“So did you….?” Many women have been asked this question during or after sex at least once, and have had to make that split-second decision about how to respond as delicately as possible.

It’s hard to deny that, for most, an orgasm is a universally accepted symbol of sexual satisfaction and fulfillment for both men and women. This is so widely upheld that many of us end up feeling like we haven’t satisfied a partner unless he or she has experienced an explosive orgasm at our hands, or tongues, or… otherwise. I’d wager that women tend to hear this question more than men because it’s easier to tell when a man has had an orgasm, so there’s no real need to ask.

Realistically, orgasms are actually not that easy to come by for most people, especially for women. Only about a quarter of women experience orgasms each time they have sex with a partner compared to 90% of men. A study released in 2009 found that about 75% of women don’t come from intercourse alone and require the aid of toys, hands, tongues and other fun tricks. Also, about 10% to 15% of women never feel the rush of the Big O at all. Ever. Nothing.

Both men and women can experience difficulty in reaching orgasm for similar reasons, however.  Physically, people can have trouble having orgasms because of overstimulation from using sex toys too frequently, or from developing a conditioned reliance upon external stimuli like pornography. People who masturbate frequently also report having trouble having orgasms during sex, or at least find that it takes them a very long time to reach their peaks. Emotionally, some feel stuck because they don’t hold strong romantic ties to their partners, and without that connection, they can’t quite reach the point of climax.

Some lovers are dealing with struggles in other parts of their lives, like stress or maybe grief, and have difficulty connecting with their partners in heated moments or don’t feel comfortable “letting go.” A history of sexual trauma, experiences with mental and physical illness, and even taking certain medications can all factor into why a person is unable to achieve orgasm.

You can’t always take it personally if your partner doesn’t climax. You could be doing your best Aurora Jolie or Mr. Marcus impression and still, absolutely nothing happens. I’ve talked to people who are nearly heartbroken and feel the strongest blows to their egos because their partners don’t have orgasms.

While men are often judged by their sexual prowess and ability to perform, I think women take it harder when male partners don’t come. Because about 90% of men have orgasms every time, there’s a very small chance they won’t be able to after amazing sex. Men and women both feel the need to sexually satisfy their partners, but I think women struggle a bit more because of the notion that “What you won’t do, the next woman will.”

Communication is essential in these situations. If you know you have difficulty with orgasms for reasons not particularly related to your partners, make that known early on. Reassure your partners you’re enjoying yourself and thoroughly satisfied with his/her performance. Or if you know there are specific things that need to be done to take you over the edge, reveal them so your partner can do what needs to be done to get you off.

This can get complicated though, when the only way one of you can climax is with the assistance of sex toys or watching porn. You might begin to feel a bit insecure, and that’s completely natural. I would encourage you to roll with it and try adding some of those additions to the overall experience at least once. They can definitely make for more interesting, kinkier sessions and if you’re focused on completely satisfying your partner, you’ll want to work on being comfortable with the idea that pleasure is not always going to come just from you.

Also remember that no one can approach every partner with the same style and tactics. Each person is different, so communicating during the exploration is essential and will help you have the sexiest time imaginable. Listen to your partner, learn your partner, explore various methods with your partner, and don’t let the fact that an orgasm might be difficult to achieve stop you from giving your all and enjoying those sexy moments. That wide grin and contented sigh might just be all you need to know that you put it down and wore it out.

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.