The word orgasm derives from the Greek orgasmos, which means excitement or swelling—but when orgasms are MIA, your sense of frustration could do most of the “swelling.”
I recently sat down with Shadeen Francis, MFT in the Girl Boner® Radio studio. The marriage and family therapist, professor and author shared such gorgeous insight on common crises among her therapy clients, rewards of healing, the power of authentic self-care and more. I soaked up every word, and hope you will, too! Find the full episode and other listening options down below. In the meantime, here are a few important facts worth considering if you or your partner can’t seem to orgasm.
4 Facts About Orgasm Problems
They’re pretty common.
“Why can’t I orgasm? Is there something wrong with me?”
That depends, and definitely not! When I asked Shadeen what challenges most people in crisis bring to her office, she said an inability to orgasm ranks high. Some folks can no longer orgasm while others have yet to experience a Big O in the first place.
“That is a crisis point for a lot of folks—not a casual thing, which to me really affirms how important our sexuality is to us,” she said. “Folks of all genders come in saying, ‘I have never had an orgasm and this is incredibly upsetting to me,’ or ‘I used to have orgasms and now they are gone and I cannot get them back.’ Those are really big crises.”
Stress and shame can cause orgasm problems.
If your orgasms have gone missing or you’ve never experienced one to your knowledge, stress and shame may be to blame.
“Sometimes [orgasm difficulty] is a medical thing, so I do stay in close contact with physicians I know and trust to make referrals for a physical exam to see if there’s something happening hormonally or circulation-wise,” she said. “Otherwise, a lot of it boils down to stress and shame. Stress and shame are incredibly unsexy experiences.”
Feeling stressed or self-conscious due to orgasm struggles can fuel anxiety around sex (“What if I can’t orgasm, again???”), making matters worse. You might end up avoiding sex altogether or experiencing less pleasure during sexy play thanks to those disruptive thoughts. A study published in Behavioral Research Therapy linked anxiety with female arousal and orgasm difficulties in women. If you find yourself in this loop, relaxation and mindfulness practices may help.
Orgasms are fluid—which is super important to recognize.
This isn’t a problem at all. On the contrary, orgasm fluidity is a wondrous thing! Not recognizing this, however, can fuel frustration and disappointment—especially if you compare every climax you experience to that Big O that rocked your entire world and left you in euphoric tears.
One of the biggest orgasm myths, said Shadeen, is that they’re all the same. Think of like food, she suggested:
“Let’s say you have your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. Every time you go there, it’s not going to taste the exact same. It could be something about the ingredients or who the chef is. It might be the mood that you’re in. It might be the time of day… There are so many things that can make that different. Does that mean that the meal is less worthwhile? Probably not.”
Just as your appetite and enjoyment of food varies, orgasms and sexual experiences fluctuate, too. If you catch yourself in Orgasm Comparison Zone, wondering why a particular climax felt so short, dry or mild, remind yourself that pleasure comes in a whole range of packages. A better goal to arrive for, said Shadeen, is “to really be able to live in the fluidity of your body and enjoy a smorgasbord of pleasure.”
There is so much hope to be had.
Both Shadeen and Dr. Megan are prime examples of the terrific resources available to help you cultivate the sex life and orgasms you desire. (And if you’re hesitant to start therapy, definitely listen to the #AskDrMegan segment in the below Girl Boner® Radio episode!) If conventional therapy isn’t ideal for you, I highly recommend TalkSpace, which you can save $30 on by visiting TalkSpace.com/boner. You might also benefit from Emily Nagasaki’s Come as You Are (—or my Girl Boner book, but hey, that’s not out just yet. ;)). Practicing self-awareness, self-care, going easy on yourself and self-exploration through masturbation, too, can go far.
To listen to the full episode, which covers more on orgasm challenges as well as healing after infidelity, practical means of self-care and more, stream it below or on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Stitcher Radio or Google Play—or most anywhere you listen to podcasts!