Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Anti-Climactic: Investigating How Late Adolescents Perceive and Deal with Orgasm Difficulty in the Context of Their Intimate Relationships

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Anti-Climactic: Investigating How Late Adolescents Perceive and Deal with Orgasm Difficulty in the Context of Their Intimate Relationships

Article excerpt

There is a long history of survey research indicating high rates of orgasm difficulties among adults. We sought to investigate how male and female heterosexual late adolescents perceive difficulties with orgasm, whether gender differences were apparent, and how they tried to resolve these difficulties (if at all). We conducted semi-structured interviews with 53 heterosexual male and female adolescents, aged 18-21 years. Interviews were guided around the question of when sex was not as good as they thought it should be, with subsequent open-ended probes questioning them about specific difficulties around sex, including difficulty having, reaching, or timing orgasm, their feelings about these difficulties, and any efforts they took to resolve these difficulties. The majority (71%) of young women and a third (33%) of young men reported having difficulty reaching orgasm in partnered sex, whereas 38% of men also reported ejaculating too quickly. Themes that emerged included reports of not being taught about pleasure in school or at home, that sex was completed after the male partners' orgasm, and some participants resorting to faking orgasm when feeling that they were taking too long. Resolution of orgasm difficulty tended to occur in the context of communicative relationships for both the young men and women in the sample. The results of the study provide insight into issues with orgasm for young people specifically, and the role of communication in sexual problem-solving, which may be applied in sexual health education contexts, including online forums.

KEYWORDS: Adolescents, communication, orgasm, relationships, sexual problems


Research on orgasm has focused on experiences of difficulty and dysfunction. It has been widely reported that women and girls experience orgasm less consistently during sexual acts with a partner compared to men and boys (Galinsky & Sonenstein, 2011; Garcia, Lloyd, Wallen, & Fisher, 2014; Haavio-Mannila & Kontula, 1997; Richters, de Visser, Rissel, & Smith, 2006; Salisbury & Fisher, 2014). Laumann and colleagues (2005) investigated sexual problems among older adults worldwide (ages 40-80), and discovered that among older women, the second most common sexual problem reported was the inability to reach orgasm (average responses for seven different regions ranged from 18 to 41%), and among older men, the most commonly reported sexual problem was early ejaculation (12-31%). A recent US national survey investigated women's self-reported frequency of orgasm during heterosexual intercourse, with and without clitoral stimulation (Herbenick, Fu, Arter, Sanders, & Dodge, 2018). Only 22.3% of the women sampled reported always having an orgasm with clitoral stimulation (compared to 13.5% without) (Herbenick et al., 2018). The Natsal-3 survey of British men and women (N = 11,509) examined the prevalence of orgasm dysfunction according to the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) in that they measured whether problems were always or very often symptomatic, lasted for six months or more, and caused significant distress to the individual (Mitchell et al., 2015). The researchers found that 16.3% of women reported difficulty reaching climax (11.6% met all DSM-5 criteria), and 14.9% of men reported reaching climax more quickly than they would like (11.6% met all DSM-5 criteria).

When comparing across gender and sexual orientation identities, heterosexual men were most likely to say they usually or always had an orgasm when sexually intimate (95%), followed by gay men (89%), bisexual men (88%), lesbian women, (86%), bisexual women (66%), with heterosexual women being the least likely (65%) (Frederick, St. John, Garcia & Lloyd 2018). These results indicate that regardless of sexual orientation, women are less likely to have orgasms compared to men and that orgasm problems are relatively common among adults.

Throughout this article, the term 'orgasm' is used to refer to coital orgasms that occur during penile-vaginal intercourse as others have done (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014), unless otherwise indicated (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.