Never Had An Orgasm?

By Lissa Rankin, MD

I’ve never had an orgasm in my life. What’s wrong with me?

You are one of the 10-15% of women who have a condition we call primary anorgasmia. But don’t despair.  The odds are good that you’re capable of having an orgasm, if you care enough to commit to it. Maybe you’re taking medications that get in the way, or maybe health issues are a problem. Drugs and alcohol can also numb you and lead to difficulty achieving orgasm. Or maybe you’re not getting enough attention right where you need it, if you know what I mean.

More commonly, problems with achieving orgasm result from psychological causes.  Remember that you can’t control an orgasm. You must release into it. For some women, this may require a very special set of circumstances.

Take Clarice, for example.  Clarice was 49 when she confessed, for the first time in her life, that she had never experienced an orgasm.  When I probed further, she admitted that she and her husband of twenty-one years were frequently intimate – once or twice every week.  She had no problems feeling aroused, became lubricated when she was stimulated, and enjoyed intercourse with her husband for the intimacy it bred between the two of them. But when it came right down to it, she didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

When I asked if she was able to achieve orgasm through oral sex or masturbation, she turned bright red and said, “We don’t do those things.”  Manual clitoral stimulation, sex toys?  She shook her head again and said, “We’re kind of old-fashioned.”

When I asked if it bothered her not to have orgasms, she shrugged and said that she’d never really questioned it.  But after thinking about it for a few minutes, she admitted that it would be nice. I explained that the most important thing we needed to figure out was whether her problem was physiological, psychological, or technical. In other words, was something wrong with her body that prevented her orgasm?  Was she experiencing performance anxiety or recalling some past abuse?  Or, even more simply, were she and her husband just not stimulating her where she needed to be stimulated?  The best way to sort this out is to learn to masturbate.

Clarice blushed every time I mentioned the word.  Because she had never masturbated and found it very embarrassing to discuss, I gave her a handout I had written, explaining, in detail, with hand-drawn body parts, diagrams and arrows, how I wanted her to touch herself.  First, I prescribed a hot bath, candles, and stimulation of her nipples.  When she felt comfortable, I told her to turn down the lights in her bedroom, lock the door, and play her favorite music.  Giving herself plenty of time, I suggested that she experiment with touching herself, finding the places she enjoyed touch and giving herself permission to indulge these feelings.  When she was ready, I suggested that she try rubbing her clitoris with her fingers to see if stimulating her clitoris directly resulted in orgasm.

Although she resisted my suggestions at first, she ultimately acquiesced.  Finally, through masturbation, Clarice discovered that- ooh la la!- she was able to achieve orgasm, which ruled out any sort of physiological reason for her problem.  I suggested that she and her husband could see a sex therapist, if they were interested in exploring this issue further.  Clarice didn’t feel comfortable suggesting this, but over time, she expressed her desires to her husband, who was shocked and disappointed that she’d never experienced orgasm before.  He always assumed she had orgasms but was too modest to express herself vocally.  When she admitted that she’d never had an orgasm in twenty-one years of sex, her husband studied new techniques, and I’m happy to say, Clarice has finally found her voice – and her O.

Lissa Rankin MD is the author of the book, What’s Up Down There, and the founder of . To enter our contest for a copy of Lissa book (courtesy of, comment below on some question you have about…you know, down there!)

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