Ah, the “female” orgasm. That elusive, mysterious creature. It’s surrounded with a lot of confusion, a lot of mystery, and — most important — a lot of so-called knowledge that’s easily debunked. The quest for the “female” orgasm has caused many people of all genders a great deal of frustration, but not a few of them have had fun in the attempt to figure out the what’s and how’s of this fabled event.
Perhaps the biggest thing that gets in the way of an orgasm actually happening, though, is all the things we think we know. Here are some of the biggest myths about “female” orgasms, debunked.
- You have to be a woman to have one. Let’s get this one out of the way right now. What most people mean when they say “female orgasm” is actually “orgasm had by someone with a vulva, a clitoris, and a vagina.” While most people that have these body parts are women, many are not: some trans men and nonbinary people also have vulvas, clitorises, and vaginas. And some women do not have these body parts — a trans woman who has kept her penis, for example, will experience orgasm differently than a person who has a vulva, vagina, and clitoris. (Note that this does not make her not a woman!)
- All women can easily reach orgasm through intercourse. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In some studies, up to 70% of women report never having reached orgasm with a partner, no matter how skilled that partner was. Women who have sex with other women tend to report higher rates of orgasm than do women who have sex with men. (This research tends to be super focused on cisgender experiences, so it’s hard to say what the experiences of trans and nonbinary folks are.) The truth is, most people with clitorises need those clitorises directly stimulated to reach orgasm — sometimes for a full 20 or 30 minutes. Heterosexual intercourse, or activities that approximate it, just don’t provide that type of stimulation.
- The bigger the dick, the bigger the orgasm. Nope. First off, penetration doesn’t lead to orgasm for most people with vaginas. (See #2 above.) Only on one quarter of women in one survey reported being able to orgasm from penetration alone. That’s partly because the upper two-thirds of the vagina doesn’t have any nerve endings — there’s nothing to send pleasure signals to the brain. So whether you’re using a bio penis, a dildo, a strap on, or a vibrator, length and vigorous thrusting isn’t necessarily going to get your partner where they want to go.
- If you don’t come during sex, you’re a failure. Orgasm isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — the only goal of sex. If you (or your partner) doesn’t have an orgasm during a sexy-times session, that doesn’t mean either of you failed or did anything wrong. In fact, the pressure to have an orgasm can make it less likely to happen — the brain is as involved as the clitoris in the “female” orgasm. There are many ways to experience sexual pleasure that aren’t orgasm, as well as the feeling of closeness and intimacy that accompanies sex.
- All women can have multiple orgasms. Again, nope! This is one place that porn has miseducated many of us. Some women (and other people with vulvas) can have multiple orgasms easily, in rapid succession, every time they have sex. Some only have multiple orgasms when they are extremely aroused and feel able to let go of any inhibitions. And some people never have multiple orgasms. For some of the folks who don’t have multiples, continuing sexual stimulation after orgasm can actually be painful. All these are perfectly normal!
- There’s something wrong with you if you can only orgasm through masturbation. Now that you’ve seen some of the statistics, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find out that many women and other people with vulvas only orgasm when they’re alone. While our culture tries to shame us about masturbation, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting down with yourself. You are not defective or broken if you can only orgasm through masturbation — after all, when you masturbate, you get to control how and when sensation is applied, take you time, and relax, so it’s no wonder it might be easier to come. If you really want to be able to orgasm with a partner, it might be helpful to tell or show them how you masturbate to see if they can learn a technique or two.
Did you know that receiving oral sex is the one thing that research has been shown to increase your chances of orgasm with a partner? Find out more in The Cunnilinguist: How To Give And Receive Great Oral Sex…or dip on in to a massive post on how to pleasure a woman with your tongue!