Researchers have discovered many of facets related to women’s biological and physiological reactions, but when it comes to sexual response, there is still a learning curve. However, there is great news! A recent study on sexual pleasure among women, reports that certain variations of genital touch are pleasurable, preferable, and/or associated with orgasm. Women know this but at what level? As we discussed in our previous blog, women’s early sexual partners provided them with their only sex education; with little knowledge and much fumbling, clitoral pleasure, for example, was discovered almost by accident. Sharing sexual history is important for women as patients, medical professionals, and sexual wellness educators. Helping women to communicate as honestly as they can with their medical care team, can help to improve women’s sexual health and wellness and overall fulfillment.

Sexual Pleasure Study
A large-scale study about women’s pleasure was conducted in partnership with OMGYes Sexual Pleasure Project: Women and Touch and researchers at Indiana University’s School of Public Health and The Kinsey Institute in 2015. The team asked 1,055 women ages 18 to 94 years to take an internet study that asked specific questions about genital touch, sensation, pleasure, and orgasm. Previous studies that have focused on more specific techniques related to women’s sexual pleasure and orgasm have not fully examined types of touching in detail. Rather, they have often focused on stimulation of particular body sites such as the clitoris, “g-spot,” or breasts/nipples, and so on. But this study was specifically focused on one area, to gather as much information in greater detail than has been previously recorded. The full report is in the July issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.

Orgasm during Intercourse
Of the survey respondents, 347 women who ever had intercourse reported that they needed clitoral stimulation in order to have an orgasm; 341 said that although they did not require clitoral stimulation for orgasm during intercourse, adding it enhanced orgasm; and 174 reported that vaginal penetration alone during intercourse was sufficient for orgasm. The remaining 71women reported they did not have orgasms during intercourse.

We’re All Different and That’s Okay
Respondents varied widely on at least four areas: (1) location, (2) pressure, (3)
shape/style, and (4) patterns. Women might find it helpful to think about these different dimensions of genital touch or stimulation when exploring their sexual response during solo or partnered sexual play. Having these four dimensions of touch in mind may give individuals or couples more direction to experiment and find out what works best for her/them!

Results also shed light on orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse. In the study sample, some women reported experiencing orgasm from penetration alone (without additional clitoral stimulation), however more than half do so infrequently. Specifically, more than have the respondents experienced orgasm 50% of the time without clitoral stimulation, sometimes less so.

Question and Answers
As an example of how detailed this study was this question exemplifies the desire to better understand the source of pleasure when being touched:

“When you or your partner use fingers/hands/mouths/tongues, where
primarily do you prefer your genitals to be touched?” with the ability to choose all that applied.

Options were:

  • directly on clitoris, on the skin around clitoris
  • avoid touching clitoris directly
  • occasionally brushing over clitoris but not applying pressure to it
    on vaginal lips (labia minora or labia majora)
  • on the mons (the pubic mound; the triangular part where pubic hair grows)
  • Something else, please describe.

What’s Next?
The purpose of this study was to provide data on sexual pleasure among women, and specifically some variations of genital touch that are pleasurable, preferable, and/or associated with orgasm. Overall, results demonstrated substantial variability among American women’s preferences. Some kinds of genital touching or stimulation were more often preferred than others and most women endorsed a narrow range of touch techniques, underscoring the value of partner communication to sexual pleasure and satisfaction. We can learn a lot by asking questions of our patients and our partners.

If you have questions about your sexual wellness please contact our compassionate and caring staff at (202) 293-1000.

Women have the only organ in the human body exclusively dedicated to pleasure: the clitoris! This humorous brief documentary educates people and reveals something very telling: the clitoris has been ignored and hidden—by society, medical professionals, and educators. For many women, their early sexual partners provided them with their only sex education; with little knowledge and much fumbling, clitoral pleasure was discovered almost by accident.

Think about it. Have you ever been taught how to look at your clitoris? Has a doctor ever asked you about your clitoris or examined it? Medical professionals are not routinely taught the anatomy of the clitoris (Even some of the most famous textbooks don’t mention it!), and it is not considered part of the routine female pelvic exam. This poses a big problem. If doctors don’t know what a normal clitoris looks like, how will they know what to do when questions or problems come up? What kind of doctor do you see if you have a problem with your clitoris? (Pssst: There is no such thing as a clitorologist!)

Clitoral Problems
Pain in the clitoris (called “clitorodynia”) is considered a localized form of vulvodynia (vulvar pain) and is thought to occur in 5% of women who complain of painful intercourse. Pain can be due to adhesions or scarring of the clitoris where the clitoral hood (aka the prepuce) gets stuck to the glans clitoris. This can lead to trapping and buildup of oils and dead skin cells which cause underlying irritation and infection. Women describe the pain as burning, stinging, or sharp—some have likened it to the sensation of having a grain of sand in your eye. It can affect the whole pelvis and just feel like “pain down there.” Clitorodynia can make a sexual experience difficult, if not impossible. As well as potentially leading to female sexual dysfunction, it can also make everyday life excruciating because the “pain down there” can be present all the time, even without sexual activity.

Help is here
Doctors trained in sexual medicine can diagnose and treat clitoral problems! With a specialized physical exam and several diagnostic tests, the underlying cause for your pain can be found. Luckily a number of successful medical and surgical treatment options are available.

For example, at a recent national conference, our newest practice member urologist Rachel Rubin, MD, presented research on a new minimally invasive in-office procedure to remove clitoral adhesions. In this study, 15 women with clitorodynia reported complete resolution of their adhesions after the treatment, with the majority reporting improvement in or elimination of their pain symptoms.

Speak up
Sexual health is an important part of your general health. You deserve a pleasurable, pain-free sexual experience. If you have discomfort or pain, we are here to help. Please call us at (202) 293-1000 if you are experiencing any symptoms so we can work together to improve your sexual health.

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