Not everyone can orgasm from penetrative sex. Here’s how sex toys can help

29th August 2018

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Hot Octopuss

If you’re a person with female sexual organs who is struggling to orgasm during penetrative sex, you are not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that only 49% of heterosexual women in newlywed couples reported consistently achieving orgasm during sex. Other studies have asked the same question and come up with figures ranging from 60-80%. As explored in this paper from 2018, respondents gave estimates of orgasm occurrence that varied when asked about different types of sex. When asked about sex which includes clitoral stimulation rather than just penetration, 51-60% reported having orgasms compared to the 21-30% who reported orgasms from penetrative sex alone.

Thanks to various factors – not least an absence of pleasure-focused sex education and the seemingly ubiquitous nature of female orgasms in porn – some people are left feeling like there’s something wrong with them if they cannot come during penetrative sex. And this misconception is widely-held: many men are not only socialised to believe that penetrative sex alone should result in an orgasm for their partners, but also that if their female partner doesn’t orgasm during sex, it reflects badly on their own masculinity. The above Journal of Sexual Medicine study found that 43% of husbands misperceived how often their wife experienced orgasm, while a study in the Journal of Sexual Research concluded that although female orgasms are often promoted as symbols of sexual fulfilment for women, they are also seen by men as an indicator of masculinity and sexual status.

The truth is that, if your sex anatomy is female, it’s likely that you’ll need at least some clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm. Whether that’s manual stimulation, oral sex or using sex toys, there are plenty of ways to increase your pleasure during sex – and most need one or more of these things in order to come.


The truth is that, if your sex anatomy is female, it’s likely that you’ll need at least some clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm.

There are other factors that can affect your orgasms too, of course, and some of these may be things you may wish to consider discussing with your doctor. For instance, if you used to be able to orgasm in a particular way, and you’re now struggling to orgasm, it may be a sign of underlying physical or mental health problems that your doctor could help you identify. Other things that can cause difficulty orgasming (sometimes known as ‘anorgasmia’) include certain medications, sexual trauma, conditions like vaginismus or vulvodynia, or anxiety or depression. If you think you could be affected by any of these, talk to your doctor as they may be able to recommend medication or other options such as psychosexual counselling.

If you’re frustrated about not being able to achieve orgasm during penetrative sex, we’ve got plenty of tips that can help you explore what your body responds best to, and how to maximise pleasure during sex.

Forget what you know

Begin by putting your assumptions and frustrations to one side. It’s much harder to orgasm if you’re stressed and putting pressure on yourself will only make this worse. Remind yourself that you’re not alone in struggling, that there are many ways to experience sexual pleasure, and that this isn’t just about achieving one single goal – to orgasm – it’s about exploring things that make you feel good.

Masturbation is the best place to start exploring: even with the most supportive partner, sex can sometimes feel like performance, which can heighten a sense of pressure to ‘do it right’ or enjoy yourself. So, take yourself somewhere quiet and comfortable and explore your own body – with your hands, and with sex toys if you’d like to try those, too.

I’ve never used a sex toy before, where should I start?

There’s a huge range of sex toys on the market, but if you’re specifically looking for clitoral stimulation during penetrative sex, you’ll be looking for a bullet vibrator, a wand, or a clitoral stimulator like our Hot Octopuss Queen Bee. Although many advice articles will tell you to ‘start small’ with a bullet vibrator as your first toy, in fact, there’s no universal rule as to which toy will be best for beginners. We’d recommend visiting an adult shop so you can try out different toys in person — holding them in your hand to get a feel for their size, power of vibrations, and decide what will work best for your body.

When you’ve chosen the toy that you think will work best for you, it’s time to start experimenting! Here are three of our top tips:

Test different positions

It’s often easy to fall into a masturbation ‘routine’, so mixing it up with different positions can be a great way to find new methods that work for you. Sitting in front of a mirror can also be a great way to get to know your body more intimately – and especially helpful if you’d like to give your partner more detailed instructions on how to pleasure you.

Don’t be afraid to use lube

Like the misconception that penetrative sex is the orgasmic be-all and end-all, the misconception that vaginal dryness means you’re not turned on is pretty ubiquitous, too. There are plenty of reasons why you may not be self-lubricating as well as you’d like. How wet you are can be affected by lots of things: excess alcohol, stress, medication, tiredness, menopause, and much more.


Like the misconception that penetrative sex is the orgasmic be-all and end-all, the misconception that vaginal dryness means you’re not turned on is pretty ubiquitous, too.

Find a lubricant that you like – sticking to water-based lubes if you’re using sex toys, as silicone and oil based lubes can degrade the material of the toy itself – and use as much as you need to feel comfortable.

Try different kinds of stimulation

Different toys can give you different sorts of vibration and stimulation experiences. This largely depends on the specific features each has, including any vibration settings or specific shapes. Don’t just stick to what you know: not all vibrators designed for women mimic the shape of a penis.

The Queen Bee is a unique sex toy. Shaped a little like a hairbrush, it has a broad plate that oscillates, rather than vibrating like standard clitoral toys. Think of it like the difference between the vibrations in a car as it picks up speed and the more powerful shake as it drives over a bumpy road. This means that it gives a more powerful, ‘rumbly’ sensation which many find more pleasurable than surface-level vibrations from other sex toys.

Don’t panic if this doesn’t work straight away – it can take some people a long time to learn what works best for them. And just like sex itself, everyone has different preferences that can sometimes take a while to understand.

When you’re confident you know what you need to orgasm, then make time to discuss it with your partner. They may be labouring under some of the misconceptions mentioned at the start of this piece, so sending them a link could be a helpful route in to the discussion!

The most important thing to remember, though, is that there are plenty of ways beyond penetrative sex to reach climax. Though there’s often pressure on both parties to orgasm during penetration, sex encompasses a whole range of activities: manual and oral stimulation, stroking, kinks, kisses, sex toys, and so much more. There are no guaranteed ‘tricks’ to ensure you have an orgasm, but the best way to make sure you have a healthy, pleasurable sex life is to take time getting to know your body, communicate with your partner, and discover what works best for you.

Editor’s note: This piece focuses on the experience of penetrative sex from the perspective of people who have female sexual organs. We have used the term ‘women’ where we are referencing the findings of studies that have, unless specified, used cisgender and primarily heterosexual women in their samples.

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Julia Margo

Julia Margo is the Co-Founder of Hot Octopuss, a London-based sex toy company that takes concepts, technology and materials from outside the adult industry in order to bring pleasure products into the 21st Century. The team is committed to promoting the health benefits of masturbation and orgasm and starting conversations that break down unhelpful stigmas around sexuality. Since co-founding Hot Octopuss in 2011, Julia has been learning from customers about what turns them on, what tools can help, and where they find obstacles to sexual expression and pleasure.