Is it normal not to orgasm from intercourse?

Q. I rarely have an orgasm during intercourse, though I can have one on my own. My husband wants us to have mutual orgasms and I feel like I am letting him down. Am I normal?
A. In a word, yes. Research indicates that up to 80 percent of women cannot reach orgasm through intercourse (or do so only occasionally). That means fewer than a quarter of women climax through thrusting alone—no matter how big his penis is, no matter how long he lasts, and no matter how you feel about him. The clitoris, not the vagina, is the female sex organ; that is where the majority of nerve endings that lead to orgasm are found. When you touch yourself, you know how hard or soft, and how slow or fast, to do it to reach orgasm. In most sexual positions, however, the penis doesn’t provide enough direct or indirect stimulation on the clitoris to lead to orgasm.

Does that mean a woman cannot be turned on by intercourse alone? Of course not. You may love making love and find it very pleasurable.
The sexual sensations probably feel more diffused and less intense than those that build to a full climax. And some women do have orgasms through vaginal intercourse, often because the clitoris is getting indirect pressure. Unfortunately, it is common for women to report that they fake orgasms. I often see couples in therapy and the man is astounded to hear that she is not orgasming when they have sex. No wonder he’s not learning how to please her; the media also fakes it. We see Sex and the City’s Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, howl in ecstasy as soon as he penetrates. Don’t feel bad; in the book Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm, Cattrall wrote that, unlike her sexually vociferous character, she experienced sexual frustration until she was in her early 40s.

So what can you do to increase sexual pleasure for both you and your husband? It is important that there be clitoral stimulation before, during or after intercourse, until your orgasm is reliably part of the festivities. Discuss fingers, toys and tongue with your partner. Choose positions where his hands are free to touch your clitoris while you are having intercourse. For many women, these two work best: He can spoon you from behind and penetrate, reaching around to stroke you at the same time. Or you can lie on your back while he faces you on his knees, allowing easy access for his (or your) fingers to touch your clitoris. You can also use a vibrating toy to bring you to orgasm in these and other positions while he is penetrating you.

In terms of orgasm quality, as a sex therapist I think the mutual orgasm is overrated. It’s more pleasurable to focus fully and erotically on each other in turn. He can bring you to orgasm with oral sex first and then both of you can enjoy intercourse. Or, to help him last longer, you can have intercourse for awhile, then pause and use fingers and tongues to stimulate each other, bringing you to orgasm, then him. What if he finishes first? That doesn’t mean the night is over: He can then concentrate on your pleasure with tongue or fingers and bring you, and your evening, to a roaring conclusion. 
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