When it comes to orgasms, there is no one right way.
At the end of the first day of my undergraduate Psychology of Human Sexuality class, I often ask the students to anonymously write any question they want to be answered on a slip of paper. I tell them that, over the course of the semester, I will try to answer all their questions. A preponderance of the questions always focuses on the female orgasm, including how to have them and how to give them. There are always quite a few questions on “types” of orgasms—with a great number of students wanting to know how to have an orgasm during heterosexual penile-vaginal intercourse.
In reply to these how-to-orgasm-during-intercourse questions, I use anonymous polling technology to ask the students questions about their sexual responses–and then I compare these responses research findings. First, I ask the question, “Can you orgasm during intercourse?” and about 30% of the women say “Yes” and 70% say “No.” These results precisely mirror what several studies asking a similar question have found. After telling the students about these studies, I explain their flaws. That is, they suffer from a big problem: Most don’t differentiate between women who can orgasm from just a thrusting penis and women who orgasm during intercourse by making sure their clitoris is also being stimulated (e.g. by touching it with a hand or a vibrator). I tell the students that when this differentiation was made in three different recent surveys, all found that only 15%-18% of women can orgasm from a thrusting penis alone.
My students are shocked—and then I surprise them even further. I use the anonymous polling technology to ask my women students about their “most reliable route to orgasm.” Averaging across multiple years of anonymous polls (and thus over 500 women) in my classes, here’s what women students say their most surefire route to orgasm is:
And, even more striking, looking only at the women who do orgasm, 95% need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm!
Using these results, I underscore to my students that penile-vaginal intercourse generally does not provide the type of stimulation needed for female orgasm. It does not stimulate the clitoris.
I then present a variety of ways to more directly stimulate the clitoris during intercourse including, using an intercourse position in which the woman can rub her clitoris against her partner’s body parts. For example, there is the woman-on-top position that allows the woman to rub her clitoris on the man’s pubic bone or penis. There is also the coital alignment technique, a variant of the missionary style position, in which the woman’s clitoris is stimulated by an up and down motion of the penis, rather than an in-and-out motion.
I again point out that these positions work because of the clitoral stimulation that they provide. I tell my students that given this, another option is to use toys designed for just this purpose, such as a cock ring worn by the man which has an attachment to stimulate the clitoris during intercourse.
Finally, another option is simply for the woman to stimulate her own clitoris, with a vibrator or a hand, during intercourse, or to have her lover do so.
Another equally viable option, I tell the young women and men in the class, is to let go of this orgasm-during intercourse goal and adapt a turn-taking mentality, where “She Comes First” or “She Comes Second.” In the former, the woman could have an orgasm during foreplay (through oral sex or manual stimulation, for example) and then the man could have an orgasm during intercourse. In the latter, both the woman and man could get very aroused during foreplay, they could have intercourse where the man reaches orgasm and afterward, the woman could reach orgasm, for example, through stimulation via a toy or a hand to the clitoris.
Typically, the women in the class resonate with the information. Several often approach me after class to thank me—to tell me that I helped them feel “normal” rather than inadequate about how they reach orgasm.
However, on one occasion, a brave woman told me that she felt bad about herself as a result of my lecture. She told me that all this focus on the clitoris made her feel that she was reaching orgasm the wrong way—through intercourse. She told me that she never orgasms via masturbation or stimulation of the clitoris but reliably does so via penetration or intercourse.
Based on this woman’s response, I went back to the next lecture and vehemently emphasized that there is not the right way to have an orgasm. Some women reach orgasm via penile-vaginal intercourse and some don’t. Some women have found—and enjoy—g-spot stimulation; some women can’t find the spot or don’t even care to look. About one percent of women can orgasm via breast stimulation alone.
Despite this variety, psychologists—starting with Freud and continuing to this day—have been categorizing types of women’s orgasms and explicitly stating or implicitly implying that one type is superior to the other. It’s time to stop such nonsense.
A famous psychologist, Albert Ellis, told people to not “should on” themselves. This advice holds true of orgasm. When it comes to orgasms, there is no one right way. In the words of Betty Dodson, it doesn’t matter how we get them, just so long as we have them.
When it comes to female orgasms, let’s stop shoulding on ourselves.
My students' reactions and experiences are the reason I wrote Becoming Cliterate. If you want to learn more, including the cultural reasons for our over-focus on female orgasms during intercourse and additional ways to harness the power of your clitoris to orgasm during sex with a partner, tap here to order Becoming Cliterate.