Why You’re Not Having Orgasms (& How to Fix It!)

So you’ve never had an orgasm—or you have, but only by yourself. Whether you can’t climax from sex with your partner, or you can’t quite figure out how to make yourself tick, there are plenty of reasons why you might be having trouble. Thankfully, for every one of your climaxing problems, Her Campus has a solution. So sit back, relax and… read our tips on how to reach the big O!

Why you’re not having orgasms

According to Cosmopolitan’s orgasm survey, only 57 percent of women climax almost every time with a partner—and that’s including women over 30, who probably have a way better idea of what they’re doing sexually. That being said, if you have yet to reach that big O, you are not alone.

Brittany*, a junior at Adelphi University, had this problem for a long time before she addressed it. “Oftentimes people are too embarrassed to bring it up. I know I was,” Brittany says. “I felt like something was wrong [with] me and my body and that I would never get the same amount of pleasure that my boyfriend does.”

There are some deep-seated explanations for why so many women find it difficult to orgasm. We discussed some of these issues with Celeste Hirschman, MA, and Danielle Harel, PhD, aka sex therapists Celeste & Danielle. “From a young age, girls are told that their sexuality is not for them,” Dr. Harel explains. “If they have not started masturbating before hearing those messages, they may not try masturbation at all. Even if they do try masturbating, they may be embarrassed and have gotten little information about their bodies and therefore don't know what will arouse them or give them orgasms.” And if you don’t know what gets you off alone, there’s a very slim chance you’ll figure it out with a partner.

“When [girls] try partner sex, they may not be able to give their partner information about what is pleasurable to them and may also feel inhibited due to shaming, negative messages,” Dr. Harel says. “Additionally, they may feel uncomfortable with the way their body looks or smells, may feel self-conscious being naked or may not let their partner give them oral sex.”

As if there weren’t enough things holding us collegiettes back from having fulfilling sex, “some women take much longer to orgasm than do others and may give up or feel like their partner is not willing to take the time,” Dr. Harel adds. However, before you get discouraged by all of these O-bstacles, check out our guide for how to finally reach that orgasm!

Related: Low Sex Drive in Women in Their 20s: What's Going On

How to reach your orgasm (with a partner or not!)

Masturbate & get to know your body

If you don’t know what works for you, it will be next to impossible for your partner to know what works for you. Masturbating is the tried and true method for understanding your body AND feeling more comfortable sexually, so if you haven’t already, why not give it a try?

“Honestly, the first time I got off was from masturbating alone,” says Nicky*, a senior at Auburn University. “I had no idea what I was doing or what to touch, but I experimented.”

Nicky definitely had the right idea. “The first thing a woman should do to learn how to have orgasms is to masturbate,” Hirschman says. “Sometimes it can be helpful to watch videos of other women masturbating to get an idea of what to do. For example, many women need to squeeze the muscles in their legs or move their legs while touching their clitoris in order to have an orgasm.”

Need more stimulation? “It may also be helpful to read some erotica or watch porn while masturbating in order to bump up psychological arousal,” Hirschman says. “Psychological arousal can help a woman overcome embarrassment and increase sexual focus.”

If your goal is to get off alone, awesome! But how will masturbating help you come with a partner? “Once you have a better idea of how your body works, it will be much easier to tell your partner how they need to stimulate you in order for you to come,” Hirschman says. “It can be very helpful for you to masturbate in front of your partner so that they see what you like.” Sounds like everybody wins in this scenario!

Relax & be patient

When it comes to your orgasm, the more you think about it, the less likely you will be to reach it. The key is not to force it—it takes time! In order to finish, you need to move through the stages of sexual arousal, that is excitement, plateau and orgasm. The first two take a lot of stimulation to result in the third, which is all the more reason not to stress it.

“Relax!” says Samantha*, a sophomore at Drexel University. “If you're getting really anxious or stressed out about the fact that you're trying to have an orgasm, it's going to interfere with your ability to feel the pleasurable sensations that can lead up to the big moment.” This makes so much sense, if you think about it!

“Sex is a lot more than reaching a ‘big O!’” Brittany says. “If you think about it happening, it won’t. Either way, you're still sharing a strong bond with your partner. If you haven't had an orgasm with them, it doesn't mean you don’t love them. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with your relationship or your body. It will happen eventually.” So don’t stress it, collegiettes! In the meantime, try the following tips and tricks!

Find your turn-ons

Set the scene! If you’re not in a sexy mood, you probably won’t be able to climax. “Indulge in sensual things that make you feel sexy,” Samantha says. “Whether it's lighting a few candles, dressing up in lingerie you splurged on or receiving a massage from your partner, owning your turn-ons will help you get into a secure, confident place to try the new things that could get you to orgasm.” This is such amazing advice! Not sure where to start? We love this sexy slip from Victoria’s Secret ($49.50) and this amber-scented candle from Voluspa ($24) to complement your evening! Not only can these props arouse you, but they can also help you to relax—one of the most important elements in your climax.

Don’t underestimate your clitoris

Up to 75 percent of women have difficulty coming from vaginal intercourse, so you’ll need to count on clitoral stimulation to get the most out of both masturbation and sex with your SO or hookup. “With a partner or on your own: experiment with touches of different pressure on your clitoris,” Samantha says. “There's a reason it's one of the most talked-about pleasure spots for women! You can do this with the aid of a personal lubricant, which will reduce uncomfortable friction on that sensitive area. But don't focus exclusively there. The surrounding areas (like the labia and vulva) have tons of nerve endings and are also incredibly sensitive to touch.” It sounds like this collegiette has experienced some pretty great sex! Follow her example and try stimulating yourself on and around the clitoris, so you can finally reach that big O.

Experiment with positions

Now that you know your clitoris is your best chance to reach an orgasm, you can start playing around with positions that stimulate your clit and G-spot (a pleasure center on the front wall of your vagina).

“Try sex positions that maximize contact with the clitoris and the G-spot,” Samantha says. “For example, if you're doing girl on top, try grinding slightly forward and back, instead of focusing on up-and-down movement. Your G-spot will be stimulated by your guy, and you can control the pressure on your clitoris to what feels best, making this position one great option!”

Apparently, this strategy works for many collegiettes! “Girl on top can be a great way to reach an orgasm,” says Sophie*, a junior at James Madison University. “When you're in control, you can go at the pace you like to help you reach that O!” The combination of being in control and finding the right angle to maximize pleasure is a great way to get the most out of sex.

But girl on top isn’t the only position you can try! Experiment with your partner to see what works for you.

Try a sex toy

Hear us out, collegiettes! A vibrator or another sex toy might be the answer to all your sexual woes. “During penetration, the majority of women need to have some clitoral stimulation and will need to use their hands or a vibrator at the same time that they're having intercourse in order to come,” Hirschman says. “Sadly, many women are embarrassed or afraid to bring their vibrators into sex, but this can be one of the best ways for women to achieve consistent orgasms with a partner.”

Not down to mosey over to an actual sex shop? Amazon has a great selection for you to shop from the privacy of your own home.

Communicate

Last but not least, in order to have satisfying intercourse with your partner, the most important thing is to establish proper communication between the two of you. “Something that I've done is have a conversation about it with my partner,” Brittany says. “In the end I found out that he felt bad for me and thought I wasn't enjoying anything. All of this came after we spoke about it. It's important to always communicate, especially since we are young and figuring it all out.”

For Maggie*, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “the trick is open communication and being comfortable trying everything. Figuring out what makes you tick comes down to experimenting with different areas, whether it be with oral sex, breast stimulation, penetration or a combination of all three. If you have not had an orgasm then you just haven't found the combination that will help.” Duly noted!

If you find it difficult to reach an orgasm, try one or more of our tips to finally climax—with a partner or not! If you’re in a relationship, don’t forget that communication is super crucial for both of you to enjoy sex as much as one another. Good luck! 

*Name has been changed