Much of what is known about female orgasm comes from women’s experience of masturbation. Shere Hite’s work focused on female masturbation and the clitoris.
As a research student in the United States in the early 1970s, Shere (pronounced ‘sherry’) Hite circulated a lengthy questionnaire through women’s magazines and to passers-by on the street. She asked women to answer direct questions about orgasm anonymously.
Only 30% of her respondents said that they were able to regularly reach orgasm from intercourse whereas most women who masturbated found it easy to reach orgasm. By comparing the two experiences, Shere Hite concluded that women will find orgasm more difficult to achieve through intercourse because of the reduced clitoral stimulation.
The Hite Report explained why intercourse is unlikely to lead to female orgasm but it did not explain why a woman cannot orgasm with a partner by obtaining the clitoral stimulation needed for orgasm either from manual stimulation of the clitoris or through oral sex.
In common with other sex researchers, Hite’s focus was primarily on the physical aspects of sex. Of course, the other characteristic of masturbation that is missing during sex is fantasy. That is unless a woman finds a way to incorporate sexual fantasies into her sex life.
Later when I came across the fact that some women use fantasy to orgasm during sex, I was amazed. I could not imagine how it was possible since my use of fantasy requires a highly focused state of mind that is incompatible with sex with a partner.
Women use sexual fantasies both alone and with a partner
The realisation that some women do use fantasy during sex (and I was able to confirm this with a few of the woman I spoke to) allowed me to see a parallel with my experience of orgasm from masturbation. I realised that although I used clitoral stimulation during masturbation it only worked when combined with an appreciation of eroticism through sexual fantasies.
Sheila Kitzinger made the point that sex, especially sexual arousal, arises primarily in the brain. I then realised that most accounts of sex focus heavily on PHYSICAL stimulation techniques and that PSYCHOLOGICAL arousal tends to be simply assumed or overlooked. I concluded that this is probably because psychological sexual arousal for men is usually a given.
My suggestion is that just as men need EROTIC IMAGES and stimulation of the PENIS for orgasm, women need EROTIC STORIES and stimulation of the CLITORIS for orgasm. This is my explanation of how I have reached that conclusion and how it fits with men’s experiences of sexual arousal and orgasm.
It makes sense that women will need to use fantasy more than men to reach orgasm during sex. Women have much lower levels of testosterone, the hormone that boosts sex drive. Also the naked male body does not cause women to become aroused enough for orgasm (otherwise women would buy porn as men do).
There is no logical reason why sexual fantasies should not be a part of our sex life (whether or not admitted to a partner). This conclusion helps explain why foreplay techniques may not be as effective as we would hope because, just as during female masturbation, women’s sexual arousal relies on sexual fantasies.
Excerpt from Jane’s book Ways Women Orgasm (2011)