Attention Men, Intercourse Alone Brings Few Women to Orgasm

For women’s pleasure, your penis is less important than your fingers and tongue.

Posted Aug 31, 2020

Intercourse reliably brings around 95 percent of men to orgasm. What proportion of women climax that way? Substantially fewer than many, if not most men imagine.

The general—mistaken—male view is that, like men, the vast majority of women can reliably have orgasms during vaginal intercourse. That’s what most movies and TV shows present. The guy mounts the gal. He thrusts a few times. She moans in supposed ecstasy. And then it appears they both come. Actually, this is nonsense that miseducates men and frustrates many women.

The Clitoris Rediscovered

In their 1966 book, Human Sexual Response, pioneering sex researchers William Masters, MD, and Virginia Johnson identified the organ that triggers women’s orgasms. It’s not the vagina but the clitoris, the female equivalent of the head of the penis. The visible clit is the little nub of erotically sensitive tissue that sits outside the vagina an inch or two above it, beneath the top junction of the vaginal lips. 

Ironically, Masters’ and Johnson’s discovery was actually very old news. Many ancient cultures had celebrated the clitoris’s primacy in women’s pleasure and orgasms. But the 19th century Victorian era effectively erased that knowledge from Western medicine. Masters and Johnson rediscovered it. But almost a decade passed for their finding to percolate out to the public. 

In 1974, New York feminist activist Dell Williams launched Eve’s Garden, the world’s first store dedicated to women’s erotic pleasure. Eve’s Garden promoted vibrators for self-stimulation. In 1977, San Francisco sex educator Joni Blank founded a similar store, Good Vibrations. And around this time, New York women’s sexuality activist Betty Dodson began offering workshops that taught women to use their hands and vibrators for more and better orgasms. (Both Eve’s Garden and Good Vibrations are still in business. Dodson is 91 and in a nursing home.)

What Proportion of Women Are Orgasmic from Just Intercourse?

If the male public bone rubs against the clitoris during intercourse, some women can climax. How many? No one knew until 2005 when Indiana University professor Elizabeth A. Lloyd combed the research. In The Case of the Female Orgasm, she concluded that only 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic from intercourse alone.

More recent research suggests that’s an over-estimate. In 2018, other Indiana University researchers published a survey of a representative 1,055 American women age 18 to 94. Only 18 percent—about one in six—said they could come from intercourse alone. The rest—82 percent—said they needed direct clitoral stimulation. And 36 percent said that no matter how they climaxed, orgasms felt more satisfying when the lovemaking included gentle, extended clitoral caresses.

Also in 2018, University of Florida professor Laurie Mintz, PhD, published Becoming Clitorate. Her review of the research showed that 80 to 95 percent of women need at least some direct clitoral caressing to climax. 

No one is disparaging intercourse. If it’s consensual and well lubricated, if men don’t plunge in before women feel ready, and if it takes place in the context of leisurely, playful, mutual whole-body massage, intercourse can be wonderful. But contrary to media portrayals and what many men (and some women) believe, intercourse alone brings surprisingly few women to orgasm.

Australian researchers asked 5,118 men and women age 16 to 59 which sexual moves they’d enjoyed during their most recent partner sex and if their repertoire had produced orgasm. Three moves predominated: hand jobs/fingering, fellatio/cunnilingus, and vaginal intercourse. Among the men, all three produced similar likelihoods of orgasm—just intercourse (96 percent), hand job plus intercourse (95 percent), hand job, fellatio, and intercourse (98 percent). But intercourse alone brought only 50 percent of the women to orgasm. With intercourse plus hand jobs/fingering, the figure rose to 71 percent. With cunnilingus added, it reached 86 percent.

Researchers at Chapman University in Southern California analyzed orgasms among 52,588 American adults. Lesbians reported orgasms in 86 percent of encounters, heterosexual women, only 65 percent. The main reason for the difference: The lesbians received more oral sex. 

Lessons for Men

• Intercourse  is usually necessary for reproduction. But for women’s sexual satisfaction, direct clitoral caresses by hand, mouth, and/or toy are where it’s at.

• Many men and some women believe there’s something wrong with women who don’t come during intercourse. Actually, it’s perfectly normal for women not to. 

• Penis size and lasting forever don’t matter to most women’s sexual satisfaction. Only a small minority climax during intercourse no matter how large the erection or how long intercourse lasts. Most women need direct stimulation. 

• It’s fine to have sex without intercourse—especially for couples over 45. With age, most men develop erection problems, and menopausal changes often make intercourse uncomfortable for women, even with lubricant. Many older couples jettison intercourse for “outercourse”: kissing, cuddling, mutual whole-body massage, hand jobs/fingering, oral, toys, and perhaps some kink. Younger lovers might also consider this erotic alternative.

The Clit Test

In Glasgow, Scotland, 34-year-old Frances Rayner felt miseducated about sex. “Growing up, I was clueless about my own pleasure. No one ever told me about the clitoris. From a young age, I knew about blow jobs, vaginal intercourse, and male masturbation. But nothing in the media taught me how women’s bodies work beyond periods and pregnancy.”

In early 2020, Rayner and a friend, Irene Tortajad, a 26-year-old Spaniard, developed The Clit Test, a site that grades movies and TV shows pass or fail based on their sensitivity to women’s sexuality. Shows whose sex scenes depict only intercourse fail. To pass, they must show or clearly imply clitoral stimulation. Anyone may grade a show pass or fail.

Rayner and Tortajad hope their efforts build a groundswell that encourages producers to present lovemaking more realistically. If the site can raise sufficient funds, Rayner and Tortajad hope to present awards to shows that pass The Clit Test and establish a Hall of Shame for those that don’t. 

PS: What about women who insist they have vaginal or G spot orgasms? The G spot, embedded in the front wall of the vagina, is actually a hidden part of the clitoris—see my previous post

PPS: What about couples who’d like the woman to come during intercourse? Three positions allow either lover to provide direct clitoral caresses by hand or toy—woman on top, rear entry (doggie), and spooning (her back to his chest). In addition, a slight variation on the man-on-top (missionary) position also improves women’s chances of climaxing during intercourse—see my previous post on the coital alignment technique.

References

Frederick, D.A.et al. “Differences In Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample,” Archives of Sexual Behavior  (2018) 47:273.

Herbenick, D. et al. “Women’s Experience with Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, and Orgasm: Results from a U.S. Probability Sample of Women Ages 18 to 94,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2018) 44:201.

Lloyd, Elizabeth. The Case of the Female Orgasm. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005.

Mintz, Laurie B. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It. HarperOne, NY, 2018.

Pierce, A.P. “The Coital Alignment Technique (CAT): An Overview of Studies,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2000) 26:257.

Richters, J. et al. “Sexual Practices at Last Heterosexual Encounter and Occurrence of Orgasm in a National Survey,” Journal of Sex Research (2006) 43:217.