What’s the Issue?

Most sex scenes in shows and films show easily orgasmic (and multi-orgasmic) women. One minute, everyone is dressed. Three minutes later, women in heterosexual and queer pairings alike are moaning and often close to, or already reaching, heights of sexual pleasure. These sex scenes make it seem that arousal is fast and spontaneous and that orgasms are quick to follow. Between this often-unrealistic representation of sexual arousal in ciswomen and the widely held belief that it’s difficult for ciswomen to orgasm, no wonder there’s a serious orgasm gap!

Too many women tell me they have difficulty orgasming or that sex is pleasurable without orgasm, since it can be difficult to reach and therefore shouldn’t be expected. I believe that pleasure is possible without orgasm and no one should feel pressured into having an orgasm. It feels like the myth around how little it takes to become aroused and a misunderstanding about what is needed to support people in reaching their pleasure possibilities are creating excuses for continuing the infamous orgasm gap. It’s one thing if you’re not orgasming because you are tired or your body plateaued despite very intense sensations, it’s another issue completely if you aren’t experiencing enough arousal to fully enjoy the encounter.

What Can I Do?

For some people, experiencing oral, manual, or penetrative sex can awaken the body enough to feel pleasure. For other people, unless they are mentally aroused, physical acts won’t feel like anything. In fact, even for people who experience pleasure from the acts alone, orgasms may be less intense or less enjoyable if they are not mentally aroused.

This means it’s important to take your time, all the time needed, to reach that arousal state. What this looks like is different for everyone. You might want to have extended make-out sessions, naked oiled up body massages, watch or read erotic materials, role-play, engage in dirty talk, send and receive erotic messages throughout the day, dress up in something that makes you feel sexy and receive compliments. Do whatever floats your arousal boat.

For me, depending on hormones, mood, and so on, it can take anywhere between 5 seconds to probably 30 minutes to feel physically and mentally aroused. This means that when it’s not immediate, I need to feel confident and comfortable enough with my partner to ask for what I need to reach that arousal state. I don’t like starting sexual touching until my body is eager for sex. Almost every time I do start sex with just a slight body buzz or no buzz, rather than an intense excited vibration, it takes longer to truly enjoy stimulation. It’s also harder to orgasm and I’m more likely to get frustrated.

You are Worth it

If you feel like this sounds like too much pre-sexual touch time, think about why you are having sex, whether you are enjoying it as much as you’d like to, and whether feeling truly aroused will help cut down the work of trying to orgasm. Then you can hang out in the bliss of enjoying your body’s reactions to heightened sensations.

If you’re not sure how to speak with your partner about changing things up to improve your experience, try starting the conversation when you’re not having sex, so it doesn’t feel rushed or high stakes. Let your partner know how much you enjoy your sexy time, but that you’d enjoy it more with extended foreplay and mental arousal. You might say, ‘Why don’t we spend ____ amount of time doing ____ (kissing all over body, making out, reading erotica) and I’ll let you know when my body feels ready or what else I might need to feel my sexiest/horniest.’ Discuss what gets you most turned on and how to incorporate that more often. If you don’t already use them, look into toys that might heighten your experiences.

When you’ve realized your pleasure is worth the time and care, take it up a notch. Don’t speed through the end once you’re excited. Elongate the pleasure and anticipation through teasing and different sensory play. For specific examples with descriptions, check out 7 Steps to Next Level Physical Intimacy. Remember, it’s not a sprint. Good things take time and you’re totally worth it.

Want to work with Yael one-on-one? Check out her website sexpositiveyou.com for more details!

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
I'm a queer, polyamorous Nuyorican (Puerto Rican New Yorker) Jewish pleasure activist (a term popularized by adrienne maree brown) who believes that sexual wellness and sexual liberation involve our WHOLE selves. I center identity, values, and social positioning work, playful exploration, and intimacy with self and others. I am here to support you in finding pleasurable, joyful, embodied experiences with self and sex through intentional practices geared towards your specific needs because sexual wellness and pleasure are for anyone who seeks them.