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Orgasms : Only for the lucky few?

Should’nt all women be able to reach orgasm?

And,

Why do some women reach orgasm through intercourse, and others don’t?

These are legitimate questions that deserve evidence-based, respectful answers.

Yet, it turns out that the answers vary, depending on who you may ask. Here is one approach, fairly common amongst sex therapists: “Female orgasm is nice, but if you arent having them, it is OK. Not all women have orgasms.  Not all have orgasms with a partner, though they can fly solo, and certainly not all women can have an orgasm with intercourse.” Many quote the following statistics: “Only 15% of women climax during intercourse” “A third of women do not orgasm at all, a third can climax alone but not with a partner. Only one third of women can climax with a partner, and of those who can, only 40% do so during intercourse.” 

But in the effort to “normalize” women’s experiences, are we not disempowering women to expect pleasure and satisfaction? While I agree that not all women may reach a climax during intercourse, should women be made to believe that only a lucky minority can hit the jackpot at all? Is sexual pleasure and, yes, orgasm, not a natural and expected outcome, at least some, or most of the time? 

The statistics are inconsistent and may reflect some political/socio/cultural agendas. Shere Hite highlighted the important message that women don’t need either a man or a penis to orgasm. 

Stuart Brody, on the other hand, (a UK researcher with many controversial studies highlighting the superiority of vaginal-penile intercourse orgasms) has provided statistics that look at an important variable not asked in previous studies, which is , how long the intercourse takes, In one study of his he indicated that half of women will climax if penetration lasts for ten minutes; that rises to two thirds of the man keeps going for more than 15 minutes. 

Of course it is important to normalize women’s experiences, and of course, they should not be pathologized for not being able to orgasm during intercourse, as not all women do. But when I hear the statistics go down to as low as 15%, I begin to wonder about how reliable or valid that is.  Should women be discouraged by hearing that they can’t get there because only a lucky 15-20% can?  And does size matter?  

A new study was just published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that compared the genital anatomy using pelvic MRI in 10 women who never reached orgasm to 20 women who do.

Comparing the two groups of women, the researchers found that the direct distance between the clitoris and the vagina (as measured by a line running straight through the body) was 5 to 6 millimeters longer on average in the group of women with orgasm problems. These women also had a smaller clitoris on average.  But, before you grab the mirror here is what the study did not ask.

Anatomy matters, and the clitoris (an organ much larger than you may have thought) usually needs adequate stimulation, but the most important organ is the brain. That’s where knowledge is, first of all.  

1. Do you know where your clitoris is located? 

2. Do you feel comfortable with yourself and/or your partner? Enough to focus on your pleasure, make some noise, relax and enjoy? 

3. Do you feel permission and freedom?

Do messages of “this is wrong” or “dirty” interfere with your pleasure. Those thoughts keep the frontal lobe busy and that’s an area that sort of needs to shut down during orgasm. 

Perhaps with mindfulness, improved body awareness, reducing thoughts and judgments, increasing intercourse time, etc, feeling comfortable enough with partner, positioning,  it may just happen. The more we know about women’s anatomy and physiology with imaging, the immense size of the clitoris and its geographical proximity to the vagina, the more sense it makes that intercourse can be a pleasurable and satisfying experience for both partners. 

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