By far, the most frequent thing students ask about in my Human Sexuality course is female orgasm. I get asked everything from “How come I’ve never had an orgasm?” to “What’s the easiest way for a woman to climax?” In some ways, people’s lack of knowledge on this topic is not surprising. For example, think back to the sexual education courses you took in grade school or high school. Or maybe the uncomfortable talks that you had with mom and dad while you were growing up. At what point did the subject of female pleasure come up? If your experiences were anything like mine, I’m guessing never. The focus always seems to be on teaching how babies are made, and because female orgasm isn’t absolutely essential for that to happen, educators tend to ignore it.
Given that we are not formally taught how to pleasure women, what we learn about this subject usually comes from our friends, or maybe the internet. But, as you may have discovered, these are not always the most reliable sources for information when it comes to sexuality. As a result, I thought it would be useful to put together this condensed guide to some of the key things that every woman and lover of women should know about female orgasm. Let’s start with one of the most important, but least known facts.
Most women do not experience orgasm through vaginal intercourse. There are a lot of women who assume that there must be something wrong with them because they cannot seem to orgasm while having sex. However, this is actually a quite normal experience and does not signify that anything is wrong. In fact, most women’s route to orgasm does not even require intercourse and instead focuses on other means of stimulation.1 Why is this the case? It probably has something to do with the fact that the most dense concentration of nerve endings in a woman’s nether regions is in the clitoris, and the clitoris typically receives very little stimulation during sex. This leads me to my next point.
The clitoris, although tiny, has just about as many nerve endings as a penis and is the only organ in the human body with the sole purpose of providing sexual pleasure. Because the clitoris is so sensitive, many women find that stimulating it is a much faster and easier way to achieve orgasm than intercourse. Plus, if the only reason it’s there is to delight and excite, why have you been ignoring it? I guess I should also ask why you’ve been ignoring that other female hot spot as well…
Yes, women really do have a G-spot. This region of the female body was first discovered by Dr. Ernest Grafenberg in the 1950s, and since that time, many studies have confirmed its existence.2 The G-spot is an area within the vagina (see here for an approximate location) that, when vigorously stimulated, can yield an intensely pleasurable orgasm, sometimes accompanied by an expulsion of fluid. That’s right, female ejaculation is real too! However, whereas all women have a clitoris, not all women seem to have a G-spot, and among women who have one, it varies in size and ejaculation may or may not occur.
Regardless of how a woman gets to orgasm, there is one other unique feature of the female finish we should discuss: Women have the capacity to experience multiple orgasms. After orgasm, men undergo what is known as the “refractory period,” where no amount of additional stimulation will produce another orgasm. This period can last a short time, or a long time—but it’s almost always there for men. For women, however, no such period exists. With continued stimulation, women may be able to experience several orgasms in rapid succession.3 The groundbreaking sexuality research of William Masters and Virginia Johnson conducted in the 1960s suggests that most women have the ability to do this; however, many women may not realize it because they have never tried it.
Remember that old phrase “knowledge is power?” Well, in this case, it might be more appropriate to say “knowledge is pleasure.” Enjoy!
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1Fugl-Meyer, K., Oberg, K., Lundberg, P., & Lewin, B. (2006). On orgasm, sexual techniques, and erotic perceptions in 18- to 74-year-old Swedish women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 56-68.
2Whipple, B., & Komisaruk, B. (1999). Beyond the G spot: Recent research on female sexuality. Psychiatric Annals, 29, 34-37.
3Masters, W., & Johnson, V. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Boston: Little, Brown.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.
Nicole A. says
Thank you, Dr. Lehmiller for pointing out these important facts of the elusive female orgasm. It always surprises me how confused and undereducated people seem to be regarding this phenomenon, it's nice to see (most) everything all in once place. Well done!
Nice post. This article has some more information on the evolution (or not?) of the female orgasm with some… well… interesting theories http://pygmylorisreid.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-female-orgasm-an-evolutionary-adaptation-or-a-happy-accident/
You left out the Skenes gland!
Prof O'jean says
While this is a helpful article I have found no clinical evidence for women having a "G spot" which is cited in a single article by Dr G whic was not not peer reviewed: so consider that it is another of those ideas promoted by the pornographic media.
In clinical trials it has been found that most women cannot reach organisation just through stimulation of the vagina by a penis real or artificial for orgasm in addition stimulation of the clitoris and nipples is necessary. Indeed many women can have an orgasm just as a result of stimulation of the clitoris by their partner with no penile insertion. Of course skilled foreplay by partner of either sex and a loving ambience are almost essential.
Though I'm happy to see another article addressing the female orgasm, something that is not addressed widely enough, this one leaves out many important factors.
Firstly, let's properly acknowledge the clitoris. The clitoris is an iceberg; attached to the glans, the only visible part of the clitoris, there are also a shaft and "legs" that reach around the sides of the vagina called the corpus cavernosum and crus clitoris. Secondly, the clitoris does not have "just about as many nerve endings as a penis". In fact it has 6000- 8000 sensory nerve endings in the glans alone, “the highest concentration of nerve endings anywhere in the male or female body”. (Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston, 2010 P. 95)
I'm also very surprised and upset that an article about female orgasm can be written without even a mention of the psychological aspects involved. There are many reasons women have difficulty having orgasms: stress, trauma, discomfort, distrust, disinterest, insecurity, distractions, etc.
I agree that "knowledge is pleasure" and I believe that female orgasms are under-appreciated and under-acknowledged. It is important to inform and educate but it is important to do so with correct and updated knowledge.
I'd like to second Clea's post above and add my great disappointment with this article. In recent years, though research on the female orgasm remains inadequate, in comparison to previous decades, the internet has enabled a relative explosion of information, all of which is lacking here. The clitoris is a largely internal organ, and there has been a great deal of speculation about the fact that the infamous and questionable G-spot is in fact a particularly good place from within the vagina to stimulate the internal portion of the organ from the back side, much like prostate massage in men. Dr. Lehmiller, I respectfully suggest for the benefit of all your readers who may not be as well-informed already about the more recent discoveries, that you Google "internal clitoris" and write a follow up post. I would also suggest that your next article about the female orgasm should certainly, as Clea mentions, include some discussion of the fact that one of the major differences between the male and female orgasm (and in fact, between male and female readiness for sex, or degree of arousal, in general) is that emotional states seem to be much more important (which is not at all the same as saying that women don't like casual sex or can't be aroused by one-night stands, if that happens to be the emotional situation they are comfortable with). I highly recommend the book Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure by Dr. Charlie Glickman in this regard because in its attempt to guide men to a better understanding of how important it is to be relaxed and mentally prepared in order to enjoy being penetrated, it contains a good discussion of the emotional dimension of this physiological fact of female vulnerability in sex. The female orgasm is also fairly distinct from the male orgasm (though on some accounts similar to the male's experience of prostate massage) in the capacity to experience something like an external and internal, or a deep and shallow, type of orgasm, which is in part related to where and how the clitoris is stimulated, and in part to the mental state of arousal at the time (I don't have the time to find the reference now, but recently I read of a study that seemed to suggest that more female subjects experience the deeper form of orgasm in longer-term intimate relationships than in casual encounters, which seems intuitively right but certainly bears closer study). While men tend to experience orgasm as limited to their penis, women often experience orgasm as a full-body phenomenon. Men who achieve orgasm while stimulating their prostate, however, sometimes report their feelings in a way that mirrors women's descriptions. I hope to see a more inclusive and extensive summary of what we currently know and suspect about the female orgasm here in the future.
J M Roberts says
My research indicates 99% of men are using women as a masturbating machine.
I have written a fictional story attempting to incorporate the correct way to give a woman an orgasm.
'If you'd read and advise me, I'll send you a copy of my book. I obtained the information from a medical book 60 years ago.
**Regarding the clitoris its not actually tiny, the outer part of it is but the clitoris is internal as well! So its actually much larger than you think!**
"The female orgasm is also fairly distinct from the male orgasm … in the capacity to experience something like an external and internal, or a deep and shallow, type of orgasm"
I'm a male and I can definitely tell 2 distinct types of orgasm. Orgasm thru masturbation produces a shallow orgasm and nothing is felt minutes later. Orgasm thru intercourse produces a much deeper orgasm, a feeling in the pit of your stomach that can still be felt 1-2 hours later, similar to a post-workout high. Not sure if this is similar to what Anna was alluding to but it exists for males too.