We asked women to share exactly what they do to orgasm
This is how the orgasm fairy tale goes: You meet Prince Charming, and from the very first time, he knows exactly how your body works. There’s some kissing, some foreplay, some moaning and, after maybe 10 minutes of intercourse, bam—a shattering climax for two. Angels may even sing. If your sex life fits this description, kudos. If not, this story is for you.
In reality, women are all over the orgasm map, and in an effort to improve your sex life, we asked dozens of them to reveal what they’ve learned, what they do—and what they’re not afraid to ask for. After reading some of their stories, you’ll abandon your assumptions about the way orgasms are “supposed” to happen. And you’ll stop waiting, like some damsel in distress, for a guy to magically unchain your pleasure. Turns out, of course, that you are your very own knight in shining armor, and this is your road map to a happy ending.
Having an orgasm during sex used to be hard work, like ditchdigging hard. Regardless of how tireless or well-intentioned the men (and occasionally women) were, things generally went something like this: crazy Kama Sutra-esque positions, then oral sex and finally another gymnastic routine that eventually did the trick. But every orgasm took so much time (an hour-plus) and energy (immeasurable) that afterward my partner and I would collapse. Forget cuddling—we just needed a rest.
I was fed up with the hard-labor orgasm. So I decided desperate times called for desperate measures: Enter my no-fail DIY technique.
One Saturday, after a charged night of flirting, my date, Nick,* and I went back to his place. As we were having sex, I shyly slipped my hand southward to stimulate myself, and held my breath to see how it would go over. Was this like beating your date at arm wrestling—just not advisable, even if you were more than capable?
But Nick was, to put it mildly, really enthusiastic. And so was I minutes later, when I had a body-rocking orgasm. After that, I never hesitated again. Now I have easy-as-pie orgasms whenever I want, and I have yet to be with anyone who doesn’t think my technique is superhot!
I used to say to my girlfriends, “There are two types of women: size queens and liars.” Because I’d generally had orgasm success with larger-than-average men, I saw no reason to rethink my position. Until I met Mark.*Even fully clothed, he was like the little teapot—short and stout, but he was warm and made me feel better when I was down. Mark was also persistent, and by the time I realized what was happening, I was falling in love with my just-a-friend. Something close to panic set in, though, when I figured out that I was dealing with 4.5 inches on a good night. Sensing my reluctance on the evening we both knew would be our first time having intercourse, he went slowly. Foreplay had always made me impatient. But he found new erogenous zones (elbows—who knew?!). His mouth wandered lower as I stretched out on the bed, humming with anticipation. And then it happened.
I had never had an orgasm from oral sex and was blown away by the power of it. Immediately after that, we had sex, and it was incredible. Not once did I wonder, Is it in yet? or, What’s a quicker escape route, the stairs or the window?
Teapot and I are no longer together, but after that night I retracted my earlier declarations. It’s not about size—it’s about knowing how to use what you’ve got.
My husband and I didn’t have that boy-meets-girl, fall-in-love-and-get-married kind of romance. Instead, what we had was fractured and complicated, emotionally draining and ill-timed. And for the years that we swam upstream against our intense connection, it was the sex—the sweaty, hotter-than-July sex—that held us together. Yet even with such an otherworldly chemistry, I only occasionally had an orgasm with him. What’s up with this, I would wonder, confused, each time it didn’t happen—I’m as sensual as they come.
It hadn’t dawned on me yet, the correlation between my emotions and my ecstasy. My body knew what my mouth would never say, and so it stood subconsciously guarded, unable to “go there,” because who really knew how this would all turn out?
Fast-forward two sons and three years of marriage later. Funny how fully committing and peeling back emotional layers free up the real orgasm muscle, the brain. The more routine (yet connected) our relationship became, the more frequent and outrageous my big O. Today, it’s not just that I trust him; I’ve also dared to trust myself—to step out on faith, to give my heart to another, to let myself believe.
A few months ago, I talked my husband into taking one of those cheesy, over-the-counter male performance enhancer things for my birthday. Well, after he got over thinking he was going to die—boing!—I had every kind of orgasm possible, far more than any woman should have in one session. Enough to make up for the ones I didn’t have over the years. Enough to prove to me that trust may be the greatest aphrodisiac of all.
I was 21 the first time I realized something wasn’t quite right “down there.” Fully expecting an amazing night with my college boyfriend to end in my first orgasm, I was instead struck with excruciating, game-ending pain that made me simultaneously lock my legs shut and knock him away. We were both shocked. He muttered, “You need to figure that out,” before rolling over.
I didn’t figure it out, not with him or the other guys I was with over the next, get this, 15 years. That’s not to say I didn’t try, with everything from talk therapy (paid counselors and any friend within earshot) to retail therapy (candy-apple green vibrators and books with titles like Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving). Nothing worked. The pain—a sensitivity so intense that any physical contact was unbearable—was always there.
Finally I told my gynecologist. She gave my clitoris a quick once-over during my annual, said things looked normal and told me orgasm issues were common for women. Ruling out a physical issue left me wondering why I wouldn’t allow myself to feel pleasure. It definitely wasn’t for lack of effort. Armed with everything I’d learned from my books, I was a technical whiz. But all that know-how seriously turned off one guy when I told him explicitly what I wanted him to do to me. There’s a huge difference between dirty talk and Ikea assembly instructions (“So then while your penis is at Point A, you’ll put your hand on Point B, and then I’ll…”). By 33, I had pretty much given up on dating altogether. Who, I’d ask myself, wanted damaged goods?
After another failed relationship, I found myself on the smooth leather couch of a therapist who specialized in sex. I poured out my then 14-year saga while she listened, nodding until I was finished, then said, “This sounds like a physical problem.” At our next session, she handed me the phone number for Dr. Stika, a gynecologist who specialized in sexual dysfunction, and I allowed myself a glimmer of hope.
“Well, that’s not right” isn’t exactly the phrase you want to hear when you’re spread-eagle with your feet in stirrups. But after only a minute of prodding, Dr. Stika diagnosed me with something called clitoral adhesions. It was about as scary as it sounds: The clitoral hood was attached to the glans of the clitoris. The pain was because the skin couldn’t move back and forth smoothly during sexual activity. My case was one of the worst she’d ever seen.
Fifteen years of issues were explained in five minutes. Dr. Stika advised surgery, and knowing I didn’t want a future that looked like my past, I agreed. The procedure itself was quick, and the recovery process took two weeks. Estrogen cream ensured the wound healed properly; painkillers and sleeping pills allowed me to rest at night, when the area often throbbed.
I wish I could say I attempted an orgasm as soon as I was given the go-ahead. But I was so scared the surgery hadn’t worked that I delayed putting myself to the test. When, at the urging of my therapist, I finally did some experimenting alone one day in the middle of the afternoon, I kept waiting for the familiar pain. But there was only pleasure. It was like jumping into a swimming pool—being in the water is so good that you can’t believe you spent so much time on the edge, just staring down at your reflection. When I told her, Dr. Stika celebrated the news with a fist pump.
Now I’m searching for the right guy to share in all of this newfound, look-what-I-can-do fun. And for once, I’m looking forward to it.