how to get out of your head and over your orgasm block
Just because you want to come, doesn't mean your brain will always let you - and there's few things more frustrating than that
words Jasmine Lee-Zogbessou
Everything felt perfect as I lay on the sheets of a hotel room, in foreplay mode with my date. I’d brought a vibrator with me and had been eagerly waiting to get him alone since our dinner that evening. The mood was right, we had lube on our side, I was ready.
I assumed it would take me just a few minutes to reach orgasm as he placed the vibrating bullet against that sweet spot, but after what felt like forever, the big O was nowhere to be found.
The stimulation was pleasurable, I was comfortable, so why was I struggling to orgasm?
I focused intently on my desired outcome, closed my eyes and awaited that all-consuming build-up yet, nothing. Frustrated, I gave up and moved on from foreplay.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had trouble reaching orgasm with a partner, otherwise known as an 'orgasm block'. That’s not to say I’d always struggled, but I’d started to notice how less likely I was to orgasm with sexual partners in the last year or so. My pattern included concentrating on what I wanted to happen, rather than being present and enjoying what was already happening.
It’s common knowledge that heterosexual women are orgasming the least during sex. Only 65% of straight women are experiencing orgasm with a sex partner, compared to around 95% of heterosexual men, 89% of gay men, 88% of bisexual men, 86% of lesbian women and 66% of bisexual women (this is where I fit in).
So why do some people struggle to consistently experience orgasm with a partner?
Cosmopolitan’s 2015 female orgasm survey study found that 50% of their 2,300 participants felt like they’re “almost there, but can’t get over the edge” during sex, while 32% cited being in their own head or too focused on their appearance. Other reasons include the not-so-surprising lack of clitoral stimulation. Although a 2019 study by the Kinsey Institute even found that 14% of women say they never orgasm during partnered sex with clitoral stimulation.
While some reasons are purely just physical, it’s the psychological reasons that are arguably trickier to overcome. Orgasming doesn’t always have to be the outcome of sex, but it would be nice to close that gap, or at least feel like you have control and understanding of the situation! Especially if the alternative comes with unpleasant overthinking about whether there’s something wrong with you. Certified sexologist Dr. Lori Davis shares that there are numerous reasons for an orgasm block and although it’s more likely to affect people with vaginas, it impacts people of all genders.
She says, “People are so focused on performance or looking like they know what they’re doing or showing up to be what they think their partner wants, that they’re not able to relax. People are wanting to perform pleasure, rather than actually experience pleasure.” We forget sometimes that sex and having an orgasm can be such vulnerable experiences. It might take a little longer than anticipated to (literally) open up to a partner, let go and allow yourself to feel such an intense sensation in front of someone else.
Hannah and Isabelle can both relate to previously experiencing orgasm blocks. For Hannah, her main issue was struggling with being present during sex.
“I was preoccupied with thinking, ‘is this taking too long?’, ‘do I look weird in this position’, ‘what does he want?’." She explains. "Presence is everything in sex – being in the here and now and being honest with your partner and yourself about what feels good, what you want and knowing how to ask for it are essential.”
Isabelle’s experience was more down to a lack of confidence and communication.
She says, “Whether I orgasmed with a partner [would be left up to] that partner knowing what to do, because I wasn’t confident in knowing about my body, asking for what I wanted and even knowing that that was my right also, and not feeling like my pleasure was a burden in that interaction.”
Her turning point started when she stopped being so hard on herself for not having orgasms during sex. Instead, she focused on her partner stimulating other areas of her body and introducing sex toys into the bedroom to discover what she truly enjoyed – both options that are sexologist-approved!
More specifically, Dr. Lori suggests anyone who experiences an orgasm block to try "body mapping", which involves a “head to toe exam exploring what feels pleasurable and what doesn’t.”
I personally can definitely confirm that moving attention away from the ‘main attractions’ that are the clitoris and penis are great ways to discover the body’s numerous erogenous zones, take the pressure away from orgasming and focus purely on pleasure.
Dr. Lori also recommends masturbating in front of your partner, which might seem scary at first, but she emphasises that it’s important to help overcome issues with feeling seen, shame or shutting down.
For some people with penises, pressure to perform is a key blocker to orgasm. Yes, they may statistically have less problems performing, but perhaps that’s what adds to it? That constant expectation to almost always orgasm.
Tito shares his experience with orgasm blocks, which predominantly affected him during the earlier stages of being sexually active. “I felt startled that the actual sexual experience involved a lot more emotional and personal skills than my haphazard education via pornography." He says. "Lacking experience, I felt that I was taking too long, and eventually she would get bored. Or I felt that I was being selfish in wanting to orgasm.”
He adds that learning to understand that sexual processes have their place, de-centring orgasming and realising that he can have sex “just for the fun of it” were useful factors to help him ease his mind.
There’s no unfailing solution to orgasming every or even most occasions you have sex with a partner, no one achieves it 100% of the time and that’s perfectly normal. Once we stop chasing orgasms and instead prioritise the pleasure of all parties involved in the moment and simply have fun with it, ironically that’s when the floodgates are more likely to open. But even if they don’t, giving your body and mind some grace during such an intimate act are great steps regardless.
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