Sex Question Friday: What Percentage Of Women Reach Orgasm From Intercourse Alone?

sexy-couple-making-love-in-bed.jpg

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about the topic of female orgasm:

I often see statistics that indicate 50% of women can't orgasm or 75% can't orgasm from penetration alone. Can you point me to the sources of said statistics and could you explain what exactly "penetration alone" means?

Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, I cannot point you to a scientific source for these statistics because I am not sure where they came from and I don't think they are completely accurate. That said, let’s first address your question about whether there are some women who just can’t seem to reach orgasm at all. Although the exact numbers vary quite a bit across studies, there are indeed some women who report never having climaxed in their entire lives. For example, this number was 10% in Alfred Kinsey’s pioneering research on human sexuality in the 1940s and 50s [1], and 3% in a recent national survey in Sweden [2]. Most other studies I have seen have yielded numbers in between. Thus, the statistic you heard about half of women being anorgasmic (i.e., lacking the ability to orgasm) simply has no basis in reality.

As for your other question about whether a majority of heterosexual women cannot reach orgasm through “penetration alone,” there is probably a bit more truth to that one. Let me first clarify that when we’re talking about “penetration alone,” we are referring to a woman’s ability to climax solely on the basis of penile movements inside the vagina during intercourse without providing any type of direct clitoral stimulation with a hand, vibrator, etc.

Now, as for that 75% statistic, I have seen it on a lot of news and advice websites (see here for an example from ABC News). However, all of these websites cite it as a statement of fact and do not back it up with a scientific source. So, let’s see what the research says. For instance, if we consider the Hite Report from the 1970s (a North American study that sampled approximately 2,000 women) results indicated that among those women who reported having had at least one orgasm before and who indicated being sexually active, 30% reported regularly reaching orgasm during intercourse, 12% rarely reached orgasm, 19% only reached orgasm if their clitoris was simultaneously stimulated, and 29% reported never orgasming during intercourse under any circumstances [3]. In the aforementioned Swedish study, the questions were asked somewhat differently, but researchers found that 55% of the women reported having reached orgasm during intercourse solely from penile movements at least once before [2].

Thus, when you average across these two studies and the others that I have seen, it looks like around half of heterosexual women are at least sometimes orgasmic as a result of penetration alone, whereas the other half either require added clitoral stimulation or other sexual activities in order to climax. So, based on the evidence I’ve seen, the 75% figure that’s frequently thrown around is probably a bit too high.

To read more about why some women may have an easier time reaching orgasm during intercourse than others, check out this article.  

For past Sex Question Friday posts, see here.Want to learn more about The Psychology of Human Sexuality? Click here for a complete list of articles or like the Facebook page to get articles delivered to your newsfeed.

[1] Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.

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

[3] Hite, S. (1976). The Hite Report. New York: Dell.

Image Source: 123rf.com

You Might Also Like: