Vaginal Orgasms – What Are They and How to Have One

As part of my efforts to help others, I sometimes answer reader questions on One woman previously asked about how to achieve vaginal orgasms. Although my response was to this one woman, I think the information I provided to her will benefit you as well. Her question and my response is below:
So far in my life I’ve only been able to have a vaginal orgasm about three times from what I can count but they’ve only happened when I was masturbating. One of the things I want more than anything, to be honest like you two, is to be able to orgasm vaginally with my partner since I’ve heard with a partner it is one of life’s most beautiful experiences.
My only problem is that I’m an incredibly shy and enclosed person. I love my boyfriend more than I’ve ever loved anybody and our sex is incredibly passionate and loving but I continuously feel like we rush through it. We live an hour and a half away so we rarely see each other (which does make the meeting all the more steamier) but I feel like he rushes through it. He just wants to cum and what experts say is the 20 minutes of necessary foreplay is more like four minutes.
Not only this but I’m not exactly as comfortable around him as I feel I should be. I know he loves me more than anything, but I’m not assertive. I’m afraid to make moves or ask for things and likewise so is he which I feel is greatly hindering our relationship. Should I talk to him about this issue?
From your Nine Was The Magic Number post I was hoping (since we have a six day spring break week planned just the two of us and a hotel room) that I could coerce him into lying in bed with me all day in the hopes of feeling emotionally closer and achieving a vaginal orgasm with him by asking him just want to do nothing but please me.
Also we mainly only really just have sex. We’ve made love and it was beautiful and we have phone sex and we have just typical sex a lot but a lot of the time it leaves me feeling unsatisfied and more importantly frustrated due to not being able to orgasm vaginally because I crave being close to him but I have trouble vaginal orgasming (tips if possible please) so I rely on clitoral stimulation but we don’t use cock rings and like we all know, trying to rub your clit with someone on top can get awkward, and we’ve orgasmed together but it was doggie style and clitoral and I want something more, I want a deep connecting, body rocking, legs can barely move after experience with him.
Do I just need to be more comfortable with him and the rest will fall into place? Is it just impossible for some women to vaginal orgasm? Am I breathing wrong? I think I psyche myself out because I feel like he’s more selfish but I’m too afraid to ask him to change. It’s a vicious cycle.
Help please,
 – Shy

There are several things that have jumped out at me from reading your inquiry. If I understand correctly, you would like your passionate sessions with your boyfriend to last longer, to not be just “typical sex”, and to have a vaginal orgasm; however, both of you lack assertiveness so bringing up the topic of trying new things or talking about your concern is tough.

What I want to say to you first is that, unfortunately, it has been a long-time attempt to convince women they should not only need penetration during sex to have an orgasm but that the vaginal orgasm is the crown jewel of sexual satisfaction. Sounds a lot like a “males-rule-all” scenario to me. With such expectations filling men and women’s minds, when a vaginal orgasm during penetration alone doesn’t happen then thoughts of inadequacy, frustration, and just plain being pissed off occurs. Sound familiar? Forcing this model of sex is not helping women out because penetration just isn’t what most women need to have an orgasm. Although penetration alone works for some, it doesn’t work for a lot of women. To help provide some explanation, here is some information gathered from various studies. (Now, stay with me here. I know it’s a lot of information)

The Vaginal Orgasm

 In an effort to answer many questions, including the answer to the question, “Are clitoral and vaginal orgasms truly separate anatomic entities?” Masters and Johnson studied hundreds of men’s and women’s sexual responses, the results of which are in their book Human Sexual Response. The results of their effort led them to conclude that, “From a biological point of view, the answer to this question is an unequivocal No.” (65).

Wait, WHAT?! There is no vaginal orgasm? Nope.

Instead, what differs is the variation in the direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris, which then causes a variation in the duration, intensity, and subjective feeling of an orgasm. Different types of touch and duration of that touch cause different orgasmic experiences for women, which means variations in stimulation will also cause different feelings of orgasm for you. For example, an orgasm from a vibrator on your clitoris might feel different from the orgasm you feel when your partner’s penis is inside of you, your clitoris is rubbing against his pubic bone and he’s pulling your hair. They can feel deep, superficial, dull, and intense…anything under the sun depending on what you’re doing and how YOU interpret the feeling. Further, an orgasm that comes quickly might feel different from one that takes longer because of the differences in muscle tension and blood buildup.

What I’m trying to get at is each feeling of orgasm is different. It isn’t about achieving an orgasm but experiencing an orgasm, one isn’t better than the other, they shouldn’t be compared to other women’s, it doesn’t matter how you have an orgasm or how many, and, in my opinion, each orgasm (no matter how big or small) is one of “life’s most beautiful experiences”.

Orgasm From Penetration

Not only is there not a vaginal OR clitoral orgasm (but simply variations in orgasmic feeling), expecting all women to orgasm through penetration alone is also pretty darn unfair. According to The Hite Report, a study of over three thousand woman conducted by Shere Hite, only 30% of women can have an orgasm through penetration. The study also found that half of that 30% also needed simultaneous clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm through intercourse. That means the majority of women rely on clitoral stimulation to orgasm. What’s more, in a study where 20,000 orgasms were monitored by sexologists William Hartman and Marilyn Fithian, it was found that it takes the average woman 20-30 minutes of constant, sustained stimulation to have an orgasm. With the four minutes of only penetration you currently have to work with, it’s no wonder you are left feeling unsatisfied. That’s just enough time to get the blood flowing and your mind cleared from your hectic day.

What Does This Mean for You?

First, don’t downplay the orgasms you are having because they aren’t the earth-shaking, five-in-a-row ones you think you are supposed to have. Love the awesomeness that is each orgasm, no matter how small or big. What’s more, sexual pleasure doesn’t always have to be about “achieving” orgasm. You can simply want to feel some pleasure but not want an orgasm. Or perhaps you aren’t in the mindset to have one. Whatever it may be, orgasm shouldn’t be the determining factor or end-all-be-all in your pleasure, but rather a part of your overall pleasure experience. And don’t feel like you have to have sex with your boyfriend all the time. He has two hands doesn’t he? And if you aren’t quite satisfied after sex, you have two hands don’t you? Or, speak up and tell him that you need more (more on that later).

If you do want to have sex and an orgasm during sex, you will probably need to do more things than rely on penetration alone. For instance, you can be on top so you can grind your clitoris on his pubic bone. Or, you or your partner can also stimulate your clitoris with a hand or vibrator (yes it can be awkward but practice helps!). And orgasms most certainly don’t have to happen at the same time. If they do, great, but it’s a rare occurrence for most (and an exhausting goal to try and reach).

If tying things during penetration is too tough to synchronize, keep in mind that that your orgasm can happen before, after, and even instead of intercourse by self-pleasuring, mutual self-pleasuring, oral sex, massages, etc. There are so many variations you can play with. For instance, you can have him stimulate you to orgasm, then have sex, then make out. Or maybe when he gets too heated during sex, stop and start making out and then masturbate together. Whatever combination of pleasure you want is great! Play around and have fun! Trying different things will help you find what works to give you the feeling of orgasm that is your favorite. You don’t even need to try some new crazy sexual positions or technique. Start with what you know and keep things simple to build up more intimacy and passion between the two of you. For instance you can kiss passionately without the expectation of sex or give each other a sensual massage for it’s own sake. That isn’t to say you can’t try new things, but often working on and communicating about things you already do is not as scary and can help build comfort between the two of you, which is an important foundation for building intimacy and passion (and later suggesting new things).

Communication & Assertiveness

Unfortunately, your man isn’t a mind reader and he is likely to keep doing what he’s doing unless you speak up. When you ask yourself if you should talk to him about your concerns, the answer is yes. Easier said than done, especially for someone who is shy. To help you out, it is important for you to build your assertiveness. Not only will this make communicating with your partner easier, but also it will lessen your shyness and improve self-image.

In their book Sexual Confidence, Phillips and Judd suggest exercises where you have to maintain your assertiveness in order to help build assertiveness. Makes sense right? They suggest working on one exercise for three weeks, or until it becomes easy, and then move on to exercises that are more challenging for you. Once you are more confident outside of the bedroom, assertiveness inside the bedroom where you can ask what you want, suggest new things, feel like you deserve pleasure, and to be receptive of your partner’s attempts at assertiveness, will become easier.

Some exercises to work on:

1. Accept all compliments without putting yourself down.
2. Express two opinions a day while gradually increasing the controversy of the subject.
3. Express one or two feelings to two or more people a day.
4. Say No or disagree at least twice a week to something you do not want to do.
5. Say Yes at least twice a week to something you would usually deny yourself
6. Ask a favor at least once a week.

Exercises that are more assertive include buying something and returning it, requesting a quite table at a restaurant, and rehearsing with a friend to tell someone to move to the back of the line when they cut in front of you. Self-indulgent exercises are also important to help you feel more deserving of pleasurable activities. For instance, stay in bed an extra few minutes, enjoy putting on lotion, take a day off, exercise, take a bubble bath, etc. Lastly, thought-stopping exercises, where you consciously stop any negative thoughts, such as thinking you don’t deserve to ask for what you want or that other women’s orgasms are better, for more rewarding and pleasurable thoughts will also help your assertiveness.

Once you feel good about your assertiveness outside the bedroom, you will gradually become more comfortable inside the bedroom to communicate to your partner about what you want (such as needing more pressure, to slow it down, suggesting that tonight you just want to make out, or let’s try a new sexual position). And make sure you are receptive to what he has to say as well. It will be easier for your both to be assertive when what either of you say isn’t criticized or laughed at. Lastly, when you feel comfortable, include your partner in your adventure in building your assertiveness. Not only can you encourage him to practice being assertive, but also share with each other any victory in your exercises. It can be very affirming to here positive feedback from your partner when you say, “babe, today I told the gal at the coffee shop that she made me the wrong drink. How cool is that?”

Whew! That’s a longwinded answer to your question and a lot to think about and work on. Remember: The vaginal orgasm isn’t better than a clitoral orgasm (because it doesn’t exist). Penetration during sex alone doesn’t work for most women so more direct clitoral stimulation will likely need to happen before, during, or after sex for you to be satisfied. And work on your assertiveness, which will positively impact all areas of your life, not just in the bedroom.


Dr. Chelsea Holland

Chelsea Holland, DHS is a sex educator and counselor based in Colorado. She is also a blogger at SEXuality Education from Dr. Chelsea. She helps individuals, partners, and groups regardless of their sexual orientation, sexual interests, ability, and age with concerns and questions around their sexuality and relationships. Further, she uses her open-minded, sex-positive, and nonjudgmental approach to help individuals become aware and accepting of who they are, to learn to be authentic in society about who they are, and to gain the skills that will help them develop and maintain positive relationships that are accepting of the individual's authenticity.

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