According to research, many women say they have never had an orgasm. Is it true that only some (lucky) women can experience orgasms, and is it even that important?

When Bernice and James got married, she didn’t have an orgasm on her wedding night, but she thought that it was probably due to a lack of experience. After months of being married and a lot of effort and patience on James’s behalf, however, Bernice started to wonder if she would ever know what an orgasm felt like.

Bernice started to obsess about it, to the point where it started to cause problems in their marriage. Sex was supposed to be an earth-shattering experience…so what was wrong?

What is considered “normal” when it comes to orgasms?

In her book, The elusive orgasm: A woman’s guide to why she can’t and how she can orgasm, Vivienne Cass writes that the word “normal” makes her uncomfortable when it is used in the context of orgasms because there are so many ways to reach orgasm and there are also so many ways in which a person can feel sexual. Vivienne is of the opinion that it isn’t about whether you reach orgasm or how often you have an orgasm, but rather how you feel about orgasms.

Quality definitely trumps quantity and the numbers can be used as a measurement tool to determine whether your sex life is good or not, says sexologist Elmari Craig and Bible expert Hennie Stander in their book A-Z of Sex. “It is much more important to be focused on each other’s needs, to feel cared for and secure in your relationship.”

Society, however, creates so much pressure to have high-octane orgasms, multi-orgasms, G-spot orgasms and to have orgasms at exactly the same time that many women feel that they simply aren’t hitting the mark in the bedroom.

In her book, The Dot Spot, Dorothy Black writes: “It would appear to me that we’re not really making space for the wide range of orgasms that can be had. If there’s one thing I could tell a person who has never had an orgasm is that not all orgasms set off fireworks. Each and every orgasm doesn’t leave you crying, laughing or screaming.”

“Orgasms can be as disappointing as they are amazing, and as boring as they can be lifechanging. They can build up and leave you in a little puddle wondering ‘Was that it?’, or they can come out of nowhere and hit you on the cervix like a lightning bolt from Zeus.

Are orgasms a given?

A 2015 study by research company GfK Research showed that about 40% of women need clitoral stimulation during sex to reach orgasm. Only 20% of women reported that they can achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration. The rest of the research respondents said that they have never reached orgasm during sex (or they detailed alternative methods of how they achieved orgasms).

There are definitely women who report not having experienced an orgasm, and then there are women who have experienced an orgasm but for some reason aren’t experiencing them as often as they would like.

“Despite changing attitudes about sex and the large amount of literature available, there are still women who are unable to have an orgasm. These women are often shy or even ashamed about not being able to function ‘normally’ and instead of talking to their husbands and risking that their husbands feel inadequate about it, they keep quiet instead,” write Elmari and Hennie.

Many women investigate medical or hormonal sources as the root of the problem, but the problem is often psychological or related to lifestyle issues.

According to, 45% of women experience some sort of sexual problem and 12% attribute sexual challenges to personal stress. Other things that can negatively impact the chance of a woman being able to achieve orgasm is medicine, too much alcohol, self-confidence issues, hormonal changes, fears relating to sex, low testosterone, vaginal dryness, relationship problems, anatomy (the distance between the clitoris and the vagina) and emotional or relationship stress.

Perceptions surrounding sex that a woman develops during her formative years could also have an impact on a woman’s ability to have an orgasm. Other issues could relate to a partner who ejaculates prematurely or doesn’t really understand the female anatomy.

When a therapist has to treat anorgasmia, the therapist will look into issues such as health, medication, deep-rooted ideas and fears, as well as the current techniques that are being used. If you are experiencing problems achieving orgasm, consider seeking help from an experienced therapist (especially if this is causing problems in your marriage).

But if you’re not 100% happy with yours…

Don’t get caught up in the media frenzy about sexuality. Your sex life isn’t less worthy if you can’t find your G-spot, you and your husband aren’t reaching orgasm at exactly the same time, or if you aren’t having 10 back-to-back orgasms during sex.

Dorothy writes: “Wherever and however you experience an orgasm, is 100% okay. There are different paths that can lead women towards orgasm, and no path is better than the other. However that orgasm is made possible is irrelevant in your personal journey in pleasure and sex.”

Communicate, relax and focus on what you are experiencing, without emphasising what you think is lacking. “The more stressed out you are about not having an orgasm, the harder it will be to get there,” advise Elmari and Hennie.

“Try different stimulation methods, such as oral sex and your hands. Foreplay should take place in a calm, intimate and romantic atmosphere. This, combined with the fact that women need to know and understand their bodies and sexuality, could lead to a positive outcome.”

“An orgasm shouldn’t be the singular goal of intimacy. Talk to your partner about your needs, make sure that foreplay lasts long enough – at least 20 minutes to half an hour – and make sure that your most important sexual organ, namely your brain, is actively involved in the process.

“Remember that the journey is more important than the destination. The emotional intimacy, closeness and security that you experience during sex should be more important than any orgasm.”