What Is Anorgasmia? What Should You Do If You Have It?

If you're having trouble climaxing, there could be a real (medical) reason why.

Women's Health

If there are two things in life that, in my opinion, warrant the same response, it's when it comes to the questions, "How do you know when you're in love with someone?" and "How do you know when you've had an orgasm?". To me, both of those inquiries garner the answers, "If you have to ask, you probably haven't" followed by an almost immediate, "I dunno. You just know". When it comes to being in love with someone, we'll tackle that at another time. For now, let's look into what reaching the promised land, in the form of an orgasm, is all about.

As far as actually experiencing one, there are some physical signs that most women can relate to—intense-yet-quite-enjoyable muscle spasms (or contractions), warm tingles, flushed skin, accelerated breathing and heart rate and unexplainable pleasure, accompanied by unbelievable calm and contentment. How long does this sexual roller coaster of sorts last? Anywhere between 20 seconds and two minutes. And just how can you have one? Well, there are about 12 different types of orgasms that you can experience with a partner; then there are the ones that come via masturbation. Either way, orgasms are one of life's greatest treasures; something that is truly unmatched and very hard to miss, when it actually does come your way.

Now here's the thing. If you just read all of that and you're like, "Yeah, I can't relate" and you're at your wit's end trying to figure out what the "problem" is, it very well could be that you are dealing with a bout of what is known as anorgasmia. It's very real. So real, in fact, that reportedly 10-15 percent of women struggle with it. And just what does anorgasmia entail? Give me a few minutes and I'll break it down as best as I can.

What Exactly Is Anorgasmia?


I know it might be weird to word it this way, but if there's one thing that I "like" about anorgasmia, it's that it validates a very important point. What point is that? Even if 70 percent of women have trouble experiencing a vaginal orgasm, it's not necessarily because anything is "wrong" with them nor does it mean that they never will (you can check out a woman's personal journey with anorgasmia here). It could very well be that anorgasmia has affected them, possibly without them even knowing it.

So, just what is anorgasmia? In a nutshell, it's what happens when women (or men) are unable to experience an orgasm, even after a sufficient amount of sexual stimulation. Another term for it is orgasmic dysfunction.

While I've already touched on the fact that 10-15 percent of women have an ongoing issue with anorgasmia, some studies indicate that between 11-41 percent of women have seasons when they experience it. That makes sense since there are actual "levels" to this particular condition.

  • Primary anorgasmia is when you've never had an orgasm before.
  • Secondary anorgasmia is when you used to have them, but lately, it's virtually impossible.
  • Situational anorgasmia is when you're only able to climax under certain circumstances like maybe oral sex or masturbation.
  • General anorgasmia is when you're unable to orgasm at all.

Now that you see the breakdown, I'm thinking it makes sense how close to half of all women deal with a bout of anorgasmia at some point in their lives. And what is the cause of this sexual challenge? It depends, but some of the leading factors include age, medical conditions (or medication), depression, the abuse of drugs or alcohol, anxiety and stress. However, when it comes to primary or situational anorgasmia, some other things to consider include shyness, low self-image, pinned up religious or cultural beliefs, wacked out childhood sex education (or lack thereof), relationship problems, the fear of getting pregnant (if you're not ready to have a child or you've experienced an undesired pregnancy before), or even sexual trauma. It can even be a combination of some of the things that I just mentioned.

How Is Anorgasmia Treated?


Now that you know that anorgasmia (or orgasmic dysfunction) is a very real—and common—issue, you're probably wondering what can be done about it. Good question. Again, because there are levels to it, the first thing I would recommend doing is breaking out a journal to do some sex journaling in, just to get clear on if your issue is situational or not. If it is centered around your relationship (for instance, a breach in trust or some sort of emotional disconnect), talk it over with your partner. Or, if you're only able to via oral sex or masturbation, it could be because you are receiving more clitoral stimulation that way or you feel less self-conscious in those settings. But even realizing that could help to put you on the path to having orgasms through intercourse (like trying a blended orgasm, perhaps).

However, if you feel like you more accurately fall under the primary, secondary or general categories, it's important that you make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. It could be that your hormone levels are off or that there is an underlying health issue that you are unaware of. Once you are given a thorough examination, your physician may refer you to a gynecologist (if you didn't automatically go to one) or even a reputable counselor or therapist who specializes in sexual dysfunction.

Or, they may prescribe some form of estrogen therapy or an antidepressant. They might even recommend using something along the lines of Zestra; it's a type of oil that warms your clitoris so that your genitalia can increase in sexual stimulation.

For now, the main thing to keep in mind is if you've never had an orgasm before or, it's been a while since you've had one, the right kind of treatment could have you well on your way. On the other hand, if you are diagnosed with being incapable of having one (which, for the record, is less common than all of the other types of anorgasmia), there are plenty of people who can vouch for the fact that sex can still be good without an orgasm. Whatever the case may be, just know that you're not alone. Anorgasmia is something a lot of people deal with—and get through. That's a promise.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP

6 Tips For Dealing With A Sexually Incompatible Spouse

My Sex Drive Has Become Super Low & I'm Here For It

10 Things You Didn't Know About The Male And Female Orgasm

Featured image by Giphy

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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