Wellness

Women reveal their sexiest stats in new orgasm study

There is no one true science of the female orgasm

There is no one true science of the female orgasm

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Human explorations of the female orgasm have taken us on a brow-furrowing arc across time: medieval musings on the dangerous buildup of "female semen", the resulting Victorian "science" of (suspiciously) uniquely female hysteria and frigidity, and an eventual tidal wave of "helpful" magazine copy promising quintessential techniques sure to end in total and complete female sexual satisfaction. Ultimately, it's been a bit of a clumsy fumble through the ages leaving many properly frustrated.

Mercifully, the last half century or so has also yielded some genuinely satiating scientific data on the subject. Dr. Debby Herbenick, professor of applied science at Indiana University, is adding to considerable findings that support a refreshing theory: everybody's different. Or put another way: every body is different. No, not all roads lead to moan.

Herbenick's recent study, aptly named "Women's Experiences with Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, and Orgasm", surveyed 1,055 American women ages 18 to 94 and found that a vast multiplicity of preferences lead to a kind of hierarchy of satisfaction for most women.

A massive 77.5% of women said their orgasms ranged in consistency from colossal to cute, if they climax at all. Prowess may not be the real issue - trading sexual skill set for better pillow talk could be the solution to more consistent playtime payoffs.  

While it may sound a bit like no duh data (scientifically speaking), women have really distinct sets of sensual predilections when it comes to maximum climaxing. Herbenick says the solution isn't buying into great copy and reductive advice but rather communication. "Women are highly diverse when it comes to what turns them on and what kinds of touch they find pleasurable, which underscores just how important it is for couples to explore together, to be open to talking with one another about sexual techniques, and to develop a language that helps them to share their desires with one another." True sexual sagaciousness lies in communication. The female orgasm, though much better understood today, remains tricky to pin down.

Whatever your relation to female genitalia, if you're feeling overwhelmed that there may be as many varieties of arousal as there are vulvas, don't panic. There are some broader scientific strokes we can rely on (though note that not everyone likes those on their privates). Still, Herbenick's data have solidified some stimulating stats - and they are, as promised, diverse.

When it came to garnering full gratification, 36.6 percent of women absolutely needed clitoral stimulation during sex while about half that, 18.4 percent, get off through vaginal penetration alone. One grouping, about 36 percent, said clitoral stimulation wasn't needed to reach orgasm but it sure didn't hurt. "Our data show the possibilities for women who are interested in not just having orgasms, but orgasm enhancement – for example, more than one-third of women don't require clitoral stimulation during intercourse in order to have an orgasm, but they find that clitoral stimulation makes their orgasms better," says Herbenick. So, do keep an extra hand handy. Unless you're with the 5 percent who preferred their clitoris remain off limits altogether during sex. Sadly, as high as 9 percent reported no orgasm through sex at all, regardless of stimuli.

To add to the mélange and miscellany, there were variations in preference for oral and manual stimulation too. An up and down fence-painting motion on the vulva got a lip-biting bravo from 63.7 percent of women while 30.6 cheered for a side-to-side frottage. Circular movements were celebrated by a just over half (51.6 percent). The highest cluster of women, 75 percent, gave a resounding two curled toes up to a rhythmic tongue or hand massage circling the clitoris, but with an occasional switching of both motion and intensity.

Applying precise pressure, squeezing, tapping and pulling were the least favoured approaches to primal pleasure. My credentials as a lover aside, I might have guessed that vulva pulling wasn't a runaway hit.

Herbenick is careful to point out that we're still in a kind of scientific infancy when is comes to sexual health. "There's always more to learn and certainly future research might focus on men's preferred techniques, as well as people's preferred techniques with oral sex, intercourse, sex toy play, or any number of ways that people explore their sexuality."

She also has a history of using her scientific skills for the greater good (read greater gratification), leading her team to collect data for sex's sake . "Our research team has long valued studying sexual pleasure in its own right." A welcome intersection of science and hedonism. Still, she maintains that self-knowledge is a good place to start your own scientific process. "The idea of exploring your body, gaining these insights, and being able to enhance your own experience is key."  

In the end, it seems you'd be better served stuffing the data, ignoring all climax-driven copy and listening first to yourself. Turns out your own erotic experiments are the one true science of the female orgasm.