The Neuroscience of Female Orgasms
Research shows how women can close the "climax gap" with men.
Posted March 15, 2015
In the orgasm department, men would seem to have it all over women.
The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction found that 75 percent of men report always having an orgasm during intercourse, whereas only 29 percent of women do. With extra stimulation (e.g., vibrators) during sex, a third of women experience orgasm, but another third never orgasm during intercourse. Moreover, about 10 percent of women live their entire lives without ever experiencing an orgasm under any circumstances. I was unable to find similar statistics for men, but I suspect the percent who’ve never climaxed in their life is far lower than 10 percent.
For those women interested in having more orgasms, new brain-imaging research offers hints about how to do it, without the use of sex toys or even altering their partner’s behavior.
Dr. JR Georgiadis and colleagues at the University of Groningen studied the brain responses of women during sexual stimulation and orgasm, identifying through brain scans which parts of the brain “lit up” during different phases of sexual arousal and climax (induced by the women’s sex partners). The researchers also examined which areas of the brain decreased activity during orgasm.
Interestingly, Georgiadis's work suggested that increasing the odds of climaxing during sex may lie more in the areas of the brain that “ turn off ” than those that “turn on.” Whereas structures deep in the brain, such as the ventral midbrain and caudate nucleus, light up during female orgasm, certain regions of the frontal and temporal lobes show significantly decreased activity. Of particular interest to Georgiadis was the left Orbital Frontal Cortex (OFC) in the frontal lobe, which he believes plays a role in controlling and inhibiting sexual response.
These findings are significant, because they suggest that anorgasmic women could learn to “turn off” their Left OFC — essentially letting go of control and entering an altered state of consciousness — and experience more orgasms.
Neuroscientist Dr. Barry Komisiruk, who has also imaged women’s brains during arousal and orgasm, reached an opposite conclusion to Georgiadis, finding that women’s OFCs actually “turned on” during orgasms. The apparent contradiction with Georgiadis’s study could stem from the different ways that women climaxed in the two studies. In Georgiadis’s work, partners stimulated the women, while women self-stimulated in Komisiruk’s research. This “contradiction” in results is intriguing, because it suggests that the brain might reach orgasm in different ways, depending upon whether a woman is masturbating or having sex with a partner.
Either way, Dr. Komisiruk suggests that women might train themselves to have orgasms by using neurofeedback devices during genital stimulation (whether self-administered or through a partner) to condition their brains to get progressively closer to a neural state (either turning on or off the left OFC) that will lead them to climax.
If neurofeedback (or other brain-wave modifying techniques, such as progressive relaxation, mediation, or guided imagery) does the trick, then women might eventually close the ”orgasm gap” with men, ending centuries of inequality in the bedroom.
And given women’s ability to have multiple orgasms per session, while men typically have only one, women may someday have it all over men in the orgasm department.