Struggling to orgasm? Here's why, according to experts

Orgasm difficulty, woman sitting up in bed next to man asleep. (Getty Images)
Both men and women can struggle to have an orgasm. (Getty Images)

February comes with an influx of all things love and sex, from the conversations we have to the adverts we watch.

But while discourse around intimacy is healthy, it needs to be inclusive of those who might not be having the 'best sex of their lives', and most importantly, struggling to reach orgasm.

While the orgasm gap is real (61% of British men orgasm every time they have sex but only 30% of British women do), anyone can experience difficulty in this area.

Here, we speak to an intimacy expert about what might be holding you back from the sexual pleasure you deserve, and what you can do about it.

Obstacles that might block you from orgasm:

The mid adult woman listens carefully and seriously to her unrecognizable husband as he shares his ideas about their new home.
If you don't feel safe within yourself or with others sexual pleasure can be impacted. (Getty Images) (SDI Productions via Getty Images)

1. A lack of trust or safety

"If we don’t feel trusting or safe within our bodies, or safe with the person or the situation we’re in, it’s difficult to orgasm," says Ludivine Rose, intimacy and embodiment guide at Kaylo.

"It’s common for many men and women to lack trust or safety sexually because of trauma. This could be sexual trauma, romantic trauma or even collective trauma around sexual abuse, which is a deep and impactful issue in our contemporary society.

"Trauma – whether big or little – gets stuck in the body, making us tense up, not allowing us to relax and feel safe within our bodies. As a result, most people dissociate when they’re interacting sexually with one another. This is a subconscious attempt to protect themselves from feeling potentially traumatised again."

When you disassociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. It's a technique the mind uses to cope with something too stressful, uncomfortable or traumatic.

2. Not discussing sexual pleasure

Serious concentrated Indian man seated in bed staring at his Caucasian boyfriend during the talk
How much do you talk about sex? (Getty Images) (Zinkevych via Getty Images)

Whether you're in a relationship or not, discussing what you like with your sexual partner can improve your experience. While this may sound daunting for some, there are ways to ease yourself in.

"Most people enter sexual intercourse with somebody thinking everybody likes what they like, so don’t ask what the other person likes, where they want to be touched, or what gives them pleasure," says Rose.

"One of the ways to open up the conversation around pleasure is simply asking ‘how do you want to be touched?’ and ‘what turns you on?’ The truth is that most of us haven’t ever been asked these questions.

"First and foremost, discover what you find pleasurable, then you can share this with your partner or lover."

3. A lack of sexual education

Vibrator health benefits. (Getty Images)
Do you know what you like? (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"Most people were never taught about their pleasure in sex-ed (only how to put a condom on a banana…). So it’s important to explore and ask yourself questions in order to discover your anatomy and what you find pleasurable," says Rose.

Being aware of what you like will also make you more confident when discussing sex with partners.

"Most teenagers and young adults received their sexual education from pornography, so it’s important for parents to be well-versed in their own sexuality and open about this topic, so they can share their knowledge and educate teenagers from a young age," adds Rose

"Not to encourage sexual intercourse but to encourage the exploration of their own pleasure and their own boundaries. Consent is essential and it’s important for teenagers and young adults to know how, and feel comfortable, saying ‘no’."

Teenage girl sharing problems with her mother in the room.
Open conversation around what healthy sex is is important. Getty Images) (Halfpoint via Getty Images)

Reflecting more on our own desires (or lack of), Rose says, "How many times have we said ‘yes’ when we actually wanted to say ‘no’?

"Many people weren’t taught how to say ‘no’ – and by saying ‘yes’ when we don’t feel fully comfortable or safe, we create more traumas in our body and the lack of trust remains.

"It all comes down to wanting to be loved. We have used, then misused, our sexual energy to get that love because we forgot that we WERE love."

By asking ourselves how we want to give and receive love, we can enter into a space of deeper trust and pleasure when we do choose to have sex.

How to overcome obstacles to orgasm:

A lovely young couple enjoying bedtime in the morning
The key to orgasm is time, space, trust and full relaxation. (Getty Images) (Wirestock via Getty Images)

As well as working on the above, Rose explains, "An orgasm comes from feeling fully safe, relaxed and open. A man's typical sexual encounter is between 6-8 minutes and a woman's is typically 25-45 minutes to get to orgasm. So the key to orgasm is time, space, trust and full relaxation.

"Creating an environment where you can drop in and feel at ease with yourself and importantly [which may be surprising], removing the goal of the orgasm. Once the goal of the orgasm is removed, you can allow yourself to explore every moment as an orgasmic experience."

What about for those who think they just can't orgasm at all?

"Orgasm is about tension and release. When we shift our idea around orgasming and instead think of it as ‘tension’ and ‘release’ in this way this removes the pressure of having to have the ‘big O’," she says.

"Open up to the possibility that having an orgasmic life is not in the ‘prize’ of finding the ‘big O’, but in the process – in finding moments of release and enjoyment throughout our day.

"When we reframe orgasm in this way, it’s possible for anyone to orgasm!"

Just how you sneeze and release, or slump on the sofa and release, feeling into these moments of openness and being present can help you translate it back into the bedroom.

Watch:Rachel Bilson says she has ‘never faked an orgasm’

While those who are concerned about their sexual health should speak to a medical professional, Rose personally believes, "If we really give ourselves to love – not to the love of another – but to the love of ourselves, it’s in this state we can find spaces of deep relaxation where an orgasm is a spontaneous release.

"If we release our identity, e.g. ‘I am me’, ‘I am this’, ‘I'm a mother’, ‘I'm a father’, ‘I'm a business person’, ‘I am myself’… we enter into the full orgasm of ‘being’ – ‘I am that I am’. This is the space of totality, the space of love that we've all been longing for."