For the month of September, Bustle’s Sex TBH package is talking about sex, honestly. We’re delving into how women approach the things they’re taught to be shy or embarrassed about in the bedroom — and, in doing so, we're liberating people to live their best (sex) lives. Let’s do it.
While many people might assume that everyone who has had sex or masturbated has had an orgasm, that's not always the case. In fact, women who have never had orgasms are probably more common than you'd think. Around five to 10 percent of women have never orgasmed, according to a review of studies in Elisabeth Lloyd’s The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, though that doesn't mean they never will. And you might be surprised by who this group includes.
As a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women, Vanessa Marin has come across all kinds of women who don't orgasm. "I've had plenty of 'unexpectedly preorgasmic' women sign up for Finishing School, including fellow sex educators and sex writers," she tells Bustle.
"Many of these women feel an additional layer of shame that they teach or write about sex for a living, but haven't been able to figure out their own orgasms," Marin says. "But personally, I think we're drawn to the professions that we ourselves can learn from. A lot of people think my sex life is 'perfect' because I'm a sex therapist, but I'm honest about the fact that I struggle with many of the same challenges my clients do! I'm just enthusiastic enough about what I do to wade through the shame, embarrassment, and confusion that come up for me personally. It's important to remember that we're all works in progress."
In Bustle's recent Sex TBH survey of 500 millennial women, anorgasmia, or inability to orgasm, was the number one sex topic women wished was talked about more, with 22.39 percent of respondents saying it wasn't being discussed enough.
So to debunk stereotypes and misconceptions about women who haven't orgasmed, I talked to women who fall into this category, from authors of erotic novels to women who are into kink. Here's what they had to say.
"My novels are highly erotic with juicy sex scenes. When I meet my readers (of course they don't know the truth), they assume I must be having hot, passionate sex on the regular. If only they knew. But maybe that's why my sex scenes are so good? Most women I meet [who haven't orgasmed] are turned on to life and actively engaged in the world. They dress sexy and are sensual. You can like sex and be anti-orgasmic."
"We assume if you've had sex, you've had an orgasm. I am not 'frigid' and I want an orgasm. I've had generous partners that have certainly tried."
"I've always had success when dating, and I'm outgoing and friendly. I'm also open about my sexuality and enjoying sex, so when [friends] hear I've never had an orgasm, it probably sounds weird to them. The fact that I've never had an orgasm doesn't mean I'm bad at sex or sexually inexperienced — and to be honest, it's not a 'problem' that I'm super bothered about fixing. I mean, sure, it would be nice to be able to orgasm, but I have far larger concerns — and my sex life is just fine, thank you very much."
"I think girls who have long-term relationships are expected to have had them. I've been with my boyfriend for seven years, so that's a long time to go without one, and I find it sort of embarrassing. We aren't proof that the female orgasm is a myth. Also, it's not that the sex is bad or that we aren't enjoying it. Sometimes it's a medical thing. Sometimes it's just not being aware of your own body and what makes it tick."
"Just because we can't or haven't orgasmed doesn't mean we aren't having good sex. Sometimes, your partner will literally do everything right and you just can't get there. But that's OK and I still enjoy sex without it."
"People assume that I have had an orgasm before. I think they tend to think that because it's not something many women openly speak about. I think men and women just assume all woman are programmed to have orgasms most of the time. Also, the media always portrays women's sexual experiences as this wonderful, amazing experience. I want everyone to know that it is nothing to be ashamed about and happens with more women than you'd think. Most are not comfortable enough to admit it, so they fake it!"
"I'm very open-minded when it comes to trying new things in bed, whether it be trying new positions, toys, dirty talk, or getting a little kinky. Actually, I would argue my adventurousness in the bedroom comes from the fact that I'm unable to orgasm. It's not that I'm trying these things to see if it will lead to an orgasm. For me, trying new things is how sex is fun and exciting for me, whereas for other people, I'm assuming the fun part is having an orgasm. People might also assume that there is something psychically wrong with us but I don't think that's true either.
Maybe it's better to think of it like this: Some people can roll their tongues and others can't but we don't think there is something physically wrong or broken about the people who can't roll their tongues. You shouldn't assume we are uptight or boring in bed or broken. I have a perfectly fulfilling sex life and still enjoy sex even though I'm unable to orgasm."
In addition to proving that the no-O club has a diverse array of members, these stories show it's not a sad club to be in. Plenty of people who don't orgasm have great sex lives, and there's no need for them to change anything unless they want to.