Question: I am 21 years old and I have been with about 20 people (guys and girls). I have been in a relationship for more than a year and he’s great; but he hasn’t been able to have me reach orgasm. I am getting tired of getting him off and he tries to get me off but it just gets me angry and that is all I focus on when I am with him. I have never had an orgasm from any source. I have talked to friends and everyone told me to masturbate. So I do but it feels like my clit is on fire so I stop. It’s almost as if I am scared of what is going to happen. I have tried vibrators on and in me, my hands, his hands, and his tongue and nothing works. I can’t do it myself because I stop it because it hurts (kinda a good hurt). Every so often when I am alone I try but not any longer than 5-10 minutes. I do however have this stuffed animal that I squeeze between my legs and that I get a good feeling then wet but I don’t think that is a orgasm. My boyfriend tells me to relax and clear my mind, but I am afraid that I will never be able to reach orgasm.
Many women your age (and older) feel frustrated in their quest to have an orgasm. The fact that many magazine articles and TV show characters seem orgasm-obsessed can make the process of trying to have an orgasm even more frustrating.
It may help to learn more about female orgasm. First, research shows that college women are far more likely to report orgasms from sex that occurs with relationship partners rather than with new, casual, or hookup partners. This may be because partners learn about each others’ bodies over time, grow more comfortable communicating with each other, feel relaxed in each other’s company, or likely a combination of these factors.
Second, women tend to find it easier to have an orgasm when they are feeling relaxed, at ease in a sexual state of mind (e.g., feeling “sexy” or aroused). That last point may seem obvious but consider the implications. This means that what we sometimes called “goal-oriented sex” (e.g., self-masturbation or sex with a partner with the specific purpose of having an orgasm) may not be the easiest way for a woman to have her first, second or tenth orgasm. Rather, taking time to relax and get in the mood is likely more conducive to orgasm than taking 5 or 10 minutes to go out and “get” an orgasm.
Speaking of time, it is worth noting that female orgasm can take a long time. While many men struggle with ejaculating more quickly than they would like to, many women worry that they take too long to have an orgasm. The fact that women, on average, take longer to have an orgasm than do men does not have to be viewed as “bad” though; it’s simply a gender difference.
Though many women do eventually learn to have an orgasm within 5 to 20 minutes of stimulation (particularly if they are using a vibrator, which more than half of American women have done, or having intercourse with a relationship partner), it is common for women to take 20-60 minutes to experience orgasm when they are new to it. Five or ten minutes, then, would simply not be enough time for most women.
Most women, however, can have orgasms. And although some women do report discomfort as they begin exploring their bodies, it is worth checking in with a healthcare provider since you have felt some irritation or discomfort yourself. Also, although it is true that self-masturbation and pleasuring are common ways for women to learn to orgasm, don’t feel that you have to do it the same way that your friends do it. Not everyone enjoys strong vibration or other forms of sexual stimulation, and some women (yes, even grown women) prefer to self-pleasure using a stuffed toy, as you do. You may respond more easily to gentle stimulation, and that’s an important thing to learn about your body.
As you continue to explore, you might find the book Becoming Orgasmic by Dr. Julia Heiman and Dr. Joseph LoPiccolo to be helpful. The program presented in this book has helped many women learn to have their first orgasm and to explore their bodies in ways that feel pleasurable to them.
Originally published September 27, 2006. Reviewed and updated, with links to more recent research, on May 1, 2017.