Self-reported reasons for having difficulty reaching orgasm during partnered sex: relation to orgasmic pleasure

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Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology


Purpose: This study investigated women’s perceived causes for orgasmic difficulty during partnered sex and their relation to orgasmic pleasure.

Method: From a community sample of 1843 women, we investigated 814 women’s attributions for their orgasmic difficulty during partnered sex. Frequencies of 18 attributions were generated and subsequently reduced to eight principal variables through dimension reduction. Women with and without distress were compared across these eight principal variables. These variables, along with relevant covariates, were then used to predict orgasmic pleasure through regression analysis.

Results: The most frequently endorsed reasons for orgasmic difficulty were, in descending order, general stress/anxiety, arousal difficulty, sex-specific anxiety and issues with the partner. Women reporting high distress were more likely to cite partner issues and less likely to report general stress/anxiety as reasons for their difficulty. Regression analysis, however, indicated that the reasons most frequently endorsed by women were not necessarily those accounting for the greater variance in orgasmic pleasure, such reasons including inhibition/lack of interest, insufficient experience and partner-related issues. Difficulty reaching orgasm during masturbation as well as relationship satisfaction also explained differences in orgasmic pleasure.

Conclusion: Women cite various reasons for orgasmic difficulty, most commonly general anxiety/stress, inadequate arousal, sex-specific stress and partner issues. Women who were distressed by their condition more frequently cited partner issues. Variance in orgasmic pleasure was most related to partner issues, sexual inhibition/lack of interest and insufficient experience. Overall, partner issues and relationship satisfaction played important roles in attributions for both orgasmic difficulty and orgasmic pleasure.