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.

The phases of a cancer diagnosis might be compared with those of dealing with the death of a loved one: denial, bargaining, anger, and eventually acceptance. Fortunately for many, there IS life after cancer. A sexual life too, that part of one’s life may have been put on the back-burner during cancer treatment. The statistics on survivorship are astounding, creating a “before” and “after” picture for many.  It is important to understand both of them. Progression-free survival rates indicate no new tumors have formed. Whereas disease-free survival rates refer to remission, cancer free. The death rate from breast cancer has fallen 34% since 1991. Following the grueling chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery, it might not immediately occur to patients and their partners to re-connect through sexual activity.  I would encourage you or anyone you know in the survivorship phase, however, to make it a priority. Absent sexual activity, all genital tissues (skin, mucus membranes, and muscles), suffer from disuse atrophy. The good news is this: with the intention to connect or reconnect with your partner, and the use of various products available (if necessary), solutions to sexual activity may result in your “new normal.” Your body image, to the degree it suffered during cancer treatment may need a boost and a re-boot. A renewed sexual life can often help.

Sexual Healing
Whether due to cancer, certain medications that interfere with sexual response such as antidepressants, or menopause, sexual response changes during a lifetime. Menopause can be a premature consequence of cancer treatment. Both chemotherapy and pelvic radiation can result in menopause regardless of a woman’s age. Lubricants and vaginal moisturizers are readily available, but I caution you to look at the ingredients, as some may be irritants to those delicate tissues. Ingredients such as those found in spermicides, benzyl alcohol, and materials such as latex can cause discomfort for some.

With the sudden onset of menopause from surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, many women find that they experience intense vaginal dryness, and pain with sex (usually at the time of penetration). To mitigate this issue, vaginal moisturizers which are used on a routine basis whether one is having sex or not, can help to bring water into the vagina. Think about vaginal moisturizers like the moisturizer you use on your skin…you don’t just apply it when you are getting your picture taken. You use it on a regular basis. And lubricants (they aren’t the same as moisturizers) which come in oil, silicone, water-based, and mixtures of each of these can solve the dryness and lack of natural lubrication missing after some cancer treatments. Lubricants are used at the time one is having sex. They help the vagina operate as it once did naturally, and can make sexual activity more pleasurable by easing friction and lessening pain.

Enhance Sexual Pleasure
The marketplace has been flooded with sex-positive devices to enhance the sexual experience for both men and women. Toys, vibrators, dildos, and much more have piqued the curiosity of people who want to try something new. A medically accurate fantastic and friendly site can help educate you and your partner about new products, techniques and “tools” to keep your sensual side smoldering. Our office stocks a variety of such sexual aids and can help with proper selection, especially when sexual function is hampered. Keeping an open and honest discussion with your partner about your needs and interests, as they change in the “new normal” can alleviate anxiety and further build on a relationship that has endured and surpassed, the diagnosis of cancer. Get personal. Have fun. Explore.
To learn more please call the office at (202)293-1000 or email the practice at

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