Having an orgasm is often seen as the be-all, end-all point of sex—the wave of that oxytocin that floods your system when your orgasm feels damn good, after all—to the point where not having an orgasm can feel like a failure.
For the record, it’s not. Sex is about a lot more than having an orgasm and there are many ways to explore your pleasure beyond beyond the big O. But if you’re consistently having difficulty achieving orgasm, it’s likely something is going on beneath the surface. Are you stressed about what your boss is thinking ahead of your annual review? Or are you too focused on trying to have an orgasm to the point that you can’t actually relax enough to have one? Maybe you’re just not getting any clitoral stimulation?
We asked the experts for the most common reasons why women have trouble reaching orgasm—and for their tips on how to get there.
1. You can’t put the To Do List down.
If you can’t stop thinking about the stress of your credit card bill or a looming work project, having an orgasm can feel damn near impossible no matter how good the sex is. This is really common, says Tiffany Yelverton, creator of the online course, The Orgasm Experience.
If you can’t put the to-do list down long enough to get out of your own head, she recommends women practice “being able to sink into their bodies and surrender to pleasure” so that you can allow yourself to feel instead of think. Rachel Kramer Bussel, erotica author and editor, agrees. “Focusing on exactly what's happening physically with yourself or with a partner, and doing a sweep of your mind—I literally picture a broom sweeping—of all other thoughts can help,” she says. “I'm also a huge fan of dirty talk and that often gets me close to orgasm or all the way there, when I'm already in the mood.”
2. You aren’t getting the right kind of stimulation.
If you’ve ever watched a movie where two characters have sex, then you were probably mystified by idea of having a near instant orgasm from penetration alone. That’s just not how it happens for mosts of us. "Most women require clitoral stimulation simultaneously with penetration to achieve an orgasm during intercourse,” says Yelverton.
For most women, clitoral stimulation is the best way to achieve an orgasm—if your partner isn’t engaging your clitoris during intercourse, that may explain things. Kramer Bussel suggests using sex toys during sex, which “can offer various types of stimulation to different body parts.” You can also literally train your body to feel more pleasure during penetration. “Many women who self-pleasure do so by clitoral stimulation only,” says Yelverton, “but when women masturbate with a sex toy internally, it begins to train the body to orgasm that way.”
3. You aren’t comfortable with your body.
If you spend the better part of your day criticizing your body, it may be difficult to achieve orgasm. “Often times, women are concerned about what their bodies look like naked during sex distracting them from fully being present in the moment,” says Yelverton.
Yelverton recommends focusing less on your own body and more on where your body is connecting with your partner. It’s important to focus on what you’re feeling, instead of what you’re thinking about your body outside of the bedroom,” she says. “Try to appreciate your body and love the experience.“
If you need help in this department, she suggests experimenting with a blindfold—playing with sensory deprivation is a great way to stay present during sex.
4. You aren’t masturbating enough.
It might seem counterintuitive to masturbate in order to achieve orgasm with a partner, but if you don’t know what works for you, how will someone else? “Women who don't regularly masturbate may not know their bodies well enough to communicate their needs of how to be touched to their partners,” says Yelverton. “The best thing is to really explore your body.” She suggests awakening those nerve endings multiple times a week.
Kramer Bussel agrees, and especially recommends sex toys for your solo experimenting. “Sex toys can go a long way, and can do things that we may not be able to on our own,” she says. Once you’ve mastered the art of self-pleasure, you can instruct your partner on what they should be doing to help bring you to orgasm during sex.
5. You’re too focused on achieving orgasm.
If you’re too focused on having an orgasm, it’s very possible to get in your own way. So, it’s important to remember that orgasms aren’t the only point of sex. “I don't think orgasms are the be all and end all of sex for me,” Kramer Bussel says. “I like to have them but I would rather focus on feeling good than achieving a goal.”
That focus on feeling good is especially helpful when you consider how connecting with your partner, or with yourself, can be beneficial for your mental and physical health. Try experimenting with “non-sexual touch activities,” like giving each other massages, which can be beneficial to how you communicate your needs to your partner once you’re in bed, says Yelverton.
Originally Appeared on Glamour