William Masters and Virginia Johnson’s research in the 1960s focused on intercourse but even they acknowledged that the clitoris is the source of female orgasm (NOT the vagina as is often assumed).
To explain female orgasm during intercourse, they suggested that the hood of the clitoris is pulled each time the penis thrusts into the vagina, thus providing enough clitoral stimulation for orgasm. But in 1976 Shere Hite concluded that this indirect clitoral stimulation was INSUFFICIENT to allow MOST women to orgasm during sex through intercourse alone.
These conclusions were not generally popular and, having failed to gain general acceptance, have been marginalised in modern day explanations for women’s sexual experiences.
Possible reasons for their rejection include:
- Although heterosexuals can engage in other sexual activities, vaginal intercourse is seen to be core to how a man and a woman enjoy their sexual relationship;
- Given the difficulty in identifying female sexual arousal and orgasm, it was natural to assume that women’s response to intercourse must be similar to men’s;
- The belief that women orgasm during sex as easily as men enhanced women’s attractiveness, not only in men’s eyes, but also in terms of how women saw themselves;
- Female masturbation is relatively rare and so most women approach sex through intercourse as a loving and sensual experience rather than aiming for orgasm through genital stimulation; and
- Hite’s conclusions reassure women who masturbate but they don’t help women understand how to orgasm during sex.
Clitoral stimulation is needed for orgasm
Clitoral stimulation is inevitable during female masturbation but there is a misconception that the clitoris is irrelevant to orgasm during sex. Not so: the clitoris is a woman’s sex organ and the source of female orgasm however she achieves it.
Amazingly, not all experts today agree that clitoral stimulation is required for female orgasm. The issue remains contentious because relatively few women understand that genital stimulation is required for a person to experience orgasm. So although few men would attempt to reach orgasm without stimulating their penis, many women claim to orgasm without clitoral stimulation simply because they assume (as most men do) that female orgasm arises when the penis stimulates the vagina.
Women can enjoy many aspects of touching, penetration or non-genitally focused stimulation just as men do. But if a woman wants to orgasm during sex (or alone for that matter) then she needs to stimulate her clitoris. Men orgasm by stimulating their penis directly, through masturbation, oral sex or intercourse but even they have difficulty with orgasm when genital stimulation is reduced e.g. by a condom. It is ludicrous to suggest that women can orgasm with less genital stimulation than men need.
“The source of an orgasm, then, is clitoral. But a woman can feel orgasm mainly in her clitoris or the area beneath it, or in her vagina, or both, or in the whole pelvic area including her uterus, or – indeed – flooding her whole body.“ (p75 Woman’s Experience of Sex 1983)
The clitoris is highly sensitive to touch much as the glans of the penis is. So when we talk about direct stimulation of the clitoris, my personal experience is that this involves stimulating the clitoris through the skin around (the labia) and over (the hood of) the clitoris. I tend to rub downwards from my vulva above the clitoris and press one or two fingers from each hand over the clitoris.
The sensitive clitoris is pressured through the protective layer of skin immediately around it. During masturbation, my stimulation of the clitoris is not particularly vigorous or even direct. However, stimulation can be focused at crucial moments of arousal and is far more direct than the total lack of sensation that I experience during vaginal intercourse.
Excerpt from Jane’s book Ways Women Orgasm (2011)