Ask Emily: I’ve Never Had An Orgasm

never had an orgasm
Dear Emily,

Help me…I’ve never had an orgasm! I know, I know – I feel so ashamed even saying it out loud, since I do enjoy sex. But, people describe this sensation that I’m supposed to feel, almost like a pulsing, and it’s just not happening for me. What am I doing wrong? I’d really love to graduate to the O Club and it’s depressing that I’m in my 20s and still can’t do it. I’m a vulva owner, btw.



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Dear Orgasmless,

First off, I totally get why this is a big deal for you. The hype is real; orgasms do feel amazing. But the mechanisms behind them are slightly mysterious, so I can see how you, or any aspirational orgasmer, would be confused. (And frustrated!)

You’re a vulva owner, and that’s a huge piece of the puzzle right there. For one, vulva owners aren’t necessarily expected / encouraged to masturbate during adolescence the same way penis owners are. That might be changing, but the societal expectation is that sometime during puberty, penis owners will start touching themselves, and vulva owners…?? 

There’s not a masturbatory “training period” that we’re expected to go through, or a distinct age where it’s assumed that we’ll more or less figure it out. Like I said, things are evolving, but I bring this up because it sounds like you’re still in the training period. And that’s totally fine!

So in your quest to climax, here are 6 ways to explore your pleasure, train your neural pathways, and make orgasm that much more accessible:

1. Release shame.

The first thing I want to say here is that you’re not alone, even among vulva owners who do orgasm. Here are some numbers, for context: 

  • Only 18.4% of women orgasm from vaginal sex alone
  • From one study, 12% of women aged 17-28 had never had an orgasm
  • Women who receive oral during most sexual encounters are 23% more likely to orgasm during sex than women who never receive oral
  • Women in a relationship of 6+ months are more than 6 times as likely to orgasm during a sexual encounter than a woman with a first-time hookup

As you can see, these numbers tell us that lots of women are still figuring it out, just like you. And if you dig even deeper into the numbers, you’ll find something else: the orgasm gap! Basically, penis owners tend to have more orgasms during sex than vulva owners, because of the way we’ve defined sex in the first place (which, to most people, is PIV—or, penis-in-vagina). 

So if you can’t orgasm during PIV sex, it’s quite literally because the cards are stacked against you. However, by broadening your definition of sex to include allllll kinds of stimulation (oral, masturbation, etc.), I think it’ll help you release that shame—because it was never your fault, after all. You, and society at large, are still learning how to pleasure a vulva. And for this, I applaud you. 

2. Work your brain.

Now let’s get into some quick tips. “Warming up” the vulva for pleasure is a process by which blood rushes to our genitals, otherwise known as arousal. But it’s not just physical contact that gets us there—our brain is thoroughly involved, too.

I can’t say enough good things about ethical porn, but if you haven’t checked out a resource like yet, it’s a wonderful place to start. You can watch porn that forefronts female pleasure, and might feel yourself getting turned on watching it. That’s great! It’s your brain’s cue to prime the body for sex, and get blood moving to your pelvic floor, whose muscle contractions are responsible for the “pulsing” of orgasm.

3. Work your genitals (Kegels).

On that note, how are your Kegels coming along? Do you do them regularly? I ask because when we’ve taken the time to train this muscle group, orgasms are not only easier to come by—they’re way more intense. (Aka, OMG OMG THIS FEELS INCREDIBLE). Kegels are discreet too, meaning you can do them anywhere, anytime. 

4. Heighten your sensitivity.

Let’s talk about waking up the nerve endings in your vulva, as you train them to become delightful little pleasure receptors. Have you ever used an arousal gel? 

There are so many on the market, with ingredients ranging from menthol to THC (depending on where you live), but I’m a big fan of Promescent’s Warming Female Arousal Gel, whose tingles come courtesy of peppermint. Simply squeeze a pea-sized amount and apply it to your clitoris, knowing that it could take about five minutes to fully “kick in.” Some folks are pretty sensitive, so if this or any other product creates a burning sensation, wipe off and rinse immediately — but since you’re still feeling things out down there, something tells me you’ll be just fine.

5. Masturbate.

You didn’t say whether or not you’re masturbating, but if you haven’t started yet, now is the time. And while you can always use your hands, toys are also a lot of fun. Not sure what to buy? Enter: the Womanizer.

I promise this isn’t a product placement moment, either. But I bring up the Womanizer because some vulvas respond much better to a gentle sucking sensation when it comes to orgasm, rather than vibration. Of course, if you haven’t tried any sex toys at all yet, there’s a whole world of fun for you to explore, and wouldn’t you know it? My holiday gift guide has a section called “The Sex Toy Connoisseur.” Lots of female vulva owners start off with a “bullet” vibrator, but you might also enjoy one that provides internal and external stimulation. Like I said — it’s a whole wide world. 

6. Bring out the big guns.

By which I mean, medical doctors. If you’ve followed the steps above, and your orgasm is still MIA, it might be time to talk to your OB-GYN, who can evaluate your medication (some, like anti-depressants, affect arousal), recommend brief hormone therapy, or have you try out a supplement like l-arginine. This is a last resort, but it’s worth it, right? The more information you have about your body, the more likely you are to reach this specific, incredibly worthwhile, goal. 

Please do follow up with me, and let me know if these tips help you! Good luck finding that elusive O, and remember: pleasure is a journey. You’re doing great things by reaching out and asking questions.