As usual with anything sexual, it's complicated.
Whether you feel like an outlier or you just want the record set straight, here is the debunking of some of the common myths about female and male orgasms.
The female orgasm
Anyone with a vagina has heard their fair share of myths about the female orgasm. Some are obviously wrong, others completely outlandish.
Nothing should prevent you from reaching your sexual potential, so here are some truths about female orgasms.
Myth: Using a condom makes orgasming impossible.
Reality: It's true that depending on the brand and texture of the condom, you can feel a difference, but friction is friction. You can orgasm when your partner wears a condom. In fact, not having to worry about getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) may allow you to relax and enjoy the moment more.
It seems that condom companies are just as interested in disproving this myth because they actually created condoms that improve orgasms. From using materials that feel like there's nothing there to textures that definitely feel like there's a lot going on, rubbers are full of surprises these days. Keep a collection in your bedside drawer and the next time your partner wants to debate the use of a rubber, you'll have the peace of mind of protected sex as well as an improved orgasm.
Myth: You shouldn't need sex toys to climax.
Reality: Sex toys can help both partners increase their pleasure and reach a longer, more intense orgasm. Just because you're curious about using a sex toy doesn't mean sex with your partner is bad, and it doesn't mean you're into kinky sex. (Not that there's anything wrong with kinky sex!) No matter your relationship, a sex toy can add excitement to your sex life.
Hundreds of varieties of sex toys are meant for stimulation, insertion or for both of you to enjoy simultaneously. Bringing a toy into the bedroom can spice up your normal routine, and it opens both of you up to exploring your sexual potential.
Myth: Positions don't improve orgasms.
Reality: Finding the right sexual position to increase penetration can improve your chances of having an orgasm during sex. If you time it right, these positions can actually extend your orgasm for maximum pleasure, and finding the right position for you is half the fun.
It's important to mention that reaching orgasm through vaginal penetration is a fairly difficult task for a woman because it's difficult to stimulate the clitoris. Some positions, however, allow the penis to stimulate the G-spot.
Let's be clear: With any position you try, don't forget you have hands and fingers that can help your partner reach the best climax.
Myth: Vaginal sex is the best way to orgasm.
Reality: Reaching orgasm can be difficult anyway—depending on each person, of course—and that's a lot of pressure to add if you're only going to depend on vaginal stimulation. The reality is vaginal sex is not the only way to orgasm.
The truth about female orgasms is there are five types of orgasm, and each one feels different and is achieved through different sexual positions and stimulation. Instead of limiting yourself to just one type of orgasm, add some variety to your sex life and try all five. Exploring sexual positions, trying new sex toys and experimenting with lubricants and textured condoms can help.
Myth: Masturbation ruins sex with a partner.
Reality: Masturbation is actually a natural way to explore your vagina and learn what you like. Sex is complicated enough without you and your partner not knowing everything about your own bodies.
If you masturbate, you'll have better orgasms because you can tell your partner what you'd like to do in order to climax. Most important, when you masturbate regularly, you become more comfortable with your vagina, and that's definitely going to make sex more enjoyable.
Masturbation is also fun, a great time-waster, and it'll improve your sex life and the connection you have with your partner if you masturbate together.
The male orgasm
From pornography to comedies, the male orgasm is nearly always interpreted the same way: an earth-shattering, knee-trembling experience followed by a quick nap. Yet just as some women can orgasm from penetration alone while others require external stimulation, men have much the same needs.
Myth: Men can't fake orgasms.
Reality: Fake orgasms are erroneously associated only with women. Faking it is such a mainstream notion that there's even "Seinfeld" episode devoted to it, as well as the famous New York City diner scene in the 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally."
The reasons for faking it vary, but include:
An inability to orgasm
A desire to please your partner
You might also want to stop having sex but you're unable or reluctant to tell your partner because you don't want to hurt their feelings. Faking an orgasm is the simplest solution.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that it would be impossible for a man to fake an orgasm because there's always physical evidence of the event. But think about it: If the man is wearing a condom, there's no reason to question a lack of ejaculate.
Now take another look at the reasons above for faking—they work for men just as easily as they do for women. And that's without getting into the very real excuse that you may be too tired, stressed out by your working day, or simply not able to complete the task at hand because of the side effects of medications you're taking.
Myth: Men can orgasm only through penile stimulation.
Reality: The male body has one other avenue besides the penis to reach climax and that's the prostate. Also known as the P-spot, and similar in concept to the female G-spot, the prostate can be caressed or massaged in such a way that men can achieve an orgasm.
Unfortunately, the P-spot orgasm is often overlooked because the only way to massage the prostate is via the anus. As a result, many heterosexual men associate this with homosexual behavior, which is a shame because they're missing out on an avenue of immense pleasure as they succumb to being victims of their own subconscious homophobia.
Myth: 'Blue balls' are dangerous and can cause permanent damage.
Reality: Known in the medical community as epididymal hypertension, blue balls occur when a man is aroused but doesn't achieve orgasm through ejaculation. This interruption in sex can result in scrotal pain and even discoloration, hence the nickname.
Because of the level of discomfort, the common misconception is that epididymal hypertension can cause permanent damage to the testicles or even the penis. However, science has dispelled this myth.
Blue balls are actually caused when the blood that flows into the genitals during arousal gets caught in the area before ejaculation. While the level of pain is definitely a cause for concern, this condition resolves itself once your erection goes away, leaving you without any permanent damage or ongoing pain.
Myth: Premature ejaculation is a lifelong condition with no cure.
Reality: Premature ejaculation can be embarrassing and awkward in the moment, but it's not incurable. The causes vary from hormone imbalances to poor body image to stress to just being too excited, so pinpointing the exact source of the problem isn't always easy.
Talk to your doctor about medications and devices that can help. There are also over-the-counter products—such as condoms with a touch of anesthetic—that can help.
But before you worry too much about staying the course for hours on end, here's a consideration for heterosexual couples. Once intercourse has started, the average male lasts somewhere in the range of four to 11 minutes. Women have reportedly said that three to seven minutes is adequate, seven to 10 minutes is ideal, and any longer is simply too long. Your timing may be more compatible with your partner than you think.
A variety of factors affect and influence your level of arousal and the ultimate satisfaction of your orgasm. Just remember that every orgasm for every man and woman is an individual experience and there are no mythical standards by which you have to abide.
The best advice is to talk it out with your partner. Share your expectations, work on a strategy that'll work for both of you and experiment. A lot. Until you get really good.