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Myth: Most Women Can Orgasm Through Intercourse Alone

By: June Machover Reinisch, Ph.D. Scientific Study of Sexual and Psychosexual Development. HSAB Affiliation: Executive Director.

This month's myth is that intercourse alone should stimulate orgasm in most women. And this, I’m afraid, is a myth that lots of both men and women believe, and it causes a lot of unhappiness, because in fact, the truth is that men very much want to make their women happy, and they want to make their women satisfied. And they think it's their responsibility. And women very much want to have good sex lives, and they feel also that it's their responsibility to be satisfied by their partners – they want to make their partners feel good by being satisfied. So although research has shown that men lie about sex more than women do, the one lie that women tend to tell most often is that they've been satisfied, and they lie about the fact that they've had an orgasm when they haven't. And so this is a myth that really has to be busted, because women feel they ought to be having orgasms from intercourse, and men feel that they ought to be somehow providing that orgasm from intercourse. And the fact is that it’s just not the way the equipment has been made.

This popular idea that a woman, a mature woman, a healthy woman should have orgasm by intercourse alone, was made popular (at least in the last century – that is, the 20th century) – this erroneous concept – by Freud. Freud believed and promulgated the idea that there were two kinds of orgasms – a healthy one and an immature one. A healthy one was a vaginal orgasm that came from the simple in and out of intercourse, and the “less mature” one came from clitoral stimulation. Now this belief that he had, which was adopted wholeheartedly by the medical profession in the United States – and I think in Europe too, but really wholeheartedly by American medicine and science – was based on nothing more than his belief. There was no scientific evidence to back it up. The notion probably came from the mistaken idea that heterosexual women must have a man to be completely fulfilled sexually. We know now that physiologically there is really no difference between orgasms, regardless of the type of stimulation that’s used to achieve them. Of course, there can be major emotional differences and satisfactions when you have a partner, especially when that partner is someone that you care about deeply, and find sexually appealing. So the emotional aspects of orgasms and sexual satisfaction are very different – and by the way, no two orgasms are the same. Those of you who have had them, which I hope all of you who are tuned in here know, that there aren't any two orgasms that are the same. Some are a lot better than others, and they have to do with how much sleep you've gotten, and how you’re feeling that day, and who you’re having them with, and how good your fantasy was, and how long it took to stimulate yourself to that orgasm, or how long you've been with that particular partner, and so forth. And they just change in ways that we don’t even understand. They have to do with new hormones, and the time of day, and so forth. But they don’t have to do with any particular place that they’re being stimulated by, and they certainly don’t have to do with the maturity or immaturity of your body. It is normal, it is natural, it is statistically average to need clitoral stimulation as a woman, or touching for a woman to achieve orgasm during intercourse. In fact, research reveals that between 50 and 70 percent of women – let me say that again – between 50 and 70 percent of women cannot achieve orgasm by penile thrusting alone. Yes, you heard me right. That is why most women need additional direct clitoral stimulation, either just preceding or during intercourse in order to achieve orgasm.

Now, our ancestors around the world seemed to know this. There is a myth that masturbation will interfere with a woman’s capacity to experience satisfaction in partnered sex. And so this was another one of the myths that was promulgated and told to women, it was in books, so that if a woman masturbated it would mean that when she got married or when she started to have sex she wouldn't be able to have orgasm the “right way” – that is, during intercourse. And as with most myths about sex that are anti-pleasure – and you’ll find that the vast majority of these myths are anti-pleasure myths – this one is rubbish too. Actually, research demonstrates the opposite, as we keep finding here. And here’s the research that I’m going to tell you about.

There were two groups of women – both groups were orgasmic. One group that was orgasmic in partnered sex had masturbated prior to getting involved sexually, and they’d masturbated to orgasm with partners and without partners. They were compared to a second group of women who were also orgasmic in partnered sex but who had never masturbated to orgasm, either before they started having sex or after they started having sex. Those who had masturbated to orgasm reported this – they reported they had more orgasms, they felt greater sexual desire in general, they required less time to become aroused with a partner, they reported being more multiply orgasmic, they experienced greater levels of marital and sexual satisfaction, and overall they had higher self-esteem. How do you like that? So, masturbation is not a bad thing and doesn’t interfere with marital sexual satisfaction, or in fact, marital satisfaction in general.

Now, if you insist on wanting to have an orgasm during intercourse – if that is something that you feel will enhance your life, and it’s not happening, there are things that you can do to enhance that. One of the ways you can do it is by using a position in which your partner – or you, hello, you’re there too when you’re having sex – you as a woman or your partner can digitally or with a vibrator stimulate yourself while you’re having intercourse. Yes, that’s allowed. You can introduce a vibrator to your sexual interactions, or you can use manual stimulation, either by your partner or by yourself. So – the first one is woman on top. Now, that provides the most contact with the clitoris if you’re not going to use manual stimulation or a vibrator. With the woman sitting on top she can move herself and adjust herself so that she can actually use the man’s body as a way of stimulating her clitoris during intercourse. So that’s one way. The adjustment allows her to stimulate herself by using the pubic bone of her partner.

The second way is using positions where the man is behind the woman. This you can use the kneeling position, where the woman kneels on her hands and knees and the man is behind. He can either reach around and use his hands to stimulate her, or she can use one of her hands to stimulate herself. Another way of doing it is lying in the spooning position on your sides with the man behind, and then either one of you can use your hand to stimulate the woman’s clitoris while you’re having intercourse. Both of these positions are good for this or for adding a vibrator to your lovemaking – that will help you to experiment. Sex may not be something that you do in the same way all the time, in the same position in the same way – unless you like it that way! Again, you do what works. You do what makes you happy. You do what keeps your sex life fresh and enjoyable. If you like to do it exactly the same way every time, and that makes both of you happy, then go ahead – enjoy it that way. But if not, if you feel that your sex life is getting a little boring, or that you’re not doing it as often, then add new things to your repertoire. Experiment. Talk to each other. Communicate. Communication is very important. Talk about what feels good – ask your partner what does she like? What does she enjoy? If talking is too difficult – and some people are so embarrassed about this and have had such a lifetime of negative input about this – if specifics or words are too hard, then make a pact to use signals, like moving your partner’s hands to where you want them to touch you, and showing them amount and type of pressure that you feel is good, either on you or on them. Take their hand and show them on you or on them what pressure you like and where you like it. Use sounds to indicate what feels good and what doesn’t feel so good. But don’t criticize – concentrate on what’s good and what works for you. Sex is not a place where criticism works. Positive reinforcement is the important rule here.

And the other thing to remember that’s so important – well, it’s important in all relationships, but certainly important in sexuality, is that no one can read another person’s mind. I don’t care long a couple has been together, I don’t care how clear you believe your signals are, unless you told your partner exactly what those signals are supposed to mean, nobody can read another person’s mind. And so it’s important that you tell them. There are lots of ways of doing that if you can’t use words. You can write each other notes – you can get books and underline the parts that you want your partner to read, but you must communicate. Good sexuality demands communication, clear communication of one kind or another, so that you can tell each other what it is you want, and what it is that’s going to help to make your sex better with each other. And if having orgasms during intercourse is something that you crave, then you’ve got to work it out with each other. But don’t expect that just intercourse, just thrusting, is going to bring on orgasm for you because again, let me remind you, that what we know now is that for 50 to 70 percent of women, thrusting alone doesn’t work, and if you look at the genitalia carefully, you’ll see why that is true. The clitoris is not anywhere near where the penis goes. No surprises.


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