It’s time to be honest about something women don’t talk about much: the orgasm deficit. A large majority of women can’t reach orgasm from penis-in-vagina intercourse alone—as few as 7 percent can climax regularly from this method—and, worse, some men don’t seem to even realize it! Too often, well-intentioned dudes stubbornly thrust away at women during sex, hoping they’ll burst into spontaneous orgasm so long as they keep at it and try to avoid the faux pas of finishing first. And even when a man does come first in bed, he may think that nothing else can be done to help his partner—that it just didn’t work this time—leaving the the orgasm score at an unfair 1-0. The tragedy!

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Here’s the deal: Most women don’t have trouble coming per se. Almost all of us can manage to rub one out when we’re home alone, and the core of the Orgasming Issue doesn’t lie with women’s bodies, but rather in the disconnect between how men treat us in bed, and how we wish they would treat us instead. If you are a straight, cis man who sleeps with women, this guide is meant to help you to broach that divide and learn how to make women orgasm without involving your own dick at all. (Bless you for reading: Your enthusiasm and willingness to learn is a crucial first step.)

Know What You’re Working With

Let’s start with some bodily basics. Pretty much all women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm—usually gentle and consistent, rather than rough and choppy— and for a sustained amount of time. (Think anywhere from five to 20 minutes, rather than the 45 seconds of sloppy head you see being doled out in most mainstream porn.) Most men know that a woman’s clitoris is the area to aim for, and the old joke about men struggling to find the clit is thankfully largely passé. However, a disappointingly large number of men still don’t know what to do with a clitoris when they come across one. Despite the popular conception, the female orgasm isn’t particularly difficult or elusive, but it does take some easily learned technique.

The Tools

There are three basic tools for stimulating a clitoris without using your dick: fingers, tongues, and vibrators. It’s likely you’ll use a combination of at least two of them in any given session, although some men can find the the presence of a vibrator a bit emasculating, especially when it’s a 9-inch Goliath of a thing that whirs and swivels with taunting exactitude. Guys, there’s no need to feel dick envy over a vibrator: Your dick and her vibrator do different things (it vibrates!), and she is not comparing you to her toy, because no reasonable women expects a human dick to do the things that a vibrator does. Nor do they want it to! They’re two distinctly different experiences. Making your partner come with a vibrator can be a very good first step for getting her comfortable enough for other methods, so try not to discount them by getting into your own head. (Note: Sometimes there’s an additional need for lubrication with vibrators, so make sure you’ve got some lube on hand for when you need it.)

It’s Half-Mental

Before we tackle the mechanics of making a woman come, it’s crucial to address the mental component of the female orgasm. There is developing evidence that women tend to experience desire differently to most men, and the old trope that women need more foreplay than men largely holds true. A significant factor determining whether a woman will orgasm or not is how she feels inside her head, and not just in her body.

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Anxiety and discomfort are sworn enemies of the orgasm, so it’s important to lay the foundations by making sure your partner is completely comfortable. This includes both micro-level details such as the lighting, position and level of noise, as well as macro-level stuff like how well she feels you treat her and the way that you discuss her appearance. If you think these elements don’t impact your particular partner or her ability to come with you, you’re dreaming. They’re the building blocks for making a woman want to sleep with you in the first place, and they’re crucial components for helping her reach orgasm without difficulty.

Making sure your partner is comfortable enough to orgasm starts outside the bedroom, but assuming you are already a loving and respectful partner, there are ways to make sure that she’s as anxiety-free as possible in bed. This might involve accommodating some of her requests not to be looked at in surgery-level detail, at least at first: Start by letting her turn the lights off if she’s conscious of her figure, or by keeping her bra on if she has specific breast hang-ups, for example. That way you’ve maximized her ability to get out of her own head long enough to orgasm, and set the foundations for her trusting you enough to eventually cut the lights on so you can see what she can do.

Take Direction / Talk About What Works

Once again, it’s vitally important to talk to the individual woman you are sleeping with, as everyone has a unique set of preferences, and guides like this can only take you so far. In general terms, though, a woman is likely to want gentle and sometimes slightly indirect contact on her clit during the warmup phase, then slightly more pressure (it’s easy to overdo this!) during the buildup phase; keeping the stimulation constant enough that she’s being led towards orgasm but with enough variation in the movement that her clit doesn’t go numb. (This is a real hazard—please beware!)

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This is a useful visual guide by comic artist Erica Moen to the basics of eating pussy, and a lot of the principles will apply to other forms of clitoral stimulation: Use enough variation in pressure to move her steadily towards orgasm, but don’t go overboard by constantly chopping and changing your technique. Sound confusing? It shouldn’t be once you get into it. If you seek out and respond to both verbal and nonverbal feedback, it’s hard to go too far wrong.

Be Patient

Don’t rush her. Saying things like, “Are you going to come, babe? I want you to come!” is seriously off-putting. Like Trina says, we’re trying to concentrate on busting a nut, so skip the drill-sergeant demands and unnecessary talking. Hopefully your partner will throw you a bone by letting you know when she’s close to orgasm. This might be explicit (“I’m about to come!”) or implicit (grabbing your head and saying “keep going,” for example). DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT mistake this as a signal to do everything harder, faster and more frantically. This is a common, frustrating mistake which will result in your partner’s orgasm receding like a snail’s eyeballs upon contact. It’s an easy error to avoid: When your partner gives whatever signal she’s inclined to give, keep doing whatever you’re doing, and the fireworks will soon follow.

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So there you have it! Making women come isn’t the minefield it’s made out to be, and your sexual partner(s) will likely be so grateful for your effort that it will pay dividends in the near future. But you’ll probably find non-dick-centric sex satisfying in other ways: It allows you to completely set aside any insecurities you might have about your size or ability to last, and it will almost certainly create greater intimacy and connection. Good luck, dear reader, and bless you on your noble quest.


Madeleine Holden is a lawyer and writer from New Zealand who is currently based in London. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.

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Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.