Female sexuality is often shrouded in mystery. But what does it really take to make a woman come? And how is it different from the way a man achieves orgasm and arousal? Here are five facts about female arousal and orgasm you might not know that can help you to better understand the female psyche during sex.
1. While there are certainly exceptions, women usually need a sense of emotional safety and foreplay before they even get turned on and become receptive to orgasm.
Creating that sense of safety can often be crucial to a woman achieving climax. As Naomi Wolf, author of Vagina: A Cultural History, explains:
“Many people don’t like being touched if they are angry, but women seem to have more trouble with arousal if they are upset…The woman literally often can’t take an intimate touch if her lover has recently been verbally disrespectful, or has failed verbally to soothe ‘the Goddess in her’ at some point beforehand, priming the release of oxytocin and vasopressin in her body and preparing the parasympathetic nervous system to do its magical work.”
Gestures, touches, kisses and words all work together to stimulate female arousal. So, the next time you’re trying to please a woman, make sure to not only engage in physical foreplay but verbal foreplay as well. There are many ways to turn her on emotionally as well, without even touching her. Caress her with not just your touch but also your appreciation, attention and respect. Words of affirmation should not just be reserved for your inspirational Instagram posts and Pinterest boards; they can be used to ensure a woman has a more enjoyable sexual experience.
2. Research shows that many women require some form of clitoral stimulation to orgasm, yet this is tragically omitted due to our emphasis on achieving orgasm through penetration alone.
There is an orgasm gap between men and women – and given how little attention is paid to female pleasure, it’s no wonder why. Sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong and her colleagues (2012) surveyed data from 15,000 undergraduates and discovered that in hookups, women are far less likely to have an orgasm during sex than men. This is undoubtedly linked to the emphasis on male pleasure in society as well as the overemphasis on orgasms through intercourse alone.
In order to close the orgasm gap, you need to reframe your ideas about sex and rethink everything you think you know about how to make a woman come – because more often than not, it won’t just be through penetration. Around 40% of women require some form of clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm and even the women who don’t noted that it makes the experience overall more pleasurable for them.
Be aware that a woman may not always be assertive about her needs in bed because she’s been socialized to please her partner. That’s why getting her off requires active listening and mindfulness. Pay attention to her responsiveness to what you’re doing; be alert to what makes her feel good. Ask her what she likes and what she doesn’t. Be open to feedback. It’s important that when you’re pleasing a woman, you make her pleasure a priority – because you can bet that she has already been conditioned to make yours one.
3. Sexual encounters that involve oral sex on the female partner, clitoral stimulation and intercourse shrink the orgasm gap tremendously.
In laymen’s terms, orally satisfy the woman, stimulate her clit and penetrate her – and you’ve got the holy trinity that’s bound to make her come. At least, according to research. But there’s so much more to it than just that!
The clitoris is a powerful pleasure center, hosting around 8,000 sensitive nerve endings – twice as many nerve endings as the penis. Yet it is often sadly neglected or roughly mishandled during sex.
A common myth is that the clitoris is a one-stop button that will automatically open to the magical land of Narnia (or orgasm) when pressed. But actually, the reality is far more complicated: the way every clit responds to touch is different.
The clitoris is so sensitive that the ways in which to approach it (whether you’re using your tongue or your fingers) can vary from woman to woman; some women find too much clitoral stimulation to be uncomfortable and prefer to be touched in the surrounding areas, while others find clitoral stimulation to be the very thing that drives them over the edge. Given these differences, it’s important to be gentle, to be be aware of your speed and aggressiveness (the clitoris usually responds best to a gentle caress, not a rough rub).
Before even delving into clitoral stimulation, it’s always helpful to spend some significant time “building the tension.” Deeply kiss her and tease her – graze her face, the nape of her neck, her earlobes, her thighs, her breasts – these are all areas rich in sensitivity. Your particular partner may also have other areas where she is extra sensitive – take advantage of these too.
Prolong the erotic play for as long as possible before you include clitoral stimulation and oral sex. Do all this before even thinking about penetration. Don’t use these acts for the sake of including them half-heartedly on the way to penetration, but learn to master both of these in a way that truly fulfills your partner.
Remember that every woman is different and has different things that turn her on, as well as a different set of boundaries and desires. So always make sure you check in with her about what she is comfortable with first. If she enjoys it, integrate these sexual acts as a necessary component, rather than optional, to the sexual experience.
4. This orgasm gap was also shown to be smaller for women in relationships. Yet you can apply the same principles of “relationship sex” to any sexual encounter you have to better please a woman.
Presumably, the orgasm gap shrinks when it comes to relationships because of the level of security, trust and investment involved. After all, in a relationship, both partners are concerned with and invested in each other’s pleasure, as opposed to hookups, where male pleasure is often unfairly prioritized. Yet, the point is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Whether you have a commitment with a woman or not, it doesn’t change the fact that she is a fellow human being who has desires and needs just like you do. So for however long your interaction with her lasts, make it count. Take into account what she needs and give her your undivided attention.
This is how you really turn a woman on and keep her turned on: you make a genuine commitment to satisfy her. Not to boost your own ego, but to make her happy. To really please a woman, your focus needs to be on consent, open communication and respect to ensure a mutually satisfying experience.
5. Pain and pleasure are both active and intertwined in the brain during orgasm – literally. So, feel free to add some safe and consensual variety to your sex play.
Researchers Komisaruk and colleagues (2012) found that there are over thirty areas of the brain that are active during female orgasm – including areas of the brain that are involved in the processing of pain. According to Komisaruk, this may have something to do with the pain-relieving effects of orgasm.
The pain threshold of women increases with vaginal stimulation – which means that women are more likely to tolerate pain when they are pleasuring themselves or being pleased. Knowing this, it can be helpful to discuss with your partner how to invite this idea of “pain” or roleplaying creatively and safely into sex; whether that entails a light spanking or full-on bondage, “safe pain” and pleasure can work together to potentially heighten the experience of orgasm in women.
Some women enjoy getting creative with this concept, while others would prefer to leave it out of the experience altogether. Be sure to know what your partner actually wants before engaging in any type of activity that might make her uncomfortable. The point is not to distress her further, but to turn her on and get her to the “high orgasm” – a state of unbridled ecstasy.
Wolf (2013) calls the female orgasm a sort of trance state, writing:
“One could say that she actually becomes, biochemically, a wild woman or a maenad. She becomes so disinhibited and impervious to pain that it is as if she is in a state of altered consciousness. Women in “high” orgasm go more deeply into this trance state than at any other time. Judgment is suspended in this state, and women do not even feel pain in the same ways as in normal consciousness.”
To achieve this state of deep pleasure, women, even moreso than men, need to be removed from toxic stress from their environment. Their need for emotional safety, intimacy and assurance to achieve orgasm is (on average) greater than a man’s during intercourse.
Prioritizing Female Pleasure
This is all the more reason for society to emphasize female pleasure; orgasm for women is a bit of a superpower. Yet popular culture is always moving us away from the type of female sexual agency that would help facilitate female pleasure. Female sexuality is often stigmatized, made secret or taboo, despite the fact that it’s an extremely powerful facet of the human experience.
The existing orgasm gap has a lot to do with the way we are socialized to view sex and gender roles. Hookup culture appears to liberate women sexually, but it does so without attempting to change sexual double standards and inequity.
While times are changing and women are now more free to explore their sexuality, they are still taught to prioritize a man’s orgasm, often to the point of disregarding their own pleasure. Meanwhile, men are taught that a female orgasm is “optional” – especially during more casual encounters. As a result, women, especially younger women, are becoming increasingly sexually dissatisfied and unfulfilled when navigating modern dating culture.
If female pleasure and safety was emphasized in our discourse about sex and hookup culture, more partners might be inclined towards demonstrating equality in sexual interactions. In order for this to happen, our sexual climate and culture have to shift. But this type of change can happen right now on an individual level – starting with people remodeling their beliefs about what it means to please a woman.
Bottom line? While women do have the gift of being able to orgasm multiple times, it usually takes far more for a woman to come even just once during sex. So it’s time for society to learn more about female pleasure – and prioritize it so she does.