In the film ‘Private Benjamin’, a group of female army recruits sits around a campfire during an overnight exercise.
One of the women says: “I had an orgasm once…” and the others giggle. She goes on to say in a disappointed tone “…but I was alone!” Her girlfriends laugh sympathetically.
In the film, Goldie Hawn plays a spoilt young woman approaching thirty who has been married twice. Happily stoned from smoking marijuana she continues the theme:
“Well, … once when I was with my first husband I got to this place … that was kind of nice and tingly and … I don’t know if this was an official orgasm … but I counted it as one for five years.” She laughs, presumably at her own naivety. Later in the film, she appears to genuinely orgasm during sex with a new lover. She comments: “Well, now I know what I have been faking all these years!”
“Orgasm is not just a vague feeling.” (p73 Woman’s Experience of Sex 1983)
Many women never orgasm during sex: not because women are dysfunctional but because sex is not designed to facilitate female orgasm either physically or psychologically. Unlike men, women are much less versatile in how they are able to orgasm. A woman often finds only one way to orgasm and unfortunately the easiest way is through masturbation alone.
Women who think they orgasm during sex when they don’t
To a man, it must be incomprehensible that a woman of thirty can be unsure about whether she has ever had an orgasm. For vaginal intercourse to be possible, a man has to be aroused in order to have an erection. Women, on the other hand, attribute a whole range of feelings to sexual arousal in the absence of the knowledge of what real female orgasms feel like.
“When you have an orgasm the pelvic floor muscles always contract. If that does not happen you are not having an orgasm.” (p77 Woman’s Experience of Sex 1983)
When I orgasm with a partner (by combining clitoral and anal stimulation) he can definitely feel my pelvic contractions. During masturbation, when using fantasy I would describe orgasm as losing full consciousness of your immediate physical surroundings. As a guide, if you are not sure then it has probably not happened yet. Female masturbation is relatively uncommon and so most women have much less familiarity with their own sexual arousal and orgasm than men typically have.
One of the key mis-understandings is that vaginal intercourse is a reproductive act whereby the male impregnates the female. The vagina, as part of the birth canal, has very few nerve endings and so intercourse by itself is unlikely to lead to female orgasm, which is not required for reproduction. Female orgasm represents one of Nature’s redundancies.
Of course, the converse also follows. Just as vaginal intercourse is not designed to facilitate female orgasm, women are also not as strongly motivated by orgasm as men tend to be. Orgasm represents a relatively small proportion of women’s total sexuality. A woman who has never had an orgasm thinks of sex as ‘making love’ without necessarily even hoping for orgasm.
There is nothing wrong with this and many women are content with what they have. However, this makes it difficult to compare notes with others because women account for their sexual experiences so differently. Even well-informed and mature women can believe that they orgasm (when they don’t) simply because they do not know what real female orgasms feel like.
Excerpt from Jane’s book Ways Women Orgasm (2011)