What it feels like when you can’t make your partner orgasm

I’ve been writing about sex for a long time yet the statistics for how many women orgasm with their partner remains stubbornly the same.

Roughly 40 per cent of women who can orgasm solo, can’t orgasm with a partner.

Why? Sometimes our masturbation styles don’t lend themselves to partner orgasms. Sometimes it’s ineffective technique on our partner’s side. A lot of men have no idea that women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm and are still falling for the same old myths (that women orgasm easily through penetration). Usually, there’s a lack of communication about what women really need.

Sitting on top of all the practical reasons, making everything far worse, are pressure and shame. Women feel ashamed for not being able to climax with the lick of a tongue or the thrust of a hip. Men feel inadequate and like ‘failures’ if they can’t ‘make’ a woman climax. All add to the pressure lots of women feel to deliver the goods.

There’s a lot of practical information on how to physically even up the orgasm gap but not a lot on how it feels emotionally.

Which is why I asked both men and women to tell their personal stories on how it feels when a partner orgasm doesn’t happen.

I want to make it clear before I start, though, that it’s no-one’s fault when someone doesn’t orgasm. Women aren’t ‘harder’ to make orgasm, they just have specific needs to make it happen (namely clitoral stimulation). Men aren’t born knowing how make a woman climax, it takes experience and honest communication between both of you for an orgasm to happen. Playing the blame game, won’t get you anywhere (but inviting a vibrator to bed with both of you usually will!)

Right, now that’s off my chest…

This is how men feel….


*Michael, 41, has been married for six years

“At the start, we had fantastic sex. At least I thought we did. But eight months in, my wife confessed that she had problems having an orgasm. I asked her when it started and it came out that she’d faked every orgasm she’d ever had with me. I was shocked and really hurt. All the sex we’d had felt like a lie. Why would she fake it with me? Was I some kind of neanderthal who she thought would give her a hard time? Why didn’t she tell me earlier?
I’m intelligent and I’m well aware that most women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. I always made sure there was lots of foreplay and I would always go down on her – and not just for a short time, either. Her confession really threw me and I probably didn’t react very well. It wasn’t her not being able to orgasm that was the issue, it was her not telling me sooner.

Eventually, we had a huge chat about it all and she said while she doesn’t have a problem climaxing on her own with a sex toy, she can’t seem to get there through intercourse, oral sex or me using my fingers. I immediately suggested we try different techniques and we did. But nothing seems to work.

It’s obvious there are psychological problems as well. There’s so much pressure on both of us, it’s destined never to succeed. Sometimes, our sex feels grim and determined rather than joyful and sensual. I try whatever it is we’ve decided to try and keep going until she tells me to stop. Often, I’ll be at it for 45 minutes at a time.

I used to enjoy giving her oral sex but now I just feel self-conscious and inadequate. I’m tense and desperately trying to read her body language to see how I’m doing. I find it very distressing when it doesn’t work. She tried faking it a few times since the confession but it’s half-hearted. She’ll say ‘I had a little one’ or “I came a little bit’. I don’t challenge her on it because she does it to make me feel better about it all.

I can’t shake the feeling that it’s something I’m doing wrong: that my technique isn’t right. I worry she bitches about me to her friends and they all know what a failure I am in bed.

After we’ve had sex with the same, seemingly inescapable conclusion, I try so hard not to question her about it. But I can’t help myself. I have to ask her if she did orgasm (she didn’t), if she’s OK about it not happening (she is, sex isn’t just about orgasm for her), if it’s my fault (no, it isn’t, I did everything right), what I can do differently next time (nothing, it’s just her). I can feel her rolling her eyes in the darkness and getting annoyed with having to go through this ritual every single time. But still I can’t stop myself. Does she still love me? Is she tempted to contact her ex who did make her orgasm? She told me at the start about a fling she had with this guy that was just sex and she had the best orgasms with him. I expect she regrets telling me, bitterly. Images of her and him have lived in my head since then.”


*Tom, 32, is currently single

“I consider myself a good lover and I take it personally if I can’t make a woman climax. Women think it’s all about the male ego and there is a little bit of that. But it’s also about me wanting her to have as good a time in bed as I do.

It makes sex so much better if you both have orgasms. You feel good about yourself when that happens: it does make me question my sexual prowess when it doesn’t. Plus, I always feel uncomfortable when it’s clear she hasn’t come. I don’t know what to say or how to react once sex is over. It’s awkward.

I think most women orgasm really easily. You penetrate and within minutes, she’s making noises that she’s going to lose it. I love sex like that, when I don’t have to hold back and can go for it. One girlfriend told me that’s all bulls**t and hardly any women come during intercourse but I’ve had a LOT of experience and she’s wrong. I can easily tell the difference between a real orgasm and a fake one and I’d say at least 70 per cent of women orgasm that way.

If thrusting doesn’t seem to be working to get her off, I’ll usually stop after a bit and give her oral sex. I’m not sure if I’m just really good at it but, again, that only seems to take a few minutes before I get results.

I’ve only had a few long-term relationships and, quite frankly, they were the ones where I had the most problems with sex. One of my exes was very particular and demanding about what she needed before she could orgasm. Bossy, too. I felt like I was being ordered about and it wasn’t fun my end. It was all about her and I couldn’t relax and enjoy myself.

Another ex could only ever orgasm using her vibrator. We’d have sex and she’d seem like she was enjoying it but then she’d turn to me after it was over and say, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’, then reach over and open the drawer and out comes the vibrator. I’d always say ‘No, I don’t mind’ and take myself off to the bathroom while she did her thing. But it did used to annoy me a bit.

I’ve never really understood why women need a vibrator when they’ve got a real guy in their bed. But thinking about it now, maybe it’s not a bad idea to take one out with me, if I think I’m going to score. I get tired, waiting for her to catch up. Maybe it’s an easy solution for women who do have problems.

I do ask women what they need to orgasm and would be happy to do anything and everything she wanted. But most women say, ‘Just do what you always do’ and seem annoyed if I ask again. Women might be liberated but they still pretty much leave it up the guy to take the lead with everything. Obviously, I’m not perfect but I do deliver most of the time and think most of the women I’ve slept with would give me a high score.”

Here’s how women feel when an orgasm simply isn’t happening…


*Liz, is 31, and single

“I’ve always been very open sexually and have no problems asking for what I need in bed. Most guys don’t have a problem with that – but all seem surprised that I need stimulation for as long as I do (about half an hour). Yet I’m not unusual – all my girlfriends say they need about the same amount of time to get fully aroused and climax.

Women have to take some responsibility for the orgasm gap. So many women aren’t honest with men about what it takes to make a woman orgasm. Not only do women fake it, they fake it after just a few minutes of stimulation. I can totally see why men think it only takes five minutes of oral sex to make a women climax. Or why they think women can orgasm from intercourse. If all the women they sleep with pretend they do, of course they believe it! We’ve helped to perpetuate these myths and that’s why, despite all the education, nothing is changing. Every time a woman fakes it after five minutes, she is ruining my chances of having a real orgasm with a partner.

It’s interesting how men react when they realise you aren’t going to behave like their ex lovers. Most stop and look at you and ask if they’re doing everything right. If you say yes but can you do it for longer, they oblige but I’ve had some guys stop once they’ve had enough, rather than when I have.

Others pretend you have had one through intercourse even though they know you haven’t. They’ll let go and have one themselves and then say, ‘That was great, right?’, avoid eye contact and then take themselves off.

The older the guy is, the more realistic he is about orgasms for women. I guess because he’s been in a few long-term relationships and learnt how to communicate better. Figured out how a woman’s body really works.

More than a few guys see if as a challenge and won’t give up. But there’s a window of opportunity with me – and I suspect all women. If I don’t orgasm after a certain period, it isn’t going to happen. I get over-stimulated and over-sensitive and, to be honest, lose interest as well.”


*Carmen, 23, has been with her boyfriend for two years

“I have no problems having an orgasm solo. I can achieve orgasm in a few minutes when I masturbate with a sex toy. But I never did get the hang of how to do it with your fingers and I’m not a huge fan of oral sex. I can never relax into it: I worry too much about whether I smell or if he’s enjoying doing it or just pretending to enjoy it.

I’m not uptight about sex but I wouldn’t say I’m the most relaxed or adventurous lover either. I’m a people-pleaser and I’m too busy worrying if he’s enjoying it to let myself focus on how I’m feeling.

I told my boyfriend right from the start that I’m not very good at having orgasms with a partner. I wish I hadn’t and just faked it – he’s made too much fuss over it all.

Orgasms aren’t the be all and end all. Sex is so much more than just that: it’s the connection and intimacy as well. I like being able to give him pleasure and I like seeing him orgasm – it doesn’t make me feel jealous or annoyed that he’s having one and I’m not. I know I can give myself one later on: all I need is privacy and a sex toy.

I know you’re not supposed to, but I do fake it just to pacify him. He questions me relentlessly afterwards, if I don’t. He’s over-educated about the female body and sometimes I feel like he’s lecturing me on how my own body should work. He’s taken on making me orgasm as his pet project and to be honest it’s made things worse, not better. He’ll say ‘It hasn’t been that long’ when he’s been trying to make me orgasm for almost an hour. I told him I don’t really like oral sex but that doesn’t stop him doing it.

He tried using a toy on me once or twice. I could have had an orgasm that way with him but I felt like it was cheating. I also wasn’t sure how he’d react knowing how easy it was for me to climax using a machine. It’s just easier if I wait until he leaves for work the next day and I use my vibrator on myself when no-one’s around to pressure me.”

This article originally appeared as one of my weekly columns in the Daily Mail Online.