The woman’s vagina is a complicated place, full of nerve endings, erogenous zones, and pleasure points. Even for us ladies, it can be tough to figure out what exactly gets you off. Fortunately, science can also shed some light on what it takes to achieve glorious orgasm—and we’ll take all the help we can get, thanks to a very helpful synthesis of data on the subject recently published by MedicalNewsToday.
The impressions we get about sex are by and large through our culture. We’re bombarded with the subject through TV, ads, and, of course, porn. Porn in particular has the potential to show people what pleasurable sex looks like, but most of the time it’s focused on the man’s orgasm—not the woman’s, according to a 2017 study by human sexuality researcher and Ph.D candidate Léa J. Séguin. (Not that we needed a study to tell us that, am I right?)
Plenty of other research supports the fact that women don’t orgasm as often as men in general during sex. For instance, a 2015 study by Professor Osmo Kontula from the Population Research Institute at the Family Federation of Finland found that in a pool of 8,000 Finnish women, only 6 percent reported always having an orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse. 40 percent reported having an orgasm nearly always; 16 percent had an orgasm half the time; and 38 percent had one infrequently. A total of 14 percent of women under 35 had never had an orgasm from intercourse. Damn.
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It may come as no surprise that the female orgasm is still being researched, because from about 3,000 BC up until 1952, doctors thought orgasm was a way to treat hysteria, and after that, people thought women could only come from penile penetration. C’mon.
But don’t worry, 2017 is the year we start to understand how to achieve the female orgasm every time—or at the very least, more often than before—thanks to our good friend, science. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the biology of getting off as a woman during sex.
Sabotaging yourself with negative thoughts about your performance or not having “erotic thoughts” during sex can majorly lower your orgasm odds, a study of 926 women reveals. Yet thinking positively and using your mind to fantasize can increase your chances to come. After looking at brain MRIs of women visualizing dildo stimulation, Dr. Nan J. Wise says areas of the brain lit up that were “previously shown to be active in the process of genital stimulation leading up to and including orgasm.” Obviously, the brain has pretty strong powers when it comes to visualizing, so use it (and some other things) to help you climax next time you’re under the sheets.
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Never Underestimate the Clit
There have been tons of memes, joking, and all-around confusion about the clitoris, but the upshot, ICYMI, is that it’s pretty damn important. In Professor Debby Herbenick’s study in 2017, 36.6 percent of women needed clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm during intercourse. So, it’s not needed 100 percent of the time to get you there, but it does enhance the orgasm experience, according to 36 percent of the women surveyed.
Next time you’re in bed with your partner or pleasuring yourself, try the motions Herbenick says women preferred the most: up and down, circular movements, and side to side. It’s all about perfecting what you like, so if you need time to figure that out, go for it—it’ll make everything a whole lot more exciting.
Know What Turns You On
Herbenick polled 1,046 women and 975 men across the U.S. about a list of sexual behaviors and asked if they found them “very appealing,” “somewhat appealing,” “not appealing,” or “not at all appealing.” Ultimately, the women found no category not appealing. But there are 10 behaviors that women found very appealing and you should take note for inspiration.
- Vaginal intercourse: 69.9 percent
- Cuddling more often: 62.8 percent
- Kissing more often during sex: 49.3 percent
- Saying sweet, romantic things during sex: 46.6 percent
- Giving or receiving a massage before sex: 45.9 percent
- Having gentle sex: 45.4 percent
- Receiving oral sex: 43.3 percent
- Watching a romantic movie: 41.9 percent
- Making the room feel more romantic: 41.3 percent
- Wearing sexy underwear or lingerie: 41.2 percent
As open-minded as the women were, their idea of what was “very appealing” differed from men’s in certain categories. Which means the last and final key advice is…
Talk It Out
You might not want to be, but you truly do have to be open about what you like and listen to what your partner says about their own needs. As shown in a study, couples who talk about sexual preference, desire, and passion, tend to orgasm more and don’t experience low sex drives. If it makes you uncomfortable, try writing it down, texting it, or even take a shot before blurting it out. Whatever your method, communicating definitely helps and can not only please you, but assure your partner is having their best experience, too.
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In light of all these studies, it’s imperative to remember Professor Kontula’s point, “that women differ greatly from one another in terms of their tendency and capacity to experience orgasms.” To which we kindly say: thanks, science, for confirming what women have been saying for a very, very long time.
But next time you’re thinking your orgasm could get a little better, it’s definitely worth trying these science-proven methods. We know we’ll be taking them to the bank.