Unlike some species, any time of the month, human females can have sex, and they don’t have to have orgasm to ovulate or become pregnant.
Male-dominated scientific assumptions indicate much remains unclear about the female orgasm and many damaging theories exist.
A female orgasm can be highly pleasurable, and may occur with one or more partners during masturbation or sexual activity. Scientists are unclear as to whether it has any further benefits.
In this post, we look at why female orgasms occur during an orgasm, and what happens. We also debunk some misconceptions common to us.
Why do females orgasm?
The benefits of male orgasms are evident. Men have to ejaculate to deposit sperm into the vagina, which could lead to pregnancy. Consequently the male orgasm serves a specific evolutionary purpose.
The female orgasm is less clear about its intent. Scientists have proposed several potential benefits, but few have been tested rigorously and no hypothesis has any definitive scientific support.
However, not everything the body does has a specific purpose. Scientists have not discovered the evolutionary advantages of certain traits which persisted in humans.
A 2016 study argues that there may be no obvious evolutionary benefit to the female orgasm, and that it may be a relic of a time when a woman needs to ovulate the hormones associated with orgasm.
As there was no evolutionary need to eliminate the female orgasm, it persisted even when fertility was no longer needed.
But orgasm may serve important purposes. The pleasure it can offer will stimulate sex for women. This can also promote bonding with a sexual partner which has significant evolutionary advantages
What happens during an orgasm?
Blood flow to the genitals increases during an orgasm, making them more responsive.
As arousal increases, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate may also increase in a person. The muscles could twitch or spasm as orgasm approaches. Many women experience spasms of rhythmic muscle in the vagina during an orgasm.
Several researchers have suggested that, although their theories about these stages differ, sexual response follows specific stages.
- excitement, during which arousal builds
- plateau, during which arousal increases and levels off
- orgasm, which causes intense feelings of pleasure
- resolution, during which arousal diminishes
After resolution, many females are able to have another orgasm, whereas males usually require a period of rest before they have another orgasm.
While the internet is loaded with articles that promise orgasms to enhance skin, hair, and overall health, no scientific evidence is available that orgasms provide any specific health benefits.
No evolutionary advantages of female orgasms have been established by scientists or found that orgasms improve health.
But it is fun to have orgasms, and enjoyment may be its own gain. Pleasurable sex can improve the mood of a person, relieve stress, increase immunity, and foster better relationships.
Women don’t need to get pregnant with orgasm. A limited body of evidence, however, suggests orgasms can improve fertility.
For example, one very small study tested whether the sperm retention after female orgasm was better. While the findings have confirmed this, showing that the female body better maintains sperm after an orgasm would take larger studies of higher quality designs.
Men have many myths regarding female orgasms. Several misconceptions include:
There are psychological problems for women who can not orgasm.
While trauma, relationship issues, and poor mental health can make orgasm more difficult, many people with healthy sexual attitudes and good relationships still face problems.
An orgasm is both a physical and a psychological response, and this way, numerous health issues can make it harder to enjoy sex.
Some people struggle to orgasm due to inadequate lubrication. This may happen while taking hormonal birth control, or during or after pregnancy, or due to menopause.
Also, women can experience vulvodynia, which refers to unexplained pain in the vagina or around the vulva. Treating this and other medical conditions may improve sexual pleasure.
Orgasms from penetrative sex are common or the healthiest form of sexual expression.
Self-appointed experts, mostly men, have long told women that they must orgasm from heterosexual intercourse. However, many women can only orgasm from clitoral stimulation.
Sigmund Freud argued that the vaginal orgasm was the superior and more mature orgasm. No evidence supports this claim.
Women cannot have vaginal orgasms.
While vaginal orgasms are less common than those from clitoral stimulation, some women have them — with or without other stimulation.
The female orgasm can result from many types of stimulation, including vaginal, clitoral, and nipple contact.
Not everyone orgasms from the same type of stimulation.
Women need to be in love to orgasm.
Orgasm is a complex psychological and biological experience — reaching and experiencing orgasm is not the same for every woman. Some women may need to feel love to orgasm, while others may not.
A person’s relationship with their partner may or may not influence their ability to orgasm during sex.
A 2018 study found that 86% of lesbian women said they usually or always orgasm during sex, compared to just 66% of bisexual women and 65% of heterosexual women.
Participants were more likely to orgasm frequently if they:
- received more oral sex
- had longer-lasting sex
- reported higher relationship satisfaction
- asked for what they wanted in bed
- engaged in sexual emails or calls
- expressed love during sex
- acted out sexual fantasies
- tried new sexual positions
A partner can tell if a woman has had an orgasm.
If a woman has had an orgasm without telling her, there is no way to tell. During an orgasm some people make noises while others are silent. After an orgasm some flush or sweat but others don’t.
A person who wants to know if they had an orgasm from their partner can ask without being confrontational.
If the answer is no, avoid judgment, anger, or feelings of inadequacy— these can put pressure to orgasm on the person, which can cause anxiety and make it harder. Instead, discuss whether they would prefer to approach sex differently.
What if you can’t orgasm?
It’s a common problem not being able to orgasm and it can happen for a variety of reasons. Many people may not get the right kind of stimulation during puberty, while others may have had trauma associated with sex. Some might just not be involved.
A 2018 study of 135 previous studies established many factors that increase the risk of sexual dysfunction, among them:
- relationship problems
- mental health issues
- poor physical health
- genitourinary issues, such as pelvic pain
- a history of abortion
- a history of female genital mutilation
- sexual abuse
- being religious, perhaps due to sexual shame and stigma
The same study identified several modifiable risk factors that improve sexual experience, including:
- daily affection from a partner
- a positive body image
- sex education
- intimate communication with a partner
Masturbation can help a person find what they’re feeling good about. Other strategies which could help include:
- using sexual lubricants to make sex more comfortable
- asking a partner to stimulate the clitoris during sex
- masturbating during sex
- discussing fantasies with a partner
- telling a partner if something does not feel good
The aforementioned 2018 study comparing the frequency of orgasms among people of different sexual orientations in the United States found that the following behaviors during sex increase the likelihood of women having an orgasm:
- deep kissing
- genital stimulation during vaginal intercourse
- oral sex
If self-help strategies don’t work, if there’s one, a doctor who’s specialized in sexual dysfunction can identify a problem.
Many medical issues can make having an orgasm difficult, including:
- a lack of lubrication
- hormonal imbalances
- pelvic pain
- muscle dysfunction
- a history of trauma
When trauma or relationship issues make it difficult to have an orgasm, or when a person feels ashamed of sex or their desires, counseling by individuals or couples may help.
Relevant scientific research is relatively recent on female orgasm. Even some doctors may still believe myths about the female orgasm or think it is irrelevant to the sexual experience of women.
That means many people may have difficulty accessing reliable orgasm information.
A skilled, compassionate medical practitioner can help a person understand the orgasm process and identify potential barriers to sexual satisfaction.
There is no right way of orgasm, and no right way of feeling about sex. People should do that which they feel good.