We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? All genders and sexual orientations are welcome, nothing is off-limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. Today’s topic: how long does it take for a woman to orgasm?
Q: I have never been able to orgasm during sex. Intercourse feels amazing; I particularly like vigorous, deep thrusting. But even when it’s as rough as I like it, I never climax. I’m fine not orgasming every time, but it would be nice to have it happen once in a while! I always worry I'm taking too long so I just let him finish. How long does it take for a woman to orgasm during sex? And how do I have an orgasm with my partner?
A: Orgasming during sex is a tricky feat for most people who identify as women. Previously, I shared the five best sex positions for to orgasm during sex, and today I’m sharing more techniques to help you orgasm with your partner.
But because sex is so different for everyone, there is no set time it “should” take a woman to orgasm. According to Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast, worrying about how long it takes you to orgasm can take you further out of the moment.
"When it comes to sex, averages are mostly useless, because individual variation and experience are highly varied," O'Reilly says. "Just as the average time it takes to run a mile varies from person to person, the average time to orgasm also varies greatly."
While you may feel stressed about how long it’s taking you to climax during sex, the first step is to try to forget the clock. Focus on what sensations feel good for you and what’s going on with your body. Here are some ways to help you get in the moment and stop worrying about orgasming during sex.
1. Try To Take The Pressure Off Orgasming During Sex
The more you relax into the moment, the more likely you are to have an orgasm. Though it can be hard in the moment to not be self-conscious, remember that there is no "right" length of time for a woman to orgasm during sex. Also, it's important to remember that getting off doesn't always have to be the goal during sex. Sex can still be pleasurable, even without orgasming.
"Sex isn’t a race," O'Reilly says. "You don’t get a prize (or extra pleasure) for reaching orgasm faster than your partner or your friends. And the length of time it takes to reach orgasm can vary with your mood, sleep patterns, health, menstrual cycle, level of arousal and what you’re doing physically to produce an orgasm. For example, for many of us, if your partner is thrusting a penis or strap-on in and out of our vaginas, it will take longer to orgasm than if we’re rubbing or vibrating against the clitoris on the outside."
Being kind to yourself and communicating your body's needs to your partner can really be helpful. Let them know what you need to get there, and they'll take the time you need to make it happen.
"Slowing down isn’t a bad thing,” O'Reilly says. “Some people find that when they slow down and take their time, they enjoy higher arousal and more powerful orgasms once they do arrive."
2. Stimulate Your Clitoris
According to a 2018 study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine of 2,304 women, the majority of women report orgasming more when masturbating than during partner sex. Clinically speaking, this means most women need more than just penetrative sex to orgasm. In fact, per Elisabeth Lloyd’s The Case of the Female Orgasm, only 20-25% of women can climax from penetration alone. And that number may be even lower, as indirect clitoral stimulation frequently occurs during intercourse.
If you find you can orgasm from penetration, the best positions for orgasm are ones that allow for deep, powerful thrusting. Try standing while you drape yourself over the edge of the bed, a table, or a desk. Or you can try sex positions where your G-spot gets stimulated, like doggy style, X marks the spot, or spooning.
However, if you can’t finish from just penetration, (like 75-80% of people with vulvas) you’re going to need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. This isn’t a bad thing though! The combination of sensations — the fullness of penetration with the intensity of clitoral stimulation — can feel amazing. And fortunately, there are plenty of ways to give your clitoris some love during sex:
- Get in sex positions where your clitoris is easily accessible. Previously I shared that being on top, doggy style, and “the bridge” all work well. Having your clit accessible means you can easily give it stimulation during penetration.
- Have your partner stroke your clitoris with their fingers during sex. In certain positions, like with you on top, your partner can place their fingertips against your clitoris, to give you a surface to grind up against.
- Touch your clitoris yourself as you’re getting it on. Your partner might like watching you touch yourself, so this will be enjoyable for you both! If you’re shy about touching yourself in front of your partner, try it out in positions where you're facing away from them, like doggy style or side-by-side.
- Use a vibrator or a vibrating cock ring to get clitoral stimulation. If there’s some distance between your torsos, you can easily hold a vibrator against your clitoris. Or you can hold a vibrator between your bodies. There are also couples toys that provide vibration for both parties.
- Find positions that create friction against your clitoris. If you put a pillow under your hips while in missionary, your body will create a nice angle against your partner's pubic area.
3. Focus On Your Pleasure First
Research has also found that the average person who identifies as a man requires far less time to reach orgasm than the average person identifying as a woman. Meaning your partner may have an orgasm before you do. (But that doesn't mean sex is over!) In fact, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine of 645 heterosexual women in monogamous relationships across the world found that the average time it takes a woman to orgasm is 13.46 minutes. (And, it’s worth noting that only 31.4% of participants had an orgasm from penetrative sex.) Previous research has shown that it takes men 5-6 minutes to orgasm from vaginal intercourse.
If having sex with someone who has a penis, spend plenty of time focusing on you during foreplay. Have your partner go down on you or finger you before penetration. Try not to start having penetrative sex until you feel like you’re already on the verge of climax, or at least well on your way.
Once you’ve started having sex, you can try positions that aren’t as stimulating for your partner as they are for you. I know you like intense thrusting, but that type of movement generally leads to pretty quick orgasms for your partner. If you focus more on grinding rather than thrusting, you can usually slow your partner down. The sideways straddle and positions where you’re on top and work well for this purpose.
Or you can try taking breaks from penetrative intercourse to give your clitoris some time to catch up. Have your partner pull out and spend a few minutes stroking or licking your clitoris, or use a vibrator for extra stimulation. Having “time-outs” from sex can be a wonderful tease for both of you.
4. Talk To Your Partner If They’re Pressuring You To Have An Orgasm
For some women, the pressure to come during sex within a certain timeframe can actually come from their partner, not themselves. If you feel like your partner is pressuring you to have an orgasm, it's important you talk about it.
"If your partner keeps asking 'did you come?,' let them know how this makes you feel," O'Reilly says. "Do you feel stressed out? Does it distract you from the pleasure and ruin the mood? Do you feel as though they’re making your pleasure about their own performance?"
O'Reilly says that a lot of your partner's pressuring can come form their own insecurities about how quickly they orgasm. "There is no ideal length of time to orgasm regardless of gender," O'Reilly says. "Some people prefer sex to take a few minutes and some people like it to last for an hour — and it varies from day to day, so your communication about your desires needs to be ongoing."
5. Use Lube. Really!
I can’t overstate the importance of lube. Most people’s experience of lube is limited to an old, sticky bottle of KY Jelly, but there are hundreds of high-quality lubes now on the market. Even if you feel adequately wet during sex, you should still try using lube. A good lubricant will feel wonderfully silky against your skin and will create nice gliding sensations during sex. It quite simply makes sex more enjoyable for everyone.
If you put a little lube directly onto your clitoris, it can make clitoral stimulation feel even more intense. Fingers and skin will slide over your clitoris instead of tugging at it, making you far more likely to orgasm. Many of the previously doubtful participants of my online orgasm course have become lube evangelists after discovering just how effective it can be.
6. Be Silly During Sex
Learning what your body needs to reach orgasm during sex requires exploration and experimentation. Many of my clients tell me that they’re embarrassed to try out new sex positions and techniques when they’re with a partner because it feels too awkward. It’s hard to experiment in the moment if you’re afraid of looking stupid or killing the mood.
What I suggest is to have a few sexy sessions explicitly for the purposes of exploring some of these tricks and positions. Tell yourselves that it’s OK to laugh or to bump into each other in the process. Make room for mistakes and mishaps. Take a few risks, and be understanding if things go awry. Even be a little silly and playful about it! If you set it up beforehand as one big experimental session, you won’t feel as uncomfortable trying out new things and talking to each other about what does and doesn’t work.
7. Try Not To Think About Orgasms Too Much
A lot of people get stuck up in their heads wondering if they’re getting close to reaching orgasm, or worrying that their partner is going to climax before they do. Too much thinking about how long your orgasm is taking only serves to delay the process and make your climax even harder to come by.
If you find yourself getting distracted by your thoughts, take a deep breath and redirect your attention to the pleasure your body is feeling. I know this can seem easier said than done, but really try to get in touch with all of the nuances of sensation. By focusing on pleasure rather than anxious thoughts, you’re much more likely to topple over the edge. If you're feeling anxious, try expressing it to your partner and give your partner a chance to reassure you that they're enjoying themselves just fine.
And, again, remember: You're not "taking too long" to orgasm. You deserve to have an orgasm, just like your partner. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, and trust me — your partner will appreciate the effort. If you want to learn even more about how to orgasm, check out Finishing School, my online orgasm class for women!
Rowland, D. L., Sullivan, S. L., Hevesi, K., & Hevesi, B. (2018). Orgasmic Latency and Related Parameters in Women During Partnered and Masturbatory Sex. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(10), 1463–1471. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.08.003
Bhat, G. S., & Shastry, A. (2020). Time to Orgasm in Women in a Monogamous Stable Heterosexual Relationship. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 17(4), 749–760. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.01.005
Shindel, A. (2010). A Five-nation Survey to Assess the Distribution of the Intravaginal Ejaculatory Latency Time among the General Male Population. Yearbook of Urology, 2010, 111–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0084-4071(10)79440-9
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