Demystifying Overdue Orgasms

I did not have an orgasm until I was twenty-three years old. Looking back, do I regret the orgasm-less decade I experienced until that time?


So, this used to be my deepest and most shameful secret, one that only my closest and oldest friends knew. But you know what?? Like a lot of shameful female secrets, it’s not even that unusual!!

There are studies and medical institutes that indicate that 10% of women have never had an orgasm. And the number (as awesome  author and blogger Emily Nagoski, PhD notes) is probably much higher in reality. Other studies indicate that up to 29% of young women never masturbate.

And the real kicker?


Many people were shocked by that last one. But why should they be?? Cosmo now spends a fair amount of time (rightly) talking about the “orgasm deficit” for women, noting that 20 to 70% of straight women don’t have orgasms during sex (while their male partners, unsurprisingly, get off at astronomically higher rates). Famous sex researcher Debbie Herbenick calls it the “orgasm gap.” It’s known by many names.

Basically, our society fucking sucks when it comes to female pleasure.

Let me break down how I personally came to be an orgasm-less woman in her twenties:

  1. RELIGION. Our country is STILL essentially a Protestant society. I grew up in the South told that thoughts of sex—just motherfucking thoughts, mind you—were a cause for extreme guilt and shame. Though I consciously denounced my Christianity in college, I’m pretty sure that guilt hung around.
  2. LACK OF INFORMATION. The sex education I received largely focused on the mechanics of sex and the horrible things that could happen if one got pregnant. In my public high school we were even forced to watch a video a woman giving birth (something that would horrify me NOW). These scare tactics are still sadly all-too-common in our country today. The very idea of teaching girls about their own pleasure is considered radical.
  3. CULTURE. How many movies can you name that have scenes about female masturbation? Things are starting to change a bit, but hey, it’s pretty slow going. Even Blue is the Warmest Colour, a movie that seemed to promote female sexuality, was apparently written and directed by a misogynistic asshole who tortured his two female leads. And porn, ugh…the little porn I saw growing up was filled with gross guys fucking ladies who came solely and fakely from penetration. This is starting to change as more women get involved in the business. But since the porn industry is ALSO largely male, this change is also happening waaaay too slowly.
  4. LEARNED PASSIVITY. In high school, I optimistically figured that once I got a boyfriend in college, he would help me figure it all out! But that led me to…
  5. PARTNERS’ LACK OF INFORMATION. In college, I realized that most single dudes didn’t WANT a relationship. So, I started having drunken one night stands instead, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the combination of alcohol and unskilled partners did not lead to the mind-blowing orgasms I’d hoped for.
  6. FEAR. Eventually I went out and bought a small vibrator, but gave up after a few half-hearted attempts. I assumed that there must be something terribly and medically wrong with me, and went about my life ignoring it.

So. Fast forward to my early twenties, when I was hooking up with older, 30-something men who still didn’t seem to care that much about me having orgasms. Eventually I got fed up and bought a book called I <3 Female Orgasm. It was written by an adorably dorky husband-wife team. The wife explains how she too had trouble reaching orgasm and thought there was something wrong with her body. Finally, she taught herself how to come and realized she was in fact pretty good at it. The book recommended a program of exploring and touching without any expectations.

Shockingly, the second or third time I embarked a session I came. Afterwards I burst into tears, happy and in awe and also sad that it had been THAT FUCKING EASY and that I’d been missing out for so long.

In some ways, this road to orgasm has been a positive thing. Nowadays I am not shy about asking for what I want pleasure-wise. I expect to get off during most sexual encounters. I incorporate vibrators into my sex life. When friends tell me they never come during sex, or that their partner doesn’t know how to please them (e.g., their partner is “bad at oral”), I strongly encourage (i.e. yell at) them to communicate their needs. If they try and the dude still doesn’t learn or listen, then they can write him off as bad in bed.

If you feel like you have not fully explored your sexuality, or are not having as many orgasms as you’d like, alone or with a partner, I implore you to gently and non-judgmentally explore. What are your wants and needs? What is the ideal amount of pleasure in your life? What physically, mentally, and emotionally turns you on? Where might you expand your boundaries and horizons, if that’s something that sounds interesting to you?

We have to remember that in a patriarchal culture, female pleasure is often curtailed or completely ignored. We have to be the ones to think about and stand up for our sexual needs.

And to those who make us feel bad, selfish, or slutty for these needs?

Kindly go fuck yourself.

Photo by Nicolas Tissot.