Sex Advice

I’ve Never Orgasmed (and Have Definitely Tried)—What Does Pleasure Look Like for Me?

Alexandra Fine

Photo: Getty Images/Sophie Mayanne
With Good@Sex, your pleasure is the priority, and every question is a good one. Whether you’re curious about a shift in libido, want intel about a certain relationship dynamic, are interested in exploring an untapped avenue of your sexuality, or anything else, Alexandra Fine—sexologist, co-founder and CEO of Dame Products, and Well+Good Changemaker—has an answer to offer. Read more stories from Good@Sex

Question:

I’ve never had an orgasm—and trust me, I’ve tried. But I do still have desire to engage sexually. In light of this, I’m wondering what pleasure can look like for people who have sex without orgasm as an endpoint. Is that even possible?

Answer:

Here’s a fact about me: I orgasm easily, which I don’t say to brag, but more so as a disclaimer. Because of this, my understanding of anorgasmia—a type of sexual dysfunction in which a person cannot achieve orgasm despite adequate stimulation, which can result in personal stress—is secondhand. But through my research as a sexologist, ongoing conversations, and a little bit of experience working with others who struggle with anorgasmia or sex without orgasm, I can offer some guidance.

Off the bat, here are some helpful statistics to share that have guided my research:

These figures may sound concerning, but what’s key to remember is orgasms don’t equal pleasure. Pleasure encompasses both physical and psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from solitary or shared erotic experiences. Orgasm, on the other hand, is an intense physical release of tension, accompanied by contractions of the genital muscles. As somebody who orgasms easily, I can tell you that sometimes I miss the whole pleasure experience because the physical release happens too fast. That’s because if I’m not mentally ready for an orgasm, it won’t be as pleasurable in effect as a long buildup fully present experience may be. So while pleasure and orgasm seem correlated, they aren’t the same thing.

Another interesting point is that research says 75 percent of women report experiencing pain during sex at some point in their lives. While sexual pain differs from anorgasmia (and the two aren’t necessarily linked at all), if you’re experiencing pain, it may be keeping you from being able to orgasm. If that’s the case, I recommend speaking with your OB/GYN about pain during sex.

Imagine building pleasure through a solo or partnered sexual experience, but not necessarily having a clearly defined end point. The essence of the experience is pleasure.

But regarding sex without orgasm where pain isn’t a factor, do know the experience can still be highly pleasurable. I’ve found that many anorgasmic individuals love sex—and sometimes even more so than folks who can orgasm regularly. Imagine building pleasure through a solo or partnered sexual experience, but not necessarily having a clearly defined end point. The essence of the experience is pleasure. Of course, there are variations of intensity and duration of anorgasmic sexual activity, but this is also the case with orgasmic pleasure. Everyone is on their own trip—their own journey—and that’s what matters.

So while orgasm is tied to certain health gains, like improved sleep quality and heart health, sexual pleasure itself is linked positive effects, like reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and improving overall well-being. (For example, this study concludes that couples who engage in BDSM—which doesn’t necessarily mean end in orgasm—are better communicators and report a comparatively higher sense of well-being.)

Ultimately, I do want people to experience orgasms, which are indeed good for us, but they’re certainly not to be regarded as the end goal of sex. Engaging in pleasure is just as valuable. My hope is for all people to try and enjoy the ride a bit more and worry less about the destination.

As CEO of Dame Products, Alexandra Fine translates the nuances of our sexualities into human-friendly toys for sex and sexual wellness products. A lifelong student of sexual health, Alexandra earned her master’s in clinical psychology with a concentration in sex therapy from Columbia University. In founding Dame Products, she intends to start necessary conversations, to listen rather than assume, and to create products that enhance intimacy.

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