Why can't I have what she's having?

01:05, Oct 29 2012
harry met sally
I'LL HAVE WHAT SHE'S HAVING: The infamous deli scene from When Harry Met Sally, starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

Recently, I had a telephone counselling session with a 38-year-old woman who told me she had never experienced an orgasm in her life and felt it was time she finally found out what the fuss was all about.

She had married young and both she and her husband were quite inexperienced. Now divorced, she wanted to gain some more knowledge before she found another partner.

Until I started my practice as a sex therapist, I did not realise that there were so many women who had never been able to achieve an orgasm. Experiencing an orgasm is not always easy as a woman - whereas most men can usually climax without difficulty.

Research shows that most young females learn how to reach an orgasm for the first time by masturbation. Like my client, there are many women who do not have an orgasm until their 30s or 40s, often because they were inexperienced and/or received little sex education.

These days, it is impossible to ignore because of the media - not least the many women's magazines that keep telling us in great detail how to do it.

For most women, an orgasm - heart rate, breathing, body temperature, vaginal contractions and muscular tension all peaking then releasing - usually lasts fewer than 20 or 30 seconds.


There are big, strong "wow" climaxes, barely noticeable ones, and everything else in between. Women often describe feelings of ecstasy, euphoria and intense pleasure for several minutes afterward.

But, in most cases, an orgasm feels like a definite "event" - and that's why I tell my clients: "When you have one, you know it".

Another client who came to see me was a 28-year-old woman who had no problem achieving an orgasm on her own. But when she finally met her "perfect man", with whom she had a great relationship, he claimed she was the only girlfriend he'd ever slept with who did not "come" when they had intercourse. What was wrong with her?

Some men believe so much in their sexual prowess that they see it as a personal challenge to make their lovers climax - and are very disappointed when they don't.

In fact, research has shown that only to 20 to 25 per cent of women can achieve an orgasm by penetrative sex alone. It's surprise, then, that many women believe that "faking it" is an easy way to keeping their partners happy. 

Believe me, I have spoken to many girls and women who do - and few men are aware of it! Just ask Sally...

As for simultaneous orgasms - they are actually quite uncommon. The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey's Christian could give "virgin" Anastasia a mind-blowing orgasm and make both of them come at the same time the very first time they had sex is, well, a fantasy.

So, what makes it easier for women to have an orgasm with a partner?

A woman who is comfortable touching her own body is more likely to know what feels good for her. Starting with foreplay and showing her partner where and how to stimulate her, also help. 

Then there is the clitoris - the powerhouse of the female orgasm, the sole existence for which is "pleasure". Its tiny area is home to 6000 to 8000 nerve endings alone.

Many of my clients have liked Dr Vivienne Cass' poster set and handbook, The Illustrated Clitoris Poster Set ($50), as a guide for exploring the clitoral anatomy and physical aspects of a woman's arousal. Far more accessible, though, is the app - powers-that-be deemed the word "Clitoris" too rude and it is now called: "Explore Women's Sex".

And for couples who are searching for that elusive orgasm, the most important thing is to communicate and focus on each other's pleasure... and to appreciate that it is not always necessary for sex to end with a climax.

- Sydney Morning Herald