Because you deserve an orgasm every. single. time.
If you believe what you see in the movies—especially in porn—female orgasms are always explosive and super-easy to come by (if you’ll pardon the pun). But sex in the real world is often quite different. Orgasms during intercourse can be elusive for many women or at the very least take a decent amount of effort to achieve.
To help both men and women better understand the female orgasm and not get discouraged when it just isn’t happening, we enlisted the help of Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of V is For Vagina, to put some common orgasm myths to bed and shed some light on how to make it easier to climax (if that’s your jam).
1. Orgasms are as much mental as they are physical.
In other words, if you’re not in the right mental space, climaxing can be harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in high heels. “So much of having an orgasm has to do with the brain,” says Dweck. “If a woman isn’t into it because she’s got so many things on her mind—her job, chores she needs to get done—that will increase the latency phase, the time it takes from the initiation of sexual pleasuring to orgasm. The libido buzzkill is basically stress.”
Finding ways to take your mind off of what’s stressing you out, whether it’s a glass of wine or having your partner give you a massage before hitting the sheets, can help you focus on your own pleasure.
2. Vaginal sex isn’t the “fast pass” to orgasm for every woman.
In fact, most women can’t reach orgasm through vaginal penetration alone, according to the Mayo Clinic. The majority of women—about 70 percent, according to Dweck—instead need direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris to climax.
You can do that through a variety of ways: masturbating (in front of or with your partner), using vibrators, or trying certain positions, such as the coital alignment technique (CAT), with the man on top but further up (towards the headboard) so the base of his penis and pubic bone rub against the clitoris during sex.
Also, it’s perfectly okay if you can only have an orgasm through masturbation or using a vibrator. “Nothing is physiologically wrong with you if you can reach it on your own or with a toy,” says Dweck.
3. In fact, there are lots of ways women get off.
Some women reach orgasm through anal sex. One survey found this to be true for 94 percent of women who do anal. For others—a surprising 82 percent—having their nipples and breasts stimulated gets them aroused, according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. In other words, you may need to experiment to discover what floats your boat.
4. You have a better shot at reaching the big O when you mix things up.
Women are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts, such as oral sex and vaginal sex, according to a national sex survey conducted by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University.
5. It’s still a mystery as to why women have them in the first place.
There are several theories as to why women have orgasms. They range from experiencing pleasure makes women more likely to keep having sex and reproducing, to having an orgasm post-sex helps propel sperm toward the egg, increasing the chances for fertilization.
But Elisabeth A. Lloyd, professor of biology at Indiana University and author of The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, who has analyzed 32 studies on orgasm during intercourse, argues that its sole purpose is just “for fun.”
6. You could have an orgasm and not even know it. (Yes, really.)
Like heart attacks in the movies, orgasms aren’t always these earth-shattering events. Sometimes they’re more subtle, like a tingling sensation rather than explosive fireworks.
According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, not every woman feels her pelvic floor muscles contract post-orgasm, but there’s often a sense of “release” afterward and feelings of relaxation.
7. Certain medications can make it harder to climax.
Oral contraceptives, anti-anxiety medications, and drugs to treat hypertension can make orgasms less intense and inhibit the ability to orgasm, notes Dweck.
8. You’re more likely to have an orgasm if you’re in relationship versus hooking up.
Score one for monogamy! Research shows that both men and women orgasm less frequently when hooking up than when they’re in a romantic relationship. That may be because it’s easier to share what you like in bed with someone you’re close to.
“It’s important to have good communication with your partner and to educate them as to what’s the right pressure and spot, what you like, and what you don’t like,” Dweck says. “That’s something that comes with time.”
9. Some women never reach orgasm at all.
About 10 percent of women have never had an orgasm, either with a partner or while masturbating. Anorgasmia can happen for several reasons: health issues, certain medications, body image issues, feeling guilty about having sex, or simply not knowing what turns you on. It can also be a combination of factors.
A sex therapist can help you get to the root of your difficulty and find out what works for you.
10. While some women “squirt” during sex.
When sexually stimulated, some women discharge liquid from their urethra, known as “squirting” or female ejaculation. What, exactly, that fluid is made of has been the source of some controversy.
In a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers analyzed the liquid in women who are frequent, “massive” squirters and found it to be an “involuntary emission of urine.” Others are not convinced, but the fluid does contain some of the same components as pee.
11. And remember: You don’t have to have an orgasm to enjoy sex.
If sex is like cake and an orgasm is like the ice cream on top, then even if you don’t get the ice cream, you’re still left with yummy cake. “You can experience total pleasure without an orgasm,” says Dweck. “A lot of women are perfectly happy with the intimacy of sex.”
This article was originally published at Self.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.