Recently, I had a counselling session with a 38-year-old woman who told me she had never experienced an orgasm in her life and felt it was time she finally found out what the fuss was all about.
She married when she was only 19, and both she and her husband were quite inexperienced. Now divorced, she wanted to gain some more knowledge before she found another partner.
Like my client, there are many women who do not have an orgasm until their thirties or forties, often because they were inexperienced and/or received little sex education.
Another client who came to see me was a 23-year-old. She had a few short-term relationships with boyfriends but had not achieved an orgasm with any of them while having penetrative sex. They didn't seem to worry about it much and neither did she, because she never had a problem achieving an orgasm on her own.
However, she then met a guy who she really liked and became quite upset when he claimed she was the only girlfriend he'd ever slept with who did not orgasm when they had sex. What was wrong with her?
Some men believe so much in their sexual prowess that they see it as a personal challenge to make their lovers climax -- and are very disappointed when they don't.
I'm always surprised how many couples are unaware of the fact that only between 20 and 25 percent of women can achieve an orgasm by penetrative sex alone. The majority of women need clitoral stimulation to climax, which can be achieved by the touching, rubbing, caressing or pressing of the clitoris by their partner's fingers or their own. Oral sex is also highly pleasurable because of the direct focus on the clitoris.
It's not only women who have anxieties about not having an orgasm during partner sex; men often worry that it's their fault and can start feeling inadequate.
We have to keep in mind that having an orgasm is not the only goal when it comes to having sex. Sex is about pleasure and about connection, and an orgasm is a lovely by-product.
Betty Dodson, an American sex educator, author and artist, is known as the first pioneer in women's sexual liberation. She conducted the first masturbation classes for women in the '70s on how to have an orgasm. She is now working with another sex educator, Carlin Ross, and this short videoHow Do I Orgasm During Partner Sex is a must-see for both men and women.
So, what makes it easier for women to have an orgasm with a partner?
A woman who is comfortable touching her own body is more likely to know what feels good for her and can show her partner where and how to stimulate her clitoris, by touch, oral sex or with a vibrator.
So what do we know about the clitoris?
As it turns out, it's not just a little "button". Our own Dr Helen O'Connell, a urology surgeon based in Melbourne, published a paper in The Journal of Urology in 1998 where she argued that the clitoris is much larger than previously thought. The larger part is hidden inside the pelvic area. The external "head" is attached to the internal body which is divided into clitoral "legs" that could be as long as nine centimetres. These wrap around the vagina and the urethra and, like the penis, they swell with blood when aroused. It is the only female body part that exists purely for pleasure.
The Museum of Sex in New York has a brilliant web page showing all the information about the clitoris you could possibly want, and an amusing educational video from Betty Dodson which will make you smile.
Another sex educator, Dr Paul Joannides, wrote an award-winning book on sex called TheGuide To Getting It On. It is used in college sex-education courses in the US and Canada. He is highly respected and was presented with the 2014 Standard of Excellence award by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counsellors and Therapists.
He writes a blog on sex and relationships with an emphasis on pleasure rather than disease; a willingness to explore your own body to learn as much as you can about it and give helpful feedback to your partners, a desire to learn about your partner's body and to ask what feels good and what doesn't, and to value the feedback when it is given to you.
My advice for couples who are searching for that elusive orgasm, is to appreciate that it is not always necessary for sex to end with a climax.