The Female Orgasm: From Her Perspective
October 11, 2021
What is an orgasm?
As simple as this question sounds and feels, and as obvious as the answer may seem to most of us, defining “Orgasm” as a word, it is used to describe how something tastes.
The more technical definition offered in the Kinsey Reports is “the expulsive discharge of neuromuscular tensions at the peak of sexual response”.
Perhaps the most interesting of all characterizations is the one that was offered by John Money: “The Zenith of the sexuoerotic experience that men and women characterize subjectively as voluptuous rapture or ecstasy.”
An orgasm occurs simultaneously in the brain/mind and the pelvic genitalia of both men and women.
To understand the bodily processes associated with an orgasm one must know the internal and external clitoris, as well as other parts of the female genital anatomy (the inner lips, for example, contain erectile tissue).
This tissue is similar to that found in the male penis. Erectile tissue has especial capillaries that let the blood flow in but not out during sexual excitement.
“The Zenith of the sexuoerotic experience that men and women characterize subjectively as voluptuous rapture or ecstasy.”John Money
The blood going into but not out of erectile tissue creates tension that builds up to a very high point.
Orgasm occurs when powerful, rhythmic muscle contractions release that tension, forcing the accumulated blood out and preventing additional blood from coming in.
The muscles that contracts are called pelvic floor muscles. Bodily changes during orgasm are not limited to rhythmic genital contractions, however.
Other changes include contractions of muscles in other parts of the body (fingers and toes curling), increased breathing and heart rate and various forms of myotonia, including facial grimaces.
Additionally, during orgasm, pleasure-promoting neurochemicals are released, and the brain also generates chemicals involved in attachment, such as oxytocin and prolactin.
Importantly, recent brain research indicates that leading up to orgasm, parts of the brain associated with conscious thought turn off, resulting in brain waves that resemble a meditative-like state (Prause, 2017).
Whereas prior research seemed to indicate that these brain areas turn off during orgasm (Komisaruk & Whipple, 2005) this recent research, using more sophisticated methodology, seems to indicate that these parts of the brain turn off before orgasm and may turn on again during orgasm, thereby pulling one out of this trance-like state.
This research points to the idea that is not orgasm that triggers deactivation in the brain, but that deactivation in the brain is necessary to trigger orgasm.
Regarding the stimulation that triggers orgasm, some women orgasm from non-genital stimulation (of the nipples, for example) and there have been reports of women who can reach orgasm from fantasy alone. Yet the most common type of stimulation that triggers orgasm is genital, clitoral to be more specific.
Female Orgasm Disorder (FOD)
The American Psychiatric Association defines female orgasm disorder (FOD) based in 3 dimensions; frequency, timing and intensity. For a woman to receive a diagnosis of FOD, orgasm must be delayed, attenuated, rare or never experienced.
Furthermore, a diagnosis is not given for transient fluctuations in sexual response, so difficulty experiencing orgasm must occur in the majority of sexual situations over a significant period of time (6 months, for example, not just days).
Duration is one such factor, as it is important to know whether a woman has at one time been orgasmic and now is not. These subtypes are often referred to in the literature as primary and secondary anorgasmia, respectively.
Second, the scope of the orgasmic dysfunction must also be identified, so that is clear whether and under what conditions there is the ability to experience orgasm (including partnered or solo sexual activity and type of stimulation).
Also note that for many women, orgasm comes easily in masturbation but not during sex with a partner, whether male or female.
A third specifier is if the woman has never experienced an orgasm under any situation.
Fourth, it must be specified whether the woman experiences mild, moderate or severe distress concerning her orgasm issues. As noted earlier, orgasm concerns caused by inadequate sexual stimulation do not qualify for a diagnosis of FOD.
Treatment of Orgasm Issues
The majority of sexual problems can be solved without intensive therapy.
There are cases that are particularly “uncomplicated cases” such as those caused by lack of knowledge or insufficient stimulation during partner sex.
Case of insufficient stimulation during partner sex raise the question of partner involvement in treating women with orgasm concerns.
While there is limited data on the efficacy of couple versus individual therapy, the current recommendation is that if the woman is able to orgasm during self-stimulation but not partner sex (secondary anorgasmia, for example) the partner should be involved in treatment.
The Misconceptions/Myths Around The Female Orgasm
#1: Sex without orgasm = failure.
Having an orgasm is an incredible sensation, but it doesn’t have to be the end-all-be-all, singular goal of sex. Getting busy can still be a supremely pleasurable, bonding, and relaxing experience regardless of whether it concludes with a climax.
#2: Multiple orgasms are not achievable.
Multiple orgasms are real and possible, they only require being present, the right stimulation, trust in your partner and lots of chemistry, polarity and attraction.
#3: All women can achieve orgasms by penetration alone.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions around orgasms. Only close to 20% of women can achieve orgasms by penetration alone. The majority needs manual stimulation of the clitoris and penetration to orgasm.
Other women may get off by having anal sex or even by having their nipples and breasts stimulated well enough for long enough.
The science of sexology is still new. There’s a lot still unclear about “The Big O”. But we are on our way there.
If you or your partner are struggling with achieving orgasm, I recommend clear communication, sex education, mindfulness and seeking professional help if you think you need it.
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