My husband wants us to have mutual orgasms and I feel like I am letting him down. Am I normal?

Q: I have always been able to have an orgasm when I masturbate, but I rarely come during intercourse. 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. The majority of women-research indicates up to 80% – cannot reach orgasm through intercourse alone (or do so only occasionally). Listen up. Fewer than a quarter of women can come 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 is the female sex organ; that is where the majority of the nerve endings that lead to orgasm are found. It is not located in the vagina, but outside and above it a few centimetres. When you touch yourself, you know exactly how hard or soft, slow or fast, to touch, and orgasms become easy. In most sexual positions with your partner, the penis does not provide adequate direct or indirect stimulation (pressure, rubbing) on the clitoris to lead to orgasm. Your hubby is frustrated that you don’t come together, but I suspect you are even more discouraged that you don’t come at all.

Does that mean a woman cannot be turned on by intercourse? Of course not. You may love making love and find it very pleasurable. The sexual sensations probably feel more diffuse and less intense than the sensations that build to a full orgasm or climax. And some women do have orgasms through vaginal stimulation. Unfortunately, it is common for women to report that they fake orgasms and mislead their partner. I often see couples in therapy where the man is astounded to hear that she is not orgasming when they have sex. The media also fakes it; we see Sex and the City’s “Samantha” (played by Canadian actress Kim Cattrall) howl in ecstasy as soon as he penetrates. Don’t feel badly; Kim writes in her book Satisfaction: the Art of the Female Orgasm that, unlike her sexually vociferous characters, she experienced sexual frustration with partners until her early 40’s. She didn’t have a real orgasm, she simply played one on TV.

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 sexual festivities. Think fingers, toys and tongue. Choose positions where his hands are free to touch you while you are having intercourse. He can spoon you from behind and penetrate, reaching his hand around your hip to stroke you at the same time. You can lay on your back while he faces you on his knees, allowing your pubis and clitoris easy access for his (or your) fingers. You can also use a vibrating toy to bring you to orgasm in these (and other) positions.

In terms of orgasm quality, as a sex therapist I think the mutual orgasm goal is overrated. It brings more pleasure to focus fully and erotically on each person in turn. He can bring you to orgasm with oral sex and then you can both enjoy intercourse. Or to help him last longer (the most common complaint women have is that he comes to quickly) you can have intercourse for awhile, then pause and use fingers and tongues to stimulate each other, bringing you to orgasm, then finishing with his. And who says nice guys finish last? If he comes, the night is not over. He can then concentrate on your pleasure with tongue or fingers and bring you, and your evening, to a roaring conclusion.