Orgasms for Those with Vulvas and Vaginas

What do you do when you’ve never had an orgasm? Or if you’ve had them in the past, but can’t get here anymore?

These are some straightforward answers, yet many women can’t find enough information about their bodies to learn how to give themselves an orgasm. Often we expect our partners to know how to stimulate us, or think that we should easily have orgasms during vaginal penetration.

First, some information about women’s anatomy. Many sexually responsive tissues are located in the lips surrounding the vagina (the labia), the first two inches of the vagina, and the clitoris. A woman’s clitoris is about four inches long, but you can only see a tiny bit of it. The clitoris extends from the skin folds just under the pubic hair to as far back as the bottom of the vaginal opening, on both sides of the opening. The parts of the clitoris you can see are the tip and the protective hood, both at the top of the vulva. You may or may not be able to see your clitoris peeking out from its hood when you’re sexually aroused.

With adequate stimulation, a woman may arouse herself to a high enough level that her body will release into an orgasm. We first perceive an orgasm in our brains, which sends electrical signals to our genitals. This signal triggers an intensely pleasurable spasm of the muscles in the pelvic floor, which can last for 10 to 15 seconds.

For the majority (more than 95 percent) of women, the vulva and the clitoris require direct stimulation to achieve orgasm. Although vaginal stimulation can be pleasurable and important for some, deep vaginal penetration is less important for orgasmic arousal than often thought. The vulva, clitoris, and vaginal opening also need consistent stimulation for a woman to have an orgasm. For some women, this can mean 20 to 40 minutes or more of continuous rubbing, vibration, or pressure. Taking this long to reach orgasm does not make you abnormal! Many, many women require lengthy periods of direct stimulation to reach orgasm.

With intercourse (vaginal penetration), many women find that they experience more pleasure, and have orgasms more easily, when the clitoris and vulva are directly stimulated by a hand, mouth, or vibrator before, during, or after intercourse. During sexual intercourse, the vagina and vulva get stimulation, but often the clitoris does not. This lack of stimulation occurs because, for many women, the clitoris is not in a position to get adequate stimulation for orgasmic arousal during intercourse. Many women don’t have orgasms during intercourse unless they, or their partner, provide addiitonal, direct stimulation to the vulva and clitoris.

Where do I start?

The first task is for you to locate the places on your body that give you the most pleasure when they are touched. The best way to determine what you like is to experiment with yourself first, without the social pressure of your, or a partner’s, expectations. Set aside time when you can be alone and both relax and concentrate on stimulating yourself with your hands.

We encourage you to use a small amount of a sexual lubricant when you are exploring how you like to be touched. This will allow your fingers to move more smoothly, and increases how much sensation you are able to feel. It also allows you to rub the skin without irritation. Any water-based lubricant is fine. Experiment for yourself to see what YOU like.  Don’t use oil or Vaseline, though, as these can irritate your skin and may lead to yeast infections in some women.

Some women find it difficult to relax and let their bodies have orgasms. Orgasms can feel to some of us like we are losing control over our bodies, and this can be scary. If this describes you, make sure you are in a safe place, where you will not be disturbed. Also, allow yourself to control how far you go each time you pleasure yourself. Allow yourself to get a little closer to a building of tension and sensation each time. Your leg muscles may get tense — this is okay, it’s part of the process. Focus on what feels good to you, and let pleasure happen.

Hand Stimulation Techniques

The types of hand stimulation that many women enjoy are long strokes on the lips of the vulva, stroking or rubbing in and around the vaginal opening, and stroking or rubbing the clitoris. Touching the clitoris is really something to explore. Do you like stroking the side of the tip and shaft, or do you like touching directly on the tip? Some women like long strokes of these areas; others like short, quick touches in a circular pattern that gets faster as they become more aroused. Try lots of different pressures and speeds. When you find something that feels good, continue touching yourself that way. If it stops feeling good, try one of your other favorite touches for awhile.

How do I use a vibrator?

If you aren’t able to have an orgasm from hand stimulation, or your hand gets tired, try using a vibrator. Vibrators can provide the consistent stimulation you need, and they don’t get tired. If you haven’t experienced a vibrator for sexual pleasure, choose one with variable vibrations.

First, focus on using it on your vaginal lips. Then as you become more aroused, find the spots on and around your clitoris that feel best to you. Try all positions “around the clock” of the clitoral tip — some women report very different responses at “4 o’clock” versus “2 o’clock”. When you find an area where the vibration feels particularly good to you, hold the vibrator in that position. Some women will orgasm quickly, while other women find that with practice, they can follow a strong, nice sensation to orgasm.

If a vibrator works well for you, introduce it to your partner and find ways to incorporate it into your sex play. Try using it on your partner — both men and women enjoy the sensations produced by vibrators, and this is a fun way to add some variety to your sexual play.

But what would my mother say?

Many of us are told that it is not okay to give ourselves pleasure, but experiencing pleasure and orgasm are important to our health and overall sense of well-being. Studies have found that orgasms boost your immune system and help fight depression. Orgasms are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Self-pleasure is also the best way to learn what you like so you can teach these techniques to your partner(s). For many women it is easier to have an orgasm with a partner after discovering what “works” by themselves!

Suggested Resources

If you’d like some books to help you in your journey, we recommend:

The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass, PhD– an excellent book about how to have orgasms more reliably, how to have yor first orgasm, or what to do if you used to have orgasms more easily than you do now.

For Yourself  by Lonnie Barbach — an excellent tool to help you learn more about yourself and your orgasmic potential.

For DVDs on self-pleasuring, we recommend:

Orgasmic Woman, by Betty Dodson — lots of women of various shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities talk about how they masturbate, then demonstrate their favorite self-pleasuring techniques.