The Truth about Female Orgasms and Vaginal Intercourse
By Dr. Sonja Bethune and Dr. Wendy Conaway
Let’s face it: women are complex beings on a multitude of levels, one being their sexual anatomy. Even though the basic structure of every woman’s sexual anatomy is essentially the same, some body parts can differ slightly, resulting in varied experiences when it comes to sexual response. Some women report that they can easily achieve orgasm by vaginal stimulation, while others claim that they can only successfully achieve orgasm through clitoral stimulation. For some women, orgasms happen very quickly, for others it takes quite a while to experience the enjoyable muscular release that orgasms provide; and for a few women, orgasms are completely elusive. So why is there such a big difference in the way women experience orgasms, if they do at all?
A primary factor is our biology. Looking specifically at our unique physiology to answer this question, Levin (2011) suggests that in women whose clitoris is slightly closer to the vaginal opening, the angle at which the penis is able to rub against the clitoral glans creates the stimulation necessary to achieve orgasm.
Alternatively, some would suggest that penile-vaginal orgasms result from stimulation of what is known as the “G-Spot” or Grafenberg Spot. Located about two inches from the vaginal opening on the anterior wall of the vagina, the G-Spot has been reported to be a small, dime-sized area that is sensitive to stimulation during sexual activity (Hock, 2016). Although it has not been clinically proven, it still remains a possible and, for many women, viable way to achieve orgasm “the normal” (sarcastically speaking) way.
Additional biological causes for what can be titled an orgasmic disorder have nothing to do with the penis at all. Most common orgasmic side effects occur with alcohol use and prescription antidepressants. It is pretty ironic that two things people typically take to feel good have the adverse effect on sexual behavior which we can all agree feels really good. Hormonal imbalances, alcohol use or abuse, and drug use (prescription or otherwise) can all play a major role in suppressing orgasms (Hock, 2016).
In relation to the biological factors, there are also several psychological reasons why a person may not be able to have an orgasm. For instance, a research study by Kelly, Strassberg and Turner (2004) indicated that the lack of communication between partners could impact a female’s ability to experience orgasm. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for blame to be placed on the female experiencing orgasmic disorder.
Let’s do some comparison. Think about obstacles that prevent men from having an orgasm. You may think it’s rare, but it does happen. What is one thing that can get in the way more than anything else? You probably guessed it. It’s anxiety. Specifically, it’s called performance anxiety. So if a female is being blamed for not being able to have an orgasm or feeling the pressure to have an orgasm, then the chances of actually having one are slim. Women who have a difficult time getting to the point of orgasm report that their mind needs to be cleared of any negative thoughts or feelings. They simply need to relax, focus and concentrate on the physical sensations. It takes the mind and the body to be in sync with one another.
Other psychological reasons why orgasm is elusive in females include past sexual trauma such as rape and sexual abuse, unrealistic expectations, depression, relationship factors such as mistrusting one’s partner, and culture or religion. These reasons all contribute a major role in the inability to achieve orgasm and for some, can explain how a woman might never have experienced orgasm at all.
Whether biological or psychological, this doesn’t mean that you will never be able to, it just means that there are some obstacles getting in the way.
Am I the problem?
Some women (10% – 15%) have never achieved an orgasm (Hamzelou, 2016). If you are one of these women, every now and then you may question why your friends are able to have orgasms, but you can’t. You might be surprised to learn that one of the top sexual complaints from women is inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic problems (Salmani, Zargham-Boroujeni, Salhi, Killeen, & Merghati-Khoei, 2015).
You deserve to feel good!
Now if you happen to be one of those women who hasn’t experienced an orgasm exclusively through vaginal-penile stimulation, rest assured that you are normal! Hamzelou (2016) found that of those women who could, only 25% of women report having an orgasm regularly when they have sexual intercourse. Most women need additional clitoral stimulation either before, during, or after intercourse (Hock, 2016). So, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to engage in oral or manual stimulation in addition to (or in place of) sexual intercourse – you deserve to feel good!
Now what? How can I be fixed?
Remember, you are not broken. But there are some aspects of yourself you need to be aware of. When you feel personal distress in your life from any of the barriers discussed today, it can certainly get in the way of enjoying sexual activity. You may be able to go through the entire sexual response cycle, but your mind isn’t in the game which makes the experience less enjoyable. Utilizing mindfulness skills at least 30 minutes a day can decrease distractions when it comes to sexual intercourse (Adam et al., 2014). In fact, a study by Adam, Goenet, Day and de Sutter (2014) reported that mindfulness training can help women with orgasmic disorders have more fulfilling sex lives by removing distracting psychological barriers and restoring focus on actual bodily sensations.
This mindfulness doesn’t guarantee that an orgasm will automatically occur, but it does mean that with more focus and concentration on the process, it is more likely to be achieved. Of course, some of the more severe psychological barriers may require professional support. Specialists such as a sex therapist or a psychologist may recommend cognitive behavioral strategies to address depression and guilt stemming from cultural or religious values.
Just remember that your mind is extremely powerful. It can be the source of psychological sexual inhibition that prevents orgasm just as much as it can be the springboard to the best orgasms and sexual experiences.
We’ll leave you with this thought – if an orgasm doesn’t happen very naturally for you, consider focusing energy on creating a healthier, more focused sexual mindset. Believe me, it will be worth it!
Adam, F., Geonet, M., Day, J., & de Sutter, P. (2014). Mindfulness skills are associated with female orgasm? Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30(2), 256-267.
Hamzelou, J. (2016). Sexism, and the case of the female orgasm. New Scientist, 229(3064), 27.
Hock, R. (2016). Human sexuality (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education Inc.
Kelly, M. P., Strassberg, D. S., & Turner, C. M. (2004). Communication and associated relationship issues in female anorgasmia. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 30(4), 263-276.
Levin, R. J. (2011). The human female orgasm: A critical evaluation of its proposed reproductive functions. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 26(4), 301-314. doi:10.1080/14681994.2011.649692
Salmani, Z., Zargham-Boroujeni, A., Salehi, M., Killeen, T. K., & Merghati-Khoei, E. (2015). The existing therapeutic interventions for orgasmic disorders: recommendations for culturally competent services, narrative review. Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 13(7), 403-412.