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? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. All genders and sexual orientations are welcome and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto our topic: how to deal with a "half" or disappearing orgasm.
Q: “For about a year I've been experiencing something along the lines of a half orgasm. The build-up is fine, I get so close to climax but, can’t. The roller coaster ascent of that wave of energy gets to the top, but then it gets dammed up like a wall was just over the crest of the hill out of sight. The energy just doesn't release because it has nowhere to go. It's like an unsatisfying orgasm. My husband becomes discouraged when this happens, and I'm over here like, ‘Friggin halfsie!’ Do y'all have any thoughts on this frustrating phenomenon?”
A: Thanks for your question! Most people with vulvas have had the experience of losing an orgasm right at that crucial moment. It’s almost like when you’re about to sneeze but the sneeze never materializes, and you’re left with a weird tickly feeling in the back of your nose. This phenomenon isn’t always avoidable (more on that later), but there are some tricks to try. Here are eight steps for avoiding the disappointing half-orgasm.
1. Get Curious About Your Sex Life
Do you think there might be a reason why your orgasms are getting blocked? Some women stop themselves right at the verge of orgasm because they’re afraid of what it’ll be like to fully topple over the edge. This can happen for a number of different reasons: fear of losing control, trauma from past sexual abuse, or mental blockages. You also mentioned that your husband gets frustrated, so his feelings might be creating some pressure for you.
If you’re struggling to fully climax, it’s worth getting curious about what happens for you in those moments leading up to orgasm. Do you notice any strong emotions, memories, or thoughts? Any fears? You may also want to consider checking in with a sex therapist to see if there’s anything you might be missing.
2. Try Steady Clitoral Stimulation
According to a 2018 study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine of 2,304 women, women need more than just penetrative sex to orgasm. In fact, most women require consistent clitoral stimulation to climax. A lot of women shake or twitch when they start orgasming, which can knock their partner’s hand or a toy away, or change the angle of stimulation. It’s possible that you’re losing your orgasm because you’re losing the stimulation that you need to get you there. Try asking your partner to hang on for dear life, or take matters into your own hands and make sure you maintain the same level of clitoral stimulation. Maybe use a toy as you’re having penetrative sex, or have your partner use a toy on you. That way, they can keep the stimulation on your clit even if your arms are twitching or moving.
3. Experiment With Variation
On the other hand, some women find that changing the stimulation right in those crucial seconds before climax can help propel them overboard. In other words, they don’t want consistency, they want variation. If you think you tend to get pretty consistent stimulation, try playing around with creating more or less intensity as you’re close to climax.
There are two different experiments you can try. If you have a sense that a halfsie might be imminent, have you or your partner apply more pressure or use more speed. The next time, try using less pressure or less speed. See if either option makes a difference.
4. Play With Your Breathing
Playing with your breath is one of the best ways to improve your relationship with orgasm. It helps bring you into deeper connection with your body, meaning that you can be more in tune with the sensation you’re feeling. It also helps you stay present and focused. As you feel your orgasm nearing, try to slow down your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your breath deliberate and measured.
5. Hold Your Breath
Some women find that holding their breath helps them orgasm. Again, different strokes for different folks! Try experimenting with holding your breath in the moments leading up to orgasm. Of course, be careful not to hold your breath for too long — breathe in, hold for about 5-10 seconds, then release and repeat.
6. Check Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor is the string of muscles from your public bone in the front to your behind. They support your uterus and contract during orgasm. If your orgasms are less intense than they used to be, it could be because your pelvic floor is overactive or underactive. (Something that’s super common with childbirth, menopause, hormonal changes, and even constipation.) Like any other muscle in your body, your pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened or relaxed —which can help with orgasm intensity.
If you have an underactive pelvic floor, doing Kegel exercises or pelvic floor strengthening can help. Yet, if your pelvic floor is overactive, doing Kegels or strengthening exercises can make the symptoms worse. The next time you’re at the gyno, talk to them about your orgasms and have them investigate your pelvic floor.
7. Try To Focus On Your Pleasure
It is frustratingly easy to get stuck in your head about your orgasm, especially if you’re not orgasming in the way you’d like or you can sense your partner’s frustrations. Do you find yourself stressing out with thoughts like, “I better come now,” “Jeez, I’m taking forever,” or, “He must be getting so sick of this”? Any time you feel yourself getting distracted, take a deep breath and try to gently bring your attention back to the pleasure your body is feeling.
It might help you to think of a different phrase to serve as a mantra in the moment. For example, something like, “This is feeling really good” or “There’s nothing for me to do other than enjoy this moment.” It’s also a good idea to ask your partner to be more supportive in the moment. You’re the one who has to deal with the frustrations on the halfsie, so there’s no reason for him to get frustrated! If he’s more relaxed, you won’t feel as much pressure.
8. Embrace The Half Orgasm
I’ve said before that orgasms are like snowflakes — no two are alike. Once you’ve had a really amazing orgasm, of course you’re naturally going to hope that all of your orgasms are that intense. But the reality is that your orgasms will never be uniform. It’s very possible that there’s no specific reason why you’re getting the occasional halfsie.
Explore all of the different possibilities and exercises I suggested above, but if nothing seems to have an effect, you may have to come to terms with this orgasmic annoyance. To soften the blow, try making a playful arrangement with your husband. For example, whenever you have a halfsie, he gets to pamper you with a vibrator play session or a relaxing back massage.
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.
Chadwick, S., Francisco, M., & van Anders, S.M. (2019) When Orgasms Do Not Equal Pleasure: Accounts of "Bad" Orgasm Experiences During Consensual Sexual Encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(8), 2435-2459.