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Why Am I So Shy About Having an Orgasm?

Oct. 10, 2013
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Through years of masturbation, Skype sex and in-person sexual intercourse (the latter two have only been for a year, though), I’ve noticed I can’t orgasm in front of people. When I masturbate by myself, even if I get distracted constantly (I have a short attention span), I can manage to orgasm eventually. It takes me an average of 15 minutes to orgasm when I masturbate by myself.

However, I’ve never been able to orgasm with someone watching. I’ve never orgasmed in bed with a partner. I’ve never orgasmed on Skype. I think I’m worried that I’m taking too long, and I end up psyching myself out because I want to orgasm, but I’m becoming increasingly distracted. Somehow the thought of “he’s watching” ends up getting me more nervous than it does aroused. I’m worried some future sex partner will think I can’t orgasm at all, and will stop trying to make me orgasm.

How do I stop pressuring myself to orgasm so that I can just orgasm already?

You have hit on one of the most common frustrations about orgasm for many women. The harder someone tries to have an orgasm, or the more pressure they feel to have one, the more difficult it is to actually get there. Kind of like chasing your own tail! There’s no easy, magic solution to this conundrum.

According to research compiled by the Kinsey Institute, “women are much more likely to be…orgasmic when alone than when with a partner.” Some of my favorite sex educators, Dorian and Marshall of the book and workshop I © Female Orgasm, state that the average length of time it takes for a woman to have an orgasm is 20 minutes. Another educator that I respect, Sheri Winston of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, estimates that full arousal for women can take up to 45 minutes. I mention these studies and statistics because I hope that it might be reassuring for you to hear that you are completely and totally normal in the amount of time that it takes for you to have an orgasm, and that you’re not alone in struggling with this issue.

Since anxiety can inhibit orgasm, the best thing you can do in this situation is take steps to reduce your nervousness. I’d suggest being open with your partner(s) about this; just talking honestly about your concerns can help reduce anxiety somewhat, as long as your partner(s) are supportive. I’d also suggest focusing on other types of pleasure besides orgasm—sometimes being less goal-oriented can help, ironically. If you set aside some unhurried, unpressured time with a trusted partner and focus on having fun, rather than worrying about whether you’ll have an orgasm or not, you might just get there—and if not, you had a good time trying.

You could also try using vibrators when you’re with a partner—for some women, they make having an orgasm faster and easier.

Finally, as noted in the Kinsey Institute research summary linked above, the likelihood of women reaching orgasm increases with age. As women become more comfortable with their bodies and more knowledgeable about what gives them pleasure, it becomes easier for them to have orgasms. Women are often socialized into a model of “sex as performance”—we’re supposed to please our partners, look good while doing it and fit into a fairly narrow ideal of sexiness. Your description of worrying about your partner “watching you” may fit into this model, which takes the focus off of our own authentic pleasure. It doesn’t have to be that way! Time, experience and comfort with sex can help.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.


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