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A Surprisingly Simple Solution to Helping Women Who Can't Orgasm

A new study suggests people who have trouble with orgasm really need to focus on arousal and sexual touch.

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The study also found that women were far more likely to report lack of pleasure from sex as compared to men (a full 23 percent of women, and only 5 percent of men, said that in the past year there had been stretches of time when they didn’t find sex to be pleasurable). This is similar to data from my research team’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, in which we found that 14.5 percent of women and 4.3 percent of men found their most recent sexual experience to either be only “a little” pleasurable or “not at all pleasurable.”

Given that Galinsky’s study focused on older Americans, it’s not surprising that men experienced erection and orgasmic difficulties at far higher rates than we typically see among younger men. About one in five men in this study reported having a period of at least a few months in which they found it difficult to climax (compared to about one in three women). More than a third of men reported erectile problems.

So how did sexual touching fit into their experiences?

At the outset, it became clear that feeling emotionally satisfied in one’s relationship was strongly linked with sexual touching. Finding one’s relationship physically pleasurable was also linked with sexual touching.

Sexual touching was associated, too, with men’s erectile function. Men who didn’t engage in much sexual touching with their partner had more than twice the odds of experiencing erectile problems than men who usually or always engaged in sexual touching.

For women, however, sexual touching was not linked with lubrication difficulties, probably because most of these older women were likely to be experiencing vaginal dryness due to menopause. It would be interesting to examine the role of sexual touching to younger women’s experiences with vaginal wetness and lubrication. My best guess would be that foreplay and touching matter quite a bit.

That said, sexual touching was highly linked with women’s arousal during sex, even after controlling for psychological factors and emotional satisfaction. In fact, women who only sometimes, rarely or never engaged in sexual touching were almost six times more likely to being “never or rarely aroused during sex” compared to women who always engaged in sexual touching. Infrequent sexual touching was also associated with climaxing during sex, particularly for women.

But while sexual touch is important, it’s what sexual touch represents that’s important to pleasurable sex and to emotionally and physically satisfying relationships. Sexual touch isn’t always the magic bullet that fixes things (though it can be). The absence of sexual or affectionate touching may be just as telling as its presence. Some women and men may not be kissing or cuddling because they may be having sex that they don’t particularly want or enjoy, but that they engage in to please a partner, to have an orgasm, to fall asleep, or to keep their partner from nagging.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably include at least some types of sexual touch (for example, kissing) in most of your sexual activities. But sometimes sexual touch fades with time, as relationships grow stale, partners disconnect from one another, or sex becomes rushed. Indeed, we often take these types of sexual and affectionate touches for granted until they’re gone. Recently I was meeting with a colleague about a project we’re working on together and the topic of affection came up. He told me about a male friend who never realized how much he needed to be touched, hugged or kissed until he and his girlfriend started having relationship problems and she became more distant – both emotionally and physically. I hear similar stories from men of all ages – from healthy young college students who are struggling with a lack of kissing and cuddling between them and the person they’ve been dating for only a year, and from men 20 and 40 years older.

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