Sex + Dating

Let's Stop Acting Like Women's Orgasms Are So Complicated

women's orgasms aren't complicated
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Scientists are at it again, trying to unlock the ongoing enigma of why women orgasm.

The latest explanation suggests that 150 million years ago, orgasms of the female, mammalian variety cued the body to release eggs for fertilization. That would make today's female orgasms a happy remnant of those ancient reproductive ties that human beings no longer need since we've evolved to have an automatic, built-in ovulation cycle.

This theory comes after decades of other hypotheses suggesting everything from strict "practical" biological motivations to accidental anatomy. What there's not a lot of debate on is why men orgasm. They do it because it feels good, thus motivating them to spread more of their sticky little seeds out into willing and welcoming wombs. Many people use this as further evidence of how "simple" men are; implying women are somehow more complicated.

Well… turns out that's not necessarily the case.

The "orgasm gap" is due more to technique than anything else

A popular survey of Cosmo readers unearthed some abysmal data. While 57% of female readers reported orgasming most or every time they had sex, 95% of men said they reached the big O every time. This is what sexologists have started to call the orgasm gap, with different surveys consistently reporting women orgasming less than men during sex.

A meta-analysis of 33 scientific studies similarly found that many ladies just aren't getting theirs in the bedroom. Only 25% of women reported consistently experiencing orgasm during sex, while 50% sometimes did. Twenty percent seldom did, and 5% of women never experienced orgasm at all.

Of course, type of sex matters for women. While only a third of women can consistently orgasm from p-in-v sex, if you add in some external clitoral stimulation an additional third can reliably finish. This suggests sex type and technique may contribute to who gets their rocks off and who doesn't.

Having more paths to orgasm doesn't make women more complicated

Back in the '60s, doctors Masters and Johnson were the first to attempt to chart out the human orgasm which they called the "human sexual response cycle."

The doctors hooked up participants and asked them to masturbate. They found a pattern in male orgasms that typically followed this trajectory: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Although many women followed a similar pattern, Masters and Johnson actually created three different models for women, suggesting that women's orgasms can take a bunch of different fun paths including extended plateau and multiple orgasms. It's not so much that women are complicated, they just have more paths to orgasm than men.

Women don't necessarily take longer to get off, either

The pair of doctors also helped disprove a still-circulating, largely accepted myth that women's sexual response cycles are longer than men's. NOT TRUE. Masters and Johnson discovered instead that, on average, men took four minutes to orgasm during sex. And while with partnered intercourse women would take 10 to 20 minutes to reach orgasm, they only took four minutes -- just like men -- to peak when they masturbated.

Of course, there is a bunch of stuff that goes on in our heads and in our bodies that leads us sprinting through that plateau and on to resolution. But for women, the physicality of what is causing a female orgasm has often been dubbed a "mystery."

The feminine "mystique" is really just a winged butterfly named "clitoris"

Turns out it is not so much a mystery as it is just the clitoris; the big, internal, winged, beautiful clitoris. For years people have differentiated between a clitoral stimulation and a vaginal one. But turns out that little bulb of the clitoris actually is part of a much bigger, juicy organ that sweeps back into the body and also the labia. (There are some great 3D models to check out to get a better picture.)

For women, stimulation of one area of the vulva might actually be connected in many ways to all other parts of the sexual organs. So "flicking the bean" may actually cause a chain reaction of stimulation throughout the vagina and behind the labia. There really is no such thing as an only clitoral or only vaginal orgasm. The entirety of the clit's gorgeous, hidden self is so connected to the rest of the lady bits that clitoral and vaginal orgasms are really one in the same. It's just that some women's bodies are put together in different ways so that touching the head of the clitoris may be more stimulating than the labia, or vice versa.

Just like some men like the shaft of the penis stroked more and some the head and some are all about the balls. We all are put together differently which brings us different kinds of sexy pleasure; but none of those types of sensations are better or worse than the others.

Let's not write women off as too complex

While searching for an answer can be scientific and useful, it often isn't that complicated. Women have been made to feel their sexuality is somehow elusive. The truth? Society makes it that way -- not your body. Your lady bits are not beyond understanding, not abnormal, and definitely not impossible to know.

So hump a pillow if it feels good. Get one of those removable shower heads and go to town. Invest in a great big vibrator. Ask your partner to spend more time going down on you. Hell, dry hump 'til you both have rug burns. Explore your orgasm without feeling the need to justify or expect anything. In time, and regardless of what the next 100 studies say, you'll come to understand it just fine.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Niki Fritz is a writer of feministy and occasionally funny words, a drinker of coffee and whiskey, and a studier of pornography. (No legitimately! She’s a grad student in the Media School at Indiana University.)