Orgasm Myths and Facts
Myth: It takes me too long to have an orgasm. I should be able to climax more quickly.
Fact: Women typically need more time than men to orgasm. That’s completely normal and healthy! A caring partner won’t rush you or judge you for needing what you need.
Why It Matters: Feeling that our orgasms take “too long” can lead to stress, which makes it even harder to reach orgasm. The pressure we put on ourselves to hurry up can also lead some of us to “fake it.”
Myth: Everyone should want sex and orgasms, and everyone does.
Fact: We all have different sex drives and want different amounts of sex and orgasm. A lot of us are asexual at some point in our lives or permanently. Whatever amount of sex we want can be normal and healthy.
Why It Matters: People who don’t want sex can be unfairly labeled “dysfunctional” and pressured into sex and/or “treatment.”
Myth: We should have spontaneous desire–the desire for sex and orgasm that seems to come out of nowhere.
Fact: Spontaneous desire is normal and healthy, but so is responsive desire. Responsive desire–not feeling sexy until we’re in a sexual situation–is actually the more typical style for women, and can lead to equally satisfying sex and orgasms.
Why It Matters: We’re labeled, and often believe, that we have “deficient desire” and can feel broken. This can also lead to unnecessary “treatment.”
Myth: Orgasms are the be-all-and-end-all of sex. Unless we have an orgasm (or multiple orgasms, or g-spot orgasms) we have failed ourselves and our partners.
Fact: Pleasure is the most important measure of good sex. Sex can be amazing, pleasurable, and intimate, with or without orgasms.
Why It Matters: There can be so much pressure to climax that it becomes a stressful performance that robs us of pleasure. Partners can add pressure and feel their “performance” is inadequate if orgasm doesn’t happen. This can also lead to “faking” orgasms to make the partner feel better and to get it over with.
Myth: There are two kinds of orgasm: vaginal and clitoral. Vaginal orgasms are better than clitoral orgasms.
Fact: All orgasms result from clitoral stimulation. Even orgasms we experience in our vaginas and cervixes are due to stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris.
Why It Matters: Believing that there are non-clitoral orgasms feeds into the myth that our vaginas are our primary sexual organs. Thinking that “vaginal” orgasms are better than “clitoral” ones further conceals the reality of clitoral primacy in orgasm.
Myth: Partners should reach orgasm at the same time (simultaneous orgasm). Coming together should be expected.
Fact: Simultaneous orgasm is only one of many possible ways to enjoy sex. It’s not very common, and nothing is wrong if it doesn’t happen.
Why It Matters: This expectation puts pressure on people to adhere to a timetable, which detracts from our sexual pleasure. Also, it adds to the pressure to “fake it.”
Myth: Male partners have a stronger need for orgasm than female partners.
Fact: The sexual pleasure of women and other people with labia matters, and our orgasms matter, just as much as those of our partners.
Why It Matters: Myths about the supremacy of male orgasm can make us think our orgasms, and sexual needs overall, are less important.
Myth: Men’s and women’s orgasms are totally different.
Fact: The range of orgasms among people of all sexes is extremely similar. This makes sense, given that our genitals grew out of the same structure in the womb. We are much more alike than we are different.
Why It Matters: Romanticizing, or diminishing, one sex or the other distances us from each other, in and out of bed. Recognizing our shared orgasmic humanity can help us equally value each other and to feel more connected.
Myth: Men need to have an orgasm once they’re aroused. If they don’t, they’ll get “blue balls.”
Fact: People of all sexes and genders may find it frustrating, and even physically uncomfortable, not to have an orgasm when we’re very turned on. But no physical harm comes from not having one.
Why It Matters: This belief can lead us to be less assertive about our desires and capitulate to sex we don’t actually enjoy.
Myth: I should have orgasms easily regardless of my partner.
Fact: Overall, women climax most reliably during solo sex, followed by during sex with a longer-term partner. Women have the fewest orgasms with our newest partners.
Why It Matters: Having realistic expectations can make us less tense and more able to enjoy the sex we’re having, regardless of how long we’ve been with our partners.
Myth: I’ve never had an orgasm, or I’m not sure if I have, so I must be broken.
Fact: Lots of women need to learn to become orgasmic. Chances are, when we put in the time to explore what works for us in masturbation, we can become orgasmic. Sex therapists (and sometimes pelvic floor physical therapists) can help us learn how. About 10% of women never have an orgasm in their lifetime. Often, the reason is never found. However, we don’t know how many of these have tried to become orgasmic, and how many accept their condition without trying to change it. How low might that number get in a feminist, sex-positive society? We’d like to find out.
Why It Matters: Believing that we’re doomed to never have an orgasm can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Feelings of shame and embarrassment can also prevent us from enjoying sexual pleasure and relationships while we figure it out.
Myth: I used to have great orgasms, but now I can’t, so I must be broken.
Fact: It’s normal for our sexual responsiveness to change over time. It can go up or down, for example due to pregnancy, nursing, hysterectomy, or (peri)menopause. Other causes include a new partner, new health conditions, new medications, increased stress, or trauma. These changes may be temporary or long-term and may or not be reversible. Even if we are bereft about these changes, we can still, eventually, have a pleasurable and meaningful sex life.
Why It Matters: While it can be extremely frustrating, we are not broken because our ability to orgasm changes. If we’re filled with shame about it, we’re less likely to seek the support and therapy we need.
Myth: “I should be able to …” [have multiple orgasms, ejaculate/squirt, enjoy kinky sex, enjoy vanilla sex, do what my partner likes].
Fact: The fact is, we are each sexually unique. The best way for you to be sexual is the way you are sexual. It can be wonderful to expand our repertoires and learn new pleasures if we choose to. But there’s no “should” when it comes to our desires, our timing, our preferences, our feelings, our fantasies, our needs, or our orgasms.
Why It Matters: Self-confidence helps us ask for what we need and enjoy what we’re doing. Self-confidence feeds good communication, which feeds pleasure, in a sexy cycle leading to greater enjoyment, intimacy, and yes, even orgasms.
Myth: Having sex is shameful, and I shouldn’t be doing it. I probably deserve to be punished for having sex. So, I won’t claim my orgasms.
Fact: We all get to pursue the sex and orgasms we want without shame or apology. Inside or outside of marriage, gay, straight, or bisexual, solo or partnered. We can work to reject our sexist conditioning and learn to cherish and enjoy our sexual selves, including our orgasms.
Why It Matters: When we’re ashamed of our own sexuality, we’re less likely to assert our needs in bed, which leads to fewer orgasms. If we think sex is shameful, we’re also more likely to be homophobic and to disparage other women we perceive as sexual.
Myth: Penis-in-vagina intercourse is real sex. Everything before that is “foreplay” which is leading up to the real sex. If intercourse hasn’t happened, then we haven’t had real sex.
Fact: Anything that gives us sexual pleasure is real sex. There’s nothing inherently better, or more real, about one kind of sexual stimulation. We may be completely satisfied by oral sex, manual sex (fingering), solo sex, or something else. In fact, if we’re seeking orgasms, we’re least likely to find them through penis-in-vagina intercourse alone.
Why It Matters: Relegating most forms of sexual pleasure to second-class status as “foreplay” greatly limits our sexual imaginations. If we reject this mislabeling, we can enjoy all our sexual pleasure, and orgasms, as equally real and valid.
Myth: Women should orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex.
Fact: Fewer than 20% of women reliably climax from this kind of sex. Too many women, girls, and gender-expansive people feel broken and distraught about our normal, healthy sexual needs. Our partners can share and compound this perception. Remember: penetration is optional, not obligatory.
Why It Matters: Understanding that our sexual desires and responses are normal and valid can help us feel less anxious and frustrated. It can also empower us to ask for and do what it takes to enjoy better, easier, and more frequent orgasms.
Myth: Heterosexuality is the best, most normal way to be. Sex with people of your own gender is not as good.
Fact: It’s normal to respond sexually to people who share your gender and who have different genders.
Why It Matters: Thinking we should be “naturally” straight can keep us from exploring and finding our orgasmic bliss.
Myth: Sex should follow a script: First base, second base, third base, home run!
Fact: In fact, if we’re seeking orgasms, we’re least likely to find them by following patriarchal sexual scripts.
Why It Matters: When we feel constrained to follow a particular sexual script, we’re less likely to enjoy sexual pleasure, not to mention orgasms.
Myth: My body is unattractive or ugly… [too fat/thin, too old, too hairy, too smelly, too dark/pale, too…]
Fact: All of our bodies are beautiful in their own ways.
Why It Matters: The more we can focus on our own and our partners’ sexual pleasure–the real measure of good sex–rather than our perceived flaws, the more fun we’ll have. Focusing on our flaws can slam on our sexual breaks.
Myth: My genitals are ugly and/or inadequate.
Fact: Labia, clitorises, vaginas, and pubic hair come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Porn does not represent the normal diversity of vulvas.
Why It Matters: It’s a lot harder to relax and enjoy sex, or let go enough to climax, when we’re self-conscious about our genitals.
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