The myths surrounding female orgasms are plentiful. However, meaningful and reliable sources of information regarding women’s sexual health are not! I am a board-certified OB-GYN and specialize in women’s sexual health. On a daily basis, I love fielding questions from my patients about their bodies, anatomies, and sexualities. Part of my job is to dispel myths and eliminate the stigma and shame associated with female pleasure and sexuality.
So, if you were a fly on the wall of our offices, what are some of the things you would hear?
Myth 1: The vagina is a vulva-haver’s most important sex organ
There are so many body parts involved in female sexual response. Our skin, our genitalia, our spine, and our brains all play important roles in our ability to achieve orgasm.
Multiple neurotransmitters are released during our sexual experiences. We have signals traveling to and from the brain to process sensation, touch, and orgasms.
Let’s also talk about the clitoris. Did you know that it is the only human organ dedicated solely to pleasure and has over 8,000 nerve endings to process touch? The clitoris is mostly hidden and much longer than people think. It has wings that wrap around the vagina and can be stimulated during penetrative intercourse.
So, there is no one organ that is “the most important” sexual organ—different parts of our bodies work together during sex to help us reach orgasm.
Myth 2 : All people with vaginas can orgasm from penetrative sex
This is likely the biggest myth when it comes to vaginas, sex, and orgasms. I have countless women that come to me thinking that they are broken because they do not orgasm during penetrative sex.
The fact of the matter is that only 25% of women can predictably orgasm from penetrative sex. Most of this is out of our control as the size and location of the clitoris is what renders us most likely to have sex during intercourse. The larger and closer to the vaginal opening the clitoris is, the more likely we are to orgasm during intercourse. Most vulva-havers will require direct stimulation to the clitoris, which can be either digital (think fingers) or oral. This is also where sexual tools like vibrators and clitoral pumps can come in handy. I also recommend to patients arousal serums that, when applied to the clitoris, may help women achieve orgasm more readily.
Women are much more likely to orgasm on their own, and we can often achieve orgasm solo in roughly 4 to 10 minutes.
Myth 3: All vulva-havers can have multiple orgasms
This is simply not true: The statistic varies, but only 15 to 40% of women can have multiple orgasms. Anatomy plays a large role in our ability to have multiple orgasms, as does a willingness to experiment and be adventurous in the bedroom. People who are seeking out the experience of multiple orgasms are more likely to achieve it. Also, women who have a shorter interval to orgasm are more likely to rebound and have an orgasm again. It is all about timing!
Myth 4: I have never had an orgasm, so I never will
When patients come to me and tell me they think they will never orgasm, it breaks my heart, because it is usually not true. There are so many reasons and causes that can interfere with a person’s inability to orgasm, but in most cases, there are treatment options!
Orgasm dysfunction can involve:
- lack of orgasm
- delayed orgasm
- muted orgasm or
- orgasm associated with pain or completely devoid of any pleasure.
Women often feel embarrassed or ashamed when they cannot orgasm, and often think it is their fault, but this is false. An honest discussion with a medical provider can often lead to success and eventually an orgasm.
There are several causes of orgasm dysfunction which can render orgasm impossible or rare which include:
- Problems with anatomy, hormones, brain and spine or
- a side effect of medication which can render orgasm impossible or rare.
Sometimes a weak or overactive pelvic floor can also lead to problems with orgasm, while some women struggle with pain during orgasm. There are rare cases where orgasm physically occurs with the contractions but lacks the euphoria element.
There can also be a disconnect between partners or lack of ability to communicate what feels good vs what hurts during sex that can hinder the ability to orgasm. Women should not feel ashamed to advocate for themselves in the bedroom and be vocal about their bodies. Sexual health is important to our overall health and wellness and should not be ignored.
And while there are no FDA-approved treatment options for orgasm dysfunction, there are multiple medications, hormones, tools and procedures that may help a patient achieve orgasm.
Myth 5: There is no gender orgasm gap
The orgasm gap is perhaps the most pronounced difference amongst the sexes in healthcare. Twenty percent of all women state they do not orgasm, while only 2% of men report this concern.
Women are much more likely to orgasm on their own, and we can often achieve orgasm solo in roughly 4 to 10 minutes—no one knows our bodies better than we do; with a partner orgasm can take up to 20 minutes.
There is also something to be said about our emotional connection with a partner. We are more likely to orgasm with a known lover than we are a one-night stand. So, what can we do to help our partners help us achieve orgasm? I encourage my patients to explore their bodies in order to understand their anatomy, their likes, and their dislikes. We need to be able to vocalize our preferences with our partners.
I am also a huge believer in education—there is still so much confusion about anatomy; in a recent study it was found that while most men and women could identify the clitoris, the majority of both mislabeled the vagina, vulva, and urethra! Recognizing anatomy is key to fulfilling sexual experiences.
The female body is complex and beautiful. Until recently, there has not been enough discussion about female sexuality and pleasure. The female orgasm is even more complicated as it involves body, mind, and emotions. The best way to understand your sexuality and the orgasm is to learn about your anatomy and to have open discussions about sexuality with your partner, and if needed, with your healthcare provider.