technique to achieve an orgasm isn’t rocket science. What’s needed is the right amount of stimulation, in the right area, and of the right kind. Once you know how to give yourself an orgasm it’s just a question of taking that learning into your sexual relationship with a partner.

Maybe It's Society
This may be one of most subtle influences on your ability to orgasm but it can still have a powerful effect. Here are just a few of the ways that society and the culture around you influence your ability to experience orgasm:

  • Quality and amount of sex education you receive
  • Messages you were raised with and contend with today about your body
  • Values and beliefs about sexual health and sexual pleasure
  • Values and beliefs about sexuality and gender

The impact of being inundated by sex negative messages should not be ignored when considering why you may not be having orgasms. This is particularly true for women who are routinely told that “good girls” aren’t sexual and that they must hide or be ashamed of their sexual desire and power.