The Female Orgasm
The Female Orgasm Part 1: The Feels
Orgasms are like butterfly wings, snowflakes, and ears: no two are the same!
As a sapiosexual (a person who finds intelligence incredibly sexy) and someone who loves to learn about all things related to sex, understanding the anatomy of our bodies and of what uniquely turns people on blows my mind! Sexologists and Certified Sex Therapists agree, it is super important for us to know what’s going on in our bodies. If we know how we function, the chances of getting the sexual results we desire increases, and our quality of life improves. Voila!
So, what exactly is the female orgasm? A female orgasm is a series of involuntary muscular contractions that occur in the genitals in response to sexual stimulation. Orgasms are not necessarily always a result of genital stimulation - some people can experience them from a simple kiss on the neck or an erotic brush of a nipple. Some women orgasm in their sleep in response to erotic dreams, others orgasm through deep breathing exercises emphasizing the magic that comes from mindfulness and tantra. The late Gina Ogden, writer of ‘Women Who Love Sex’ and one of my mentor’s mentors, researched female-bodied women who orgasmed just by thinking of erotic imagery, a term she coined “Thinking Off”.
Only the person experiencing the orgasm can accurately describe what an orgasm feels like to them. Here are some descriptions of orgasms that I’ve read and heard:
Waves of warmth washing over my body
Sparks of intense pleasure
Contractions in my genitals and in my muscles
Numbness, tingles, and calmness after I cum
Pulsations of pleasure throughout my body
Lighting bolts; intense electricity
Golden glow; smooth and warm like honey
Not surprisingly, one of my absolute favorite books is, “I Heart Female Orgasm” by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller. This book is filled with fantastic facts about the female orgasm: how to reach them, the science behind them, where they come from.
Most female orgasms last three to fifteen seconds, although it is possible for them to last a minute or so more. While it varies from person to person, the average time it takes for a female to reach and experience an orgasm is 20 minutes. Although, over half of women in over 23 research studies actually took longer than 20 minutes, some up to and longer than one hour. And, they are sooooo worth the wait!
Why some women don’t Orgasm
The female orgasm can be elusive, but she doesn’t necessarily have to be. One of the primary reasons female-bodied women don’t orgasm is that during heterosexual inercourse, male partners tend to orgasm before the female is fully sexually aroused. Basically, society tells women that we should hurry up and cum because male counterparts generally take less time to climax; thus, women aren’t used to accepting that their bodies need longer to experience arousal and pleasure and they aren’t giving themselves time to experience the pleasure their bodies warrant for an orgasm (and neither are their partners). The secondary reason that female-bodies women don’t orgasm during heterosexual sex is that there is often not enough direct stimulation on the glans of the clitoris.
Messages about our bodies and our sexuality play major roles in our ability to orgasm. If we learn early that are bodies are supposed to respond within a time constraint (or that we should forgo our own pleasure for someone else’s), how then can we feel free to experience pleasure on our own time? If we don’t know how they work, how can we expect others to give us what we need?
There is a ton of science behind every orgasm. From the levels of dopamine to the levels of oxytocin, from one anatomical body part to the next. Rhythmic motion or rapid hand movements may contribute to one woman’s orgasmic experience but may leave another feeling over-stimulated and under-aroused. The important piece is knowing what works for you! The primary way to learn this is by self-discovery. Masturbation is key, folks! Rebecca Chalker author of The Clitoral Truth, agrees, “Any woman, from those who have never had an orgasm to those who are easily orgasmic, can have more or better orgasms by learning some basic anatomy and discovering what feels good.” Stay tuned for The Female Orgasm Part 2: An Anatomy Lesson for more!
The Female Orgasm Part 2: An Anatomy Lesson
The Clitoris: 8,000 nerve endings and Mama Nature hid it.
The clitoris is not simply a tiny button. The clitoris is comprised of eighteen separate parts! The clitoral legs located inside the vulva are actually comprised of tissue that make it a wishbone-shape. (See diagram)The entire clitoral network is comprised of a system of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and glands that contribute to pleasure and create lubrication. Chalker’s description of most female-bodies orgasms is on-point, “orgasms are ultimately created by spasms of the clitoral muscles, in which case, I would argue, all orgasms are clitoral”.
The G-Spot: To be or not to be?
One of the most controversial discussions in sexual research over the past half century has been the validity and existence of the G-spot, short for the Grafenberg Spot. The G-Spot has historically been described as a cashew sized area on the anterior wall of the vagina that produces sexual excitement, orgasms, and ejaculatory substance. It has been said that it can be found with a ‘come hither’ motion of a finger when inserted in the vagina and directed toward the belly button.
Here’s a shocker for you! When describing “G-Spot orgasms”, what people are actually feeling is stimulation of the urethral sponge, aka the female prostate (a contributor to female ejaculation) which is a highly sensitive component of the clitoral network.
The urethral sponge is one of the most important parts of the female anatomy, and it is rarely mentioned in conversations on orgasms. Maybe the lack of fame is due to such a clinical-sounding name, but it is a fascinating and incredibly important part of the body! The urethral sponge surrounds the urethral opening and while it’s not quite noticeable if a female-bodied person isn’t sexually stimulated, when they are sexually aroused, it swells and can produce female ejaculate. It’s right up next to the vaginal wall so that ‘come hither’ motion that was described as activating the G-spot is actually activating the urethral sponge instead!
The Vagina: Many people associate the vagina with female sexual experience and although it serves as a great player in the functionality of baby making and menstruation, the vagina does not have much to do with the female orgasm. As Chalker so beautifully explains, “The vagina offers the opportunity for physical intimacy between partners during heterosexual intercourse, has room for the penis, sex toys, or even a fist, and it provides the exact amount of warmth and pressure to the penis to promote male orgasm”.
A prevalent goal that many heterosexual people have is achieving simultaneous orgasms during intercourse. While it is not unachievable, it is incredibly difficult for most people to make happen. I recommend spending that energy working on orgasming on your own time, collaborating with your partner to learn each other’s bodies. This in and of itself contributes to closeness and connection. Now that we’ve discussed the depth and breadth that is the female orgasm, remember from my previous blog post Challenge Your Sex-pectations, you can still experience amazing benefits of sex, pleasure, and intimacy without the goal of orgasm.
Play with imagery: Visualize yourself having an orgasm. Take your time. Be present or explore diving into fantasy. Two percent of women can cum just with their imagination alone! Remember: there is no right way to have an orgasm.
Arousal first then clitoral attention. For a lot of folks, the clitoris is too sensitive to be directly touched before they are aroused. I recommend taking your time to explore other areas of the body - especially the vulva - before connecting with the clit. Be gentle.
Partners, sit back and watch the show! Many of us learn by observation, asking questions, and then emulating what we’ve learned. If she’ll let you watch her self-pleasure, you can sure learn a lot. Watch the her take control of her pleasure and then show her what you’ve learned, with her direction.
Use the teasing method: The longer and more drawn out escalation of arousal (http://www.makesexeasy.com/erotic-energy/), generally the more powerful the orgasm. Take breaks in stimulation. If you find yourself coming close to orgasm, stop stimulation. Then start again. The stop, then start again.
Stay Wet ‘n Wild! Lube and saliva are your best friends. The natural secretions of liquid will keep the vaginal canal lubricated. Dip your fingers into the vagina to then use for clitoral stimulation to keep the sensations going.
So you want to have an orgasm? I Heart the Female Orgasm has an excellent list of ways to touch your own/your partner’s clitoris:
Directly on the head (the tip) of the clitoris
On the shaft of the clitoris
On the Left side; on the Right side
Side to side
Up and down
The shaft of the clitoris with a rolling motion under your fingers
With one finger; with two fingers
Tap, massage, stroke, gentle pinching motions
Any other way you can think of!
Fun Facts found in Clitoral Truth and I Heart Orgasms:
The terms ‘coming/cumming’ and ‘orgasming’ are interchangeable
Kegel exercises are key to a stronger pelvic floor and more powerful orgasms
Orgasm is the body’s most natural high
A woman’s sensitivity to pain dramatically reduces when she is aroused; orgasms release endorphins and naturally-occuring steroids that temporarily numb the nerve endings that signal pain
Pleasure is the clitoris’ only reason for existence
10-15% of women have reported never having experienced an orgasm
4% of women can orgasm from intercourse alone
The Clitoral Truth - Rebecca Chalker
I Heart Female Orgasm - Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller