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How to Enjoy Sex Without an Orgasm

When people think about sex, usually they never omit the orgasm part from it. The orgasm is like the holy grail of any sexual activity. It seems that everything that starts with any kind of desire or arousal should end in this kind of sexual release. But what about sex without an orgasm? Why isn’t anyone talking about it when lots of people out there have perfectly satisfying and enjoyable sex lives without necessarily coming in the end?  

Yes, sex without an orgasm does exist. There are many reasons why people can’t achieve orgasm, whether by themselves or with a partner. Sometimes it’s physical – an injury to some part of the body, a medical condition, and sometimes it’s psychological – stress, anxiety, depression, as well as medications taken for these conditions can all contribute to a lack of orgasms. In other instances, it can be a consequence of sexual assault, and sometimes there isn’t a definitive reason behind – maybe just sheer biology. 

Here, I want to talk about several aspects of this sexual phenomenon – the official scientific term and what it encompasses, but also the humane side of it, trying to locate it in the wider spectrum of sexual practices and experiences, to show how people can still have great sex lives even if it means they can’t or won’t achieve an orgasm. 

But first, I want to give you a little peek into the sexual response cycle, the model for our bodily and neurological responses to pleasure and sexual stimulation.

Let’s begin! 

The Sexual Response Cycle

The ‘sexual response cycle’ is a description of four phases the body goes through upon sexual stimulation. Sex researchers William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson came up with this model in order to describe sexual activity and the bodily responses to it. 

This model applies to both males and females, and is usually, but not exclusively described in four phases:

  • excitement, 
  • plateau, 
  • orgasm, 
  • and resolution.

The excitement stage is when the body gets all worked up – blood starts rushing through, breasts swell, the clitoris swells as well, the muscles around the vagina grow tighter. In men, this is the time when the penis becomes either fully or partially erect. 

The second stage is the plateau, which is basically the excitement phase but really upgraded. Muscles that are located at the base of the penis start to rhythmically contract and the balls sort of rise a bit, getting closer to your body. Now, what’s interesting about this phase is that it marks the peak of sexual stimulation in people who can’t have an orgasm. 

After that comes the orgasm phase. During an orgasm, a large part of the body contracts. This is also the phase where men get to ejaculate. Orgasms differ from person to person, and from one sexual act to the next, so there isn’t really one way to describe them and their intensity. 

And last is the resolution phase in which the body relaxes. The heart rate gets to normal, the blood pressure stabilizes, breathing becomes slower, and the blood is diverted away from the sexual organs. This is also the time of the so-called ‘refractory period’ in which people can’t achieve another orgasm for some time. 

Anorgasmia or the Inability to Achieve an Orgasm 

The difficulty or inability to reach an orgasm after a prolonged time of stimulation is called anorgasmia, and it’s thought to be more frequent in women, than in men. 

Somewhere about 10% of women in the US report never to have climaxed and 8% of men have reported an anorgasmic period of more than two months. 

In men, this is also often called delayed ejaculation and it can range from mild to most severe: 

  • Mild delayed ejaculation is when you can still ejaculate under certain conditions. 
  • Moderate delayed ejaculation is when you can’t’ ejaculate whilst having intercourse with another person, but you can still do it through oral sex or a hand job. 
  • Severe delayed ejaculation is when you can only ejaculate when you’re by yourself.
  • And, finally, the most severe delayed ejaculation is when you can’t ejaculate at all. 

NOTE: Delayed ejaculation is not to be confused with the intentional delaying of ejaculation which is commonly called edging. Edging can actually be a great way to work on orgasm control and prolong your orgasms – if that’s what you want, of course, and it can also be beneficial for issues like premature ejaculation or problems with erections. 

In women, there are also distinctions into the types of anorgasmia they experience: 

  • Situational anorgasmia means that a woman can’t climax under certain circumstances (the circumstances differ from woman to woman). In any event, a great number of women aren’t able to orgasm by intercourse (penetration) alone. 
  • Acquired anorgasmia is when a woman used to have orgasms but now can’t orgasm for some reason, or finds it rather difficult to do so. 
  • Generalized anorgasmia means that a woman can’t really orgasm under any or most circumstances, whether she’s masturbating or having sex with a partner. 
  • Lifelong anorgasmia is when a woman has never experienced an orgasm. 

The trouble with anorgasmia, in both men and women, is that it often causes sexual frustration and personal distress to the one who’s been affected by it.

What Are the Potential Reasons Behind Anorgasmia? 

There are different reasons, both psychological and physical, behind anorgasmia for men and women. Some of them conflate and some don’t’. Let’s briefly take a look at them so you know what I’m talking about. 

Reasons for anorgasmia in women

  • Serious diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer, along with their psychological toll can affect the way one experiences orgasm and whether they do at all. 
  • Surgeries, especially ones done to the genital areas, as well as hysterectomies. These can also cause painful or uncomfortable intercourse for some women. 
  • Taking certain medications, such as ones for regulating blood pressure, as well as antihistamines, antipsychotics, and antidepressants, especially the SSRIs (aka selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). 
  • Smoking can inhibit blood flow to the sexual organs and alcohol use can interfere with the ability to have an orgasm. 
  • Aging is another factor, especially when it comes to hormonal shifts in pre-menopause and menopause (vaginal dryness, low libido). But also changes in the circulatory and neurological system due to aging can also play a role in how women experience an orgasm, along with accompanying psychological changes, such as mood swings, for example. 

Reasons for anorgasmia in men:

  • Similarly to women, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as cancer can influence a man’s ability to orgasm. Effects from diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure can be responsible as well. 
  • Substance abuse – alcohol, drug use, as well as smoking. 
  • Disorders with the endocrine system that meddle with hormonal levels, and especially low estrogen. 
  • Complications arising from prostate surgery (prostatectomy). 
  • Sexual dysfunction such as inability to have or sustain an erection. 

Psychological reasons can also interfere with one’s ability to have an orgasm (for both men and women):

  • Chronic or acute stress.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem and poor body image, often feeling shy or embarrassed 
  • Religious and/or cultural beliefs that view sex and nudity as something forbidden or wrong. 
  • Feeling guilt for enjoying sex and sexual pleasure. 
  • Sexual performance anxiety. 
  • Experience of sexual or emotional trauma or abuse. 

Issues within the relationship are another thing that can affect your sex life and the way (or whether at all) you experience orgasms: 

  • Lack of intimacy with your partner or loss of bond/connection. 
  • Lack of communication, especially when it comes to sexual and emotional desires and needs. 
  • Frequent fights and conflicts that are unresolved for years. 
  • An experience of infidelity or another type of behavior that causes poor trust in your partner or a trust breach. 
  • Emotional or sexual neglect or abuse, as well as instances of physical violence. 

As you can see, there are a number of factors involved. Sex and orgasms are complex phenomena that include lots of actors of the human body and mind. 

Our conceptions of sex are often based on a common image produced by mainstream society  

Because of our societal’s dominant views of what sex should look like and how it should unfold, people who don’t fit the imposed norm find themselves increasingly excluded and frustratingly alone in their experiences. 

But, the reality is different. Sex isn’t only one act or one thing or one feeling, and sex isn’t only about achieving an orgasm. Sex should be about enjoyment, fun, novelty, and playfulness. The pressure society and consequently we impose upon ourselves and our partners of what our love/sex lives should be, only makes matters worse. 

The pressure is on both men and women 

Yes, nobody gets off easily. It’s just a different kind of pressure when it comes to achieving an orgasm. 

Because men’s orgasms are considered easier to achieve, when a man has trouble orgasming or has other kinds of troubles with erection, then they’re viewed as bad lovers, incompetent, and so on. They don’t have the aura of elusiveness around them like women’s orgasms do, which means they must have them or be doomed. 

But this aura of elusiveness has been detrimental to women’s sexual satisfaction as well, one might say for centuries even. Only in the past couple of decades have we become more aware and conscious of female pleasure and the specific ways women like to be touched during sex. Heck, for some people it’s still news that most women can’t come from penetration only and that they need clitoral stimulation as well. 

So, because of this elusiveness and the centuries-old centredness on the male orgasm and male pleasure, women’s orgasms and women’s pleasure, in general, have become a secondary thing. Which means, they’ve been taken for granted. 

Add to this all kinds of other pressures to perform outside of sex – gender roles, professional success, family matters, which makes it even harder to relax in the bedroom.

So what if you’re among the people that have never had an orgasm or find it very difficult to achieve one? Can this be considered normal

Many people that have experienced this wonder whether they’re normal, whether their anorgasmia is an issue for them, for their partners, and for society at large. They often find ways to model themselves upon others’ expectations, even though it’s causing them psychological harm, and sometimes even physical harm. Some people may even forsake sex altogether from the frustrating expectations that come out of it and their “inability” to follow through. 

But, in reality, this isn’t an inability at all, even though it’s often defined in this way. It’s just a state among countless other states in which we live and function, often quite as equally content and happy as people functioning differently. 

Whether you’ve never orgasmed in your life or you’ve struggled with ejaculation or orgasms for a long time now, sex without an orgasm doesn’t need to be an issue. It’s only an issue if it’s persistently bothering you and when it’s causing a whole range of negative emotions. 

Of course, it’s not wrong or bad to want to have an orgasm, but when achieving an orgasm becomes the only or primary focus when you’re having sex, then that might be a bit of a problem. Why? Well, first of all, because it reduces the whole experience of having sex and pleasure to a single moment that lasts from 5-10 seconds. Yes, that’s the average amount of time a male orgasm lasts, while women’s last a tad longer, for about 10-15 seconds. 

So, now ask yourself – do you really want to do this? If for some reason you really can’t achieve an orgasm, either for the time being or for the foreseeable future, maybe even never, why shouldn’t you still enjoy sex? 

How to Enjoy Sex Without an Orgasm 

Great sex without an orgasm is possible. The basic thing it revolves around is pleasure and making each other comfortable and relaxed. Whether it lasts a short or a long period of time, it doesn’t matter. Just experiment and try to follow at least some of the suggestions I’m about to give next. 

Bring Foreplay Back Into the Game 

If you want to enjoy having sex without an orgasm, then you should definitely pay attention to how you do foreplay. 

With orgasm out of the picture, foreplay starts to gain a much more prominent role in the way your sex life unfolds. It’s actually quite odd that we’ve put foreplay separately to having sex at all. 

In reality, though, foreplay is an important part of sex. I mean it’s probably happened to you a thousand times to be horny as hell, but your partner needs her fair share of caresses, kisses, and touches so she can get as wet and horny as you. And when you throw oral sex, fingering, or a sex toy into the picture…. Heck, sometimes foreplay is sex! And it feels damn good! 

The great thing about foreplay is that the focus isn’t on the orgasm – never. It’s always about getting more horny, about producing more pleasure in each other and making each other feel good. It’s about enjoying your hot, naked bodies. 

And foreplay is a vast arena, there are so many things you can do. Start with some dirty talk, then continue undressing each other – slowly! Make out, French kiss, let her give you a hand job, finger her, give each other oral sex. On some nights (or days!) make it last as long as you can, just for the sake of it. And then proceed with intercourse. Or don’t – it’s up to you to enjoy yourselves as you want. 

Make Sure You Communicate Well With Your Partner 

Communication is the cornerstone in every relationship, I’ve said this countless times throughout my articles. Whatever’s going on in your relationship, whether it’s frequent fights, resentments, or troubles in the bedroom, it can all be dealt with by using the right words. 

Besides, sex can be helluva awkward sometimes, even when you’re with someone for a long time. And what can mitigate this kind of awkwardness? Talking about it, for sure. 

The path to good sex is paved with lots of talking about it. The do’s and don’ts, the likes and dislikes, the in-betweens… Good communication can help you expand the horizons of your sex life. It can help you navigate better the uncomfortable moments and the inconveniences arising in sex. 

Of course, for a lot of people out there the sheer thought of talking about sex openly spells awkwardness. Yes, talking about sex can be unpleasant and delicate, but it’s ultimately very rewarding, once you’ve managed to walk through the weird parts first. 

Talking about sex with your partner is totally doable, even if you’re the shyest person on earth or you’ve been raised to simply do away with it – forever. 

So if you want to open the conversation with your partner about sex without an orgasm, you can first try and talk about what you generally want from sex and your views on it. You can share past bad experiences as a narrative from which you can learn. 

Pick a time where you’ll be rested enough for a more serious talk and a place where you feel comfortable. You don’t have to spill all the beans at once. 

Giver your partner space to express her needs and desires 

If you opt for a less serious, more casual discussion, then you can also do it in the bedroom before or after sex. You can ask your partner something like: “Do you like me to do something different?”, “Do you like me to do ___?”, “Is there something you don’t like me to do in the bedroom? You know you can tell me this stuff”, “I want to know what you want to do in the bedroom, what are your wishes, your desires.”

It’s also important to leave space for your partner to communicate her needs to you. Even if she’s reluctant at first, don’t push and try to leave the conversation for another time. 

Of course, showing her that you’re willing to know more about her desires and your joint sex life is a great sign that you put a lot of thought and care into it, and it definitely beats guesswork by a long shot. 

What if one of you orgasms and the other doesn’t? 

Well, if one of you gets to orgasm, it doesn’t mean sex is over for the other, but it also doesn’t mean you need to bother them until they manage to come.  

So I suggest you ask, always ask. Ask your partner whether she wants you to keep going or whether you should stop. You certainly don’t want to bring your partner to fake an orgasm just to please you. 

The focus should be on the great time you’re having together, and not the orgasm. 

Explore Yourselves 

Everyone should do this. Getting to know our bodies through masturbation and self-stimulation is a big step forward towards knowing what we want from sex. What’s more, it helps us communicate it better to our partners, since we’re more aware of what we really want to be done to us and what we’d just pass. 

So don’t be afraid to touch yourselves and please yourselves in different ways. Use whatever you want – toys, the shower, porn… 

You can even do it together, which can both be very sexy and a great opportunity to show each other what you like during sex. 

How Long Should Sex Without an Orgasm Last? 

There isn’t one, straightforward answer to this question, nor there should be any. I’d say – as long as you both feel like it, as long as it feels exciting, pleasurable, enjoyable, and fun. That’s all there is to it. 

Just make sure to ask each other whether you should continue or you feel like it’s enough. After that do what you’d regularly do after a steamy night of hot sex – cuddle! 

Yeah, the so-called aftercare after sex is super important for maintaining intimacy in the relationship and bond some more with your partner. Caress each other, touch each other, kiss, hug, fall asleep by each other’s side. 

And then maybe have sex again – if you feel like it! 

What’s the Popular Opinion – How (Much) Do People Enjoy Sex Without an Orgasm? 

As you already know, sometimes I like to include real-life experiences and opinions into my articles for matters regarding sex, pleasure, and relationships. I often visit Reddit threads because I think you can find a lot of diverse opinions about these topics and they can be somewhat representative of what people generally think. 

So let’s see some of them! 

Reddit thread: How much do women enjoy sex without orgasm?

“For me, orgasm is like the cherry on top, and with or without it, I still love the rest of that sexual ice cream sundae. Sex feels incredible and overwhelming just on its own. An orgasm is delightful, but I enjoy all of the sensations and intimacy that sex brings no matter what.

[…]

Just because I may not orgasm and am okay with that doesn’t mean I don’t want a partner who wants to help me get there. I can definitely enjoy sex without orgasm, but the sex has to be damn good!”

***

“This is exactly how I feel. Orgasms are great, but I can get off on my own. I can’t duplicate the feeling of lips against my throat or the sounds of my partner on my own.”

***

I enjoy the closeness and intimacy of it, but I’m still frustrated afterwards.

***

“I’ve never had an orgasm, but i still really enjoy sex with my boyfriend because it feels good (duh) but also because of the intimacy”

***

“If I get really turned on and don’t orgasm, I can’t relax. I don’t love PIV that goes on forever because I won’t orgasm. Relatively quick PIV [penis-in-vagina] that is passionate is the best for me. I orgasm like crazy through oral/fingering so I like that better.”

***

“I enjoy it a lot. It takes a lot of work for me to orgasm and it’s nice to have one and all, but it doesn’t take away any enjoyment if I don’t have one.”

So, as you can see, the reactions are pretty varied and mixed, because hey, it’s people and we all have different feelings and opinions on these matters. 

Here you can check an article in which a woman talks about her experience of not being able to orgasm with a partner, but only by herself. It’s a very good, sympathetic take on it, focusing on pleasure and mutual enjoyment rather than the sole act of orgasming. 

And what about men? How do they feel about sex without orgasms? 

For guys, it’s kinda harder to find these kinds of threads, but I did stumble upon a very nice coverage from Cosmopolitan titled What It’s Really Like to Be a Twentysomething Man Who Can’t Orgasm, where they ask three men about their experiences with sex without an orgasm. 

One of them can’t have orgasms because of surgery from childhood, another one because of a mix of psychological reasons and side-effects from antidepressives, and the third one primarily because of a class of drugs called SNRIs which are responsible for treating major depressive disorder and anxiety. 

These are some of the highlights from the article, and if you’re interested, I urge you read the whole thing. It’s really nicely done and very encouraging. 

What do you wish you’d known about this issue sooner? 

“Man A: That it doesn’t exactly affect your ability to have sex in the way you’d think. That the real draw of sex isn’t necessarily the broad, bold strokes, but the subtleties of being with a particular person. Sex is kind of ridiculous and sublime enough, even without the mess most people make at the end of it.

Man B: That I had this problem and why I had it. I struggled for a couple weeks before I knew what was going on.

Man C: I don’t think there was anything for me to known sooner. Everyone’s sex life evolves through trial and error, and as long as that trial and error is conducted in an earnest way with consenting partners, I think it’s perfectly fine to learn and face challenges as you go.”

What advice would you give to other men who can’t orgasm? 

“Man A: I would try to dissuade them from traditional notions of performance, because if trying to please yourself is the goal, then you’re not going to get much out of sex, but if trying to please your partner is, there’s really no obstacle to that — maybe that’s something that men in general need to learn. As people outside the straight world know, there’s good sex without the dick. If you can square yourself, as a man, within that context, what you can or can’t do doesn’t truly matter. Maybe you’ll miss the fireworks show but that doesn’t have to be the attraction.

Man B: There’s a whole lot more to you as a person, even sexually, than what comes out of your dick. Don’t let it get you down.

Man C: It’s like any matter related to sex: Be frank with yourself and the people concerned. There’s not much else you can do, and transparency will always be the most important form of emotional relief.”

The guys interviewed said that they mostly had very understanding partners and that they shared their anorgasmia with them from the very start (aka once the relationship turned sexual). 

Final Thoughts on Sex Without an Orgasm 

Basically, when it comes to sex and orgasms, it’s more about the journey than it is about the destination. 

Orgasms shouldn’t be equated with how successful a sexual encounter was. They’re just a cherry on the top, but not a necessity for pleasurable and satisfying sex life. 

As long as you like having sex, look forward to being intimate and naked with your partner and genuinely feel pleasure together in bed, then that’s all that matters. That’s the goal of sex. 

Keep reminding yourself this every time you feel the slightest bit of doubt in the bedroom. Orgasms may be out of the picture, but pleasure should never be. 

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