Ask the Doctors: She Wants Stronger Orgasms

My very sexual, very interested girlfriend rarely reaches orgasm and when she does they are weak.  She thinks it’s all in her head/mental and I tend to agree.  What can I do for her?  Is hypno-therapy a good option?  Other suggestions, like a sex therapist? Thanks!
–Her Pleasure Counts

Many women don’t orgasm much (or sometimes ever) during intercourse — some surveys have suggested as many as 70% of women do not. So if you and your girlfriend are experiencing that, specifically, as opposed to a lack of orgasms when you go down on her, use toys, or she masturbates, please be aware that her response (or lack of it) is very common. Generally women in this situation  do best learning the skill of orgasm in other ways first — yes, in a way it IS a skill, since just as when she learns to knit or throw a softball, her body needs to grow nerves to help support the activity or, in this case, response.

Here are the first things I’d suggest. If your girlfriend doesn’t masturbate, with or without toys, I’d suggest she do so. Being able to have orgasms in any way is probably going to get her closer to orgasm from other kinds of stimulation, including with partner sex. Solo play (with or without you present) allows her to concentrate on sensations that can bring her closer to orgasm, and these can be subtle at first, harder to concentrate on when a partner’s touch is also in the mix.

My very favorite book on this topic, I Love Female Orgasm, will be a terrific resource for you both. And later this year I expect to be doing a sex ed film about women’s orgasm¦ though I don’t want her to wait that long! Meanwhile there is the awesome, groundbreaking work of Betty Dodson, whose books and videos have helped many women and whose website is packed with information. and you might like the man-to-man tone of Ian Kerner’s book She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.

Many very sexually-interested women have two challenges when it comes to orgasm: trying to hurry their own response and not taking the time they need to get fully aroused (without optimal arousal, even a very willing and interested partner may not be able to come), and psyching themselves out by worrying about whether they’ll be able to come this time. Something like what the Buddhists call “monkey mind,” this serves as such a distraction that the sensations don’t get through. If this is what she means by “mental,” it’s conceivable that hypnotherapy would help, but I’d rather she learn to focus her attention on the erotic elements of each sexual encounter without that sort of outside assist. (And if she isn’t actually turned on enough, it won’t help at all.) If there are issues with shame or fear, working through them with a therapist would be my recommendation.

Finally, a weak orgasm can be a sign of not-very-well-developed Kegel (a.k.a. pubococcygeal) muscles. Here are some instructions on exercising them — she may do better with a resistive device such as a barbell, but this is not entirely necessary. Good luck!

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at

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