‘I LOST my virginity at 19, had an active sex life for years, married my husband when I was 30, and we’ve been together for eight years and have sex at least twice a week. And I have never ever had an orgasm. Not one in my entire life.’
Tracey — not her real name — is not alone. According to new research commissioned by sex toy retailer Lovehoney, five per cent of women have never orgasmed.
Lovehoney’s The Sexual Happiness Study 2019, which surveyed 3,000 people online — across America, Australia and the UK — also found a fifth of female recipients have rarely orgasmed during sex.
Of course, sex isn’t just about orgasm but if you want to orgasm and you can’t? Then that is an issue.
‘It’s been devastating,’ Tracey says. ‘To me, that is. I haven’t told my husband — I just fake it and I don’t think he’s ever realised. I’d be horrified if he has. I feel like I’m failing him and I’m missing out on something incredible and I just don’t know why. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’
‘There is nothing “wrong” with women like Tracey,’ says Tania Adib, NHS gynaecologist at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, and consultant gynaecologist at The Medical Chambers Kensington, in London.
‘There are lots of reasons why women may not be able to achieve an orgasm,’ Tania explains. ‘For example, depression and anxiety, feelings of guilt around the enjoyment of sex, shyness, cultural or religious beliefs… and relationship issues can affect a woman’s sexual function too.’
Sammi Cole, Lovehoney’s Sex and Relationships expert, says stress and lack of confidence figure too.
‘The key to experiencing climax is relaxation,’ Sammi says, ‘so stress or lack of confidence in what you’re doing can be an enormous inhibitors to getting to that big O. In the study, women cited body confidence as their biggest hurdle to enjoyable sex — and if we’re worrying and focusing on our appearance, we’re not fully “in the moment”. And that is vital for the biggest and best orgasms.
‘Interestingly, the highest portion of women who reported never having an orgasm were between 18 and 24, the youngest section of respondents. Knowing what you need to orgasm takes time to learn — and being able to comfortably and confidently express or show that to a partner takes even longer. As the study shows, the chances of feeling sexually fulfilled increase as you age.’
Are there actually physical reasons why some women can’t orgasm?
‘Some women who have had a hysterectomy can find it harder to orgasm,’ says Tania, who says scientific evidence is yet to tell us why, ‘whereas some find it easier to orgasm after a hysterectomy. Some women who have diabetes can find it more difficult to do so, as well as those who are on certain medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRI] antidepressants. Women in the menopause can also find it more difficult to orgasm as the levels of hormones, especially testosterone and oestrogen, decline.’
What should people do, then?
‘Don’t be afraid to talk about this with a doctor or medical professional,’ says Sammi. ‘They’re there to help and there’s absolutely no shame in getting all the information you can. They might be able to help you identify whether the issue is a thought process that’s standing in your way or a physical matter you can work through.’
‘You may need to look at what medication you’re taking, you may benefit from hormone replacement therapy,’ adds Tania. ‘Oestrogen and testosterone can do wonders for your sexual desire and libido. You might want a referral to a sex therapist — or you might want an Orgasm Shot.’
A wha’ now? The Orgasm Shot is a non-surgical treatment (using platelet-rich plasma) designed to regenerate the vagina and clitoris to improve sensitivity. Tania: ‘There is good evidence the Orgasm Shot can dramatically improve both vaginal and clitoral orgasms. It can also improve lubrication. It’s a real game-changer.’
A shot? There? *Crosses legs*. Turns out there’s other out-there down-there stuff too. Heard of Viveve? It’s a non-surgical treatment to improve women’s ‘intimate health’. Dr Mayoni Gooneratne, ambassador for Viveve, explains how it works: ‘The Viveve uses radio-frequency energy to create heat in the tissue, which encourages the tissue to make more collagen. It’s fantastic at tightening and increasing the collagen around this area [the wishbone-shaped structure of the clitoris, not just the ‘button’ we can see] — so during sex, the clitoral complex is stimulated profoundly, resulting in a more obvious and heightened orgasm. The increased collagen also drives more vascularity and blood supply, meaning patients also notice increased lubrication during sex.’
There’s The Happy Chair (by Emsella) too. Emsella uses magnetic energy to contract the muscle of the pelvic floor and, yes, is mainly used to treat incontinence, but according to Dr Galyna Selezneva, a consultant and cosmetic doctor at the Dr Rita Rakus Clinic in London, a side effect is patients are having better sex lives.
‘One patient said it changed her sex life,’ says Galyna. ‘One can argue that by making a woman more confident about her private parts, you can allow her to be more adventurous and free when it comes to her sexual life. There is not enough evidence to show that Emsella can make you orgasm — that would be a difficult clinical trial to perform! — but from practical experience at the clinic, my patients tell me their sex lives have improved.’
And just a quickie on Female Viagra (pictured above). It’s been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration but isn’t available here yet. Do not buy normal Viagra. That works to treat ‘physical’ erectile dysfunction not the ‘brain’ lack of desire, arousal or orgasm that characterises sexual dysfunction in women.
The bottom line?
‘Orgasms are wonderful but they’re not the only good thing about sex,’ says Sammi. ‘There’s also building intimacy, enjoying the myriad other sensations that go along with it and, of course, having fun. So remember to enjoy the journey — and maybe the destination too.’
Mini travel kits all you need for a long weekend away
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A lot of bottle
They’re the It Bag of 2019, but what does your water bottle say about you?
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My life is thirsty work
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I’m a rugged outdoors person
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I’m a mum on the run
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I grabbed my kids as I walked out the door
■ CamelBak unicorn children’s 400ml drinks bottle, £15.99, johnlewis.com