Understanding Orgasmic Difficulty in Women

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

The Journal of Sexual Medicine







Women's primary issue with the orgasmic phase is usually difficulty reaching orgasm.


To identify predictors of orgasmic difficulty in women within the context of a partnered sexual experience; to assess the relation between orgasmic difficulty and self-reported levels of sexual desire or interest and arousal in women; and to assess the interrelations among three dimensions of orgasmic response during partnered sex: self-reported time to reach orgasm, general difficulty or ease of reaching orgasm, and level of distress or concern.


Drawing from a community-based sample using the Internet, 866 women were queried on a 26-item survey regarding their difficulty reaching orgasm during partnered sex. Four hundred sixteen women who indicated difficulty also responded to items assessing arousal and desire difficulties, the level of distress about their condition, and their estimated time to reach orgasm.

Main Outcome Measures

Answers to a 26-item survey on surveyed women's difficulty reaching orgasm during partnered sex.


Age, arousal difficulty, and lubrication difficulty predicted difficulty reaching orgasm in the overall sample. In the subsample of women reporting difficulty, approximately half reported issues with arousal. Women with arousal problems reported greater difficulty reaching orgasm but did not differ from those without arousal problems on measurements of orgasm latency or levels of distress. Slightly more than half the women experiencing difficulty reaching orgasm were distressed by their condition; distressed women reported greater difficulty reaching orgasm and longer latencies to orgasm than non-distressed counterparts. They also reported lower satisfaction with their sexual relationship.


This study indicates the importance of assessing multiple parameters when investigating orgasmic problems in women, including arousal issues, levels of distress, and latency to orgasm. Results also clarify that women with arousal problems do not differ substantially from those without arousal problems; in contrast, women distressed by their condition differ from non-distressed women along with some critical dimensions. Although orgasmic problems decreased with age, the overall relation of this variable to distress, arousal, and latency to orgasm was essentially unchanged across age groups.