Why Are Some Women Able To Reach Orgasm During Intercourse, But Others Can't?

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Most women cannot achieve orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone and typically require other means of stimulation in order to climax [1]. This widespread inability to orgasm during sex has mystified scientists and frustrated countless women over the years. However, researchers are finally beginning to put this puzzle together and it appears that one of the keys to understanding this issue resides in the size of a certain piece of anatomy—but it’s probably not the piece you’re thinking of!

No, the body part in question is not the penis. In fact, several well-known sex researchers, including William Masters and Virginia Johnson, have concluded that penis size has little, if any bearing on women’s sexual satisfaction [2]. Although some women may indeed find certain sizes to be more or less arousing and/or stimulating, penis size does not appear to be the driving force when it comes to generating vaginal orgasm.

What does seem to matter is the anatomic structure of a woman’s vulva, particularly, the location of the clitoris relative to the vagina. Research indicates that women who have a clitoris that sits closer to their vaginal opening have a greater likelihood of achieving orgasm during sex compared to women who have a larger distance between these two body parts [3].  The ideal distance appears to be about one inch, which is approximately the width of an average person’s thumb. It is theorized that this distance allows the penis to provide some degree of direct clitoral stimulation during intercourse, thereby facilitating orgasm. Larger distances likely create less clitoral stimulation, which reduces the odds of climaxing. Thus, this is one case where bigger is not necessarily better!

So is there any hope of achieving orgasm during intercourse for women whose clitoris is further from their vaginal opening? One way to increase the odds of climaxing would be to experiment with different sexual positions in order to see if one provides more clitoral stimulation than others. Another option would be for one of the partners to provide manual stimulation of the clitoris during intercourse or to try different pelvic movements and rhythms.

The important thing to keep in mind is that an inability to orgasm during intercourse is common and does not signify a sexual problem in and of itself. There is no "right" way to have sex--the key is to get familiar with your own body and be willing to communicate with your partner about what feels best.

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[1] Fugl-Meyer, K., Oberg, K., Lundberg, P., & Lewin, B. (2006). On orgasm, sexual techniques, and erotic perceptions in 18- to 74-year-old Swedish women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 56-68.

[2] Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

[3] Wallen, K., & Lloyd, E. A. (2011). Female sexual arousal: Genital anatomy and orgasm in intercourse. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 780-792.

Image Source: iStockphoto.com

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