I can orgasm but I can't cum, help! Expert advice from BISH

I Can Orgasm But I Can’t Cum, Help!

My advice to a reader who can have orgasms but can’t cum (ejaculate). What’s going on here and is it even a problem? Read on for some expert advice.

“I have been with my boyfriend for over a year now, every time we have sex I have no issues with orgasms but I do have issues with cumming. I get the feeling / sensations that something is going to happen, I let it ride out and enjoy myself but then i go tight and my body stops me. I’ve never thought of it as an issue as this is my first relationship but I’ve started to worry lately that it can / will affect my relationship.

Do you have any advice on why this might be happening to me? I feel safe and comfortable with my boyfriend so I just don’t get why. I worry that I get too in my head about not being able to, or if someone would hear me if I do, I am self conscious in myself anyways so worried that it might be this? Any help or advice would be helpful, or if there’s anyone I could go see or talk to.”

Hey, great question! Thanks for trusting me to give you a good answer.

The simple answer to this is ‘not everyone can cum, even if they can have orgasms, so try not to worry about it.’

If you really want to cum I’ve got some advice below. I’ll also give you some advice / education on why cumming (aka ejaculation) is ‘a thing’, which you might find helpful. A lot of this is down to really bad sex education (as per usual). Porn, and the stories it tells about sex, gender and enjoyment, might also have a part to play too. I’ll also try to give you some advice to help you understand how entangled we are with the stories of ‘what sex is’ and how we should do it.

You can orgasm and not cum

Here’s the bit where I give you permission not to worry about this at all. Not everyone ejaculates when they orgasm. In this study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour journal in 1990, they found that 40% of women had experienced something like ejaculation. It was reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that studies saying it ranges from 10 – 54%.

From your email I’m guessing that you’re a woman (with a vulva). I didn’t ask to make sure (I was too embarrassed), but even so my advice is just the same.

There hasn’t been a lot said about how many men ejaculate when they orgasm, because the research assumes that all men ejaculate when they orgasm. Orgasm and ejaculation are different for everyone. Some people ejaculate when they orgasm, some people don’t. Either the orgasm comes first, or ejaculation happens without orgasm, or neither happens. This is true for everyone.

So it might not be something you can do. But what if you can?

How to cum (if you can and if you want to)

There’s a lot of advice online and elsewhere about ‘how to make yourself cum / ejaculate’. I’m not really into telling people how to make themselves do anything. (I also don’t think it’s very helpful, here I say why we shouldn’t make someone squirt). You’ll know already how you are feeling, and you say that you can feel some sensations. So perhaps a useful thing for you to do is to really notice what those sensations are when they are happening and (if they feel nice) to see if you can have more of them, or experience them for longer.

You say that your body stops you. A lot of people say that they feel more able to ‘let go’ if they have been for a wee before sex. That way they feel more comfortable that it’s not wee when they ejaculate. The studies looking into this are contradictory. Sometimes they say that female ejaculation is a bit of wee, sometimes they say it’s similar to male ejaculation and is more like semen. Some say it depends on the kind of ejaculation. In this study in the journal Sexualities many of the women who could ejaculate said it came from the vagina not the wee hole (urethra).

Here’s a picture to remind you about the different parts of the vulva (you can see more about this at my resource about the Clitoris and Vagina).

Vulva BISH diagram

Now you know all this, you might feel more comfortable, so that might help? You could put a towel down if you’re worried about making a mess. Maybe put the radio on in case you feel like you’re going to make a noise. Perhaps practice and see how you get on?

Important: it might be ‘meh’

Remember, ejaculation and orgasm aren’t the same thing. So you might ejaculate and find that it doesn’t really make any difference to how much pleasure you’re feeling. Again, from this really great article in Sexualities (it’s quite easy to read for an academic article) for every woman saying it felt amazing, others just felt it was ‘meh’, or annoying, or even a little bit ashamed. I hope that the advice I’ve given here will help with the last one of these at least.

Being self conscious

You mentioned being self conscious in your email. What difference would it make to you if you weren’t self conscious? What would you be instead of self conscious? Calm, confident, content? What would be the first thing you would notice about yourself that told you that you were calm, confident, content? What else?

One of the many great things about sex, is that it gives us the chance of being a completely different kind of person. It can throw everything you thought you knew about yourself up in the air and help to see yourself in a completely different way. So instead of thinking that you are ‘self conscious anyways’, what if you have no idea what you are like? What if sex, pleasure, orgasms, and even ejaculation (if it happens) are ways for you to find out what you are like?

About the boyfriend

Yeah he sounds great. I love to hear people being safe and comfortable with their boyfriends, girlfriends, themfriends. I hope that relationship keeps on working out for you for as long as you both want it to. (I’ve got a tonne of really great resources about relationships here, please check them out because I strongly believe they are better than most other relationships resources online.)

If he’s trying to ‘make you’ cum (even if he is doing it in a nice way) that’s probably not going to help. The best way to have sex IMHO* is to try to make it as easy as possible for people to have a great time. So this means being a facilitator: seeing just how much fun might emerge between you. I’ve written about how to be good at sex and how to enjoy sex more here for more of these kinds of tips.

*In my expert opinion, I have co-written an amazing sex advice book about this for adults.

Is he putting pressure on you to cum? Is it like ‘if you don’t cum, I will go?’ It doesn’t sound like that from your message, but if it is then he isn’t being such a great boyfriend. I take back the nice things I said. But if he isn’t putting pressure on you to cum, then why do you think it’s going to affect your relationship? If he couldn’t cum, would that affect your relationship too?

You mention worrying. I’ve written about how to worry, because worry can be a useful emotion. Have a read through of that to see if you need to worry (maybe it might help you to worry a bit less). It’s always better to actually worry, rather than worrying about worrying. #worry

The politics of cumming

So we’ve known about the existence of female ejaculation from the 4th century (from ancient Chinese Taoist texts), according to this article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Lots of research has been done about this in the last few decades, some of the most seminal* research was done by Beverly Whipple, who has an excellent name. This really important research about informing people about cumming / squirting / ejaculation has been turned into something else.

*lol!

The last few decades have also seen a rise in ‘sex positivity’ which has been a reaction to ‘sex negativity’. Sex negativity is probably what your sex ed was like dear reader. You know, the whole: ‘sex is about getting pregnant, it’s about men and women, men want sex and women want love, men enjoy sex women endure it, only men ejaculate,’ etc etc. This kind of thing.

Bad sex ed bingo BISH

Read my article about Bad Sex Ed Bingo

So sex positivity is the opposite. You know, the whole: ‘sex is about fun and orgasms, we should all be enjoying it, women want sex too, you have to get good at it, it’s vital for relationships, women ejaculate too,’ etc etc.

You can probably see what’s happened here. There’s now a whole new set of rules for how we should have sex, and as part of this we are often taught that women should ejaculate. Not that they might, or they could if they wanted to, but that they should if they want to be good at sex.

Ah, the patriarchy

So now women have to have sex like men: they ‘have’ to cum. It’s a sign that women aren’t faking their orgasms (which is another pressure that women face / faced) but instead are having ‘real’ orgasms because we can see it. All of this makes ‘cum’ (whether it’s from a vulva or a penis) ‘the thing’ about sex. Not pleasure, or fun, or rosey cheeks, or being out of breath, or the huge amount of activity in the brain, or the vagus tone, or the massive contractions of the lower abdomen, or the out of body experiences. It’s the cum.

Yes, porn is part of that (though there are probably about the same proportion of scenes featuring female ejaculation as there are women who can experience it, I haven’t checked), but so are (bad) sex educators, (bad) sexologists, (bad) sex influencers. Cum is now not just a thing but the thing: from penises and vulvas. The stories of how we ‘should be having sex’ are entangled up with ‘what we might actually want’ from sex. This means that it can be really hard for us to work out, or to tune into) what we actually want.

Final bit of advice

It’s impossible to disentangle the stories about sex from how we have sex, so don’t waste your time trying. Instead, try to see what emerges when you have sex. What else might sex do for you? Be gently curious about what your body is capable of doing. What else might it do?

What will really help with this is if you can chat with your boyfriend about it. Read this article together, but also some of the resources here about sex, relationships, and you. There are the stories of how you ‘should’ have sex (sex negative and sex positive stories).

What do you notice about yourselves and those stories. How do they leave you feeling? What are you both able to pay attention to you about your experience? What has emerged for you both over the year you’ve been together? Thinking back to the times when you’ve had really enjoyable sex, what was happening? What were the actual things that you were doing that made that happen? Think about the overall vibe. How did you know you were comfortable and enjoying yourselves? What could you hear, see, smell, feel, taste?

It’s through the process of doing this (and redoing it) where you really get to find out just how enjoyable sex can be. It might mean you cumming, it might mean you not cumming, it might mean something else altogether.

I really hope that helps!

Justin

Comment below if you like. I moderate all comments before they appear, just so you know!

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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