Getting turned on and reaching orgasm is pretty complex.
There’s a mental and physical side to climaxing and different branches of the nervous system are involved. So it makes sense that a lot of things have to go right for a person to orgasm. It also means that when someone has difficulty climaxing, there are a number of different explanations.
Mental causes often get the blame for sexual problems like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, and anorgasmia (not being able to orgasm) in a woman.
But sexual dysfunction is not always in someone’s head. A group of US researchers recently set out to pinpoint where the problems might lie.
They tracked down all the studies they could find on the anatomy of sexual organs – the penis, clitoris, and G-spot – and the nervous system. They wanted to know if the differences in people’s bodies had something to do with their sexual pleasure and orgasms.
Guys, it's all about balance!
When it comes to orgasms, the physical differences between guys can be hidden away in the nervous system.
For men, an orgasm involves two things: getting an erection and ejaculating. For both of these to happen, there has to be a balance between two sides of the autonomous nervous system. This is the system that controls all the stuff your body does automatically – from your heart beating to your penis swelling.
As far as sex is concerned, there are two branches of this nervous system that matter:
- The sympathetic branch: this controls your ‘fight or flight’ responses. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, and your body gets ready for action.
- The parasympathetic branch: this controls your ‘rest and digest’ responses. Your heart rate drops, your body gets ready to chill out.
For some men who have trouble with premature ejaculation, it could be because these two systems are out of balance, one study showed. The ‘ready for action’ system is working too hard, and the ‘chill out’ system isn’t pulling its weight. The result: too much action in the ejaculation department.
Bigger penis, better orgasm?
The age-old debate: does penis size matter? More particularly, does it make a difference to orgasms?
There’s no evidence that guys with bigger penises also have bigger orgasms! But what about the effect of penis size on a woman’s orgasm? Well, there’s no conclusive evidence there either, the researchers found.
Most studies on penis size have been based on women describing and comparing their experiences with different partners. Okay, it’s possible that a large penis might be better able to stimulate a woman’s sexual organs. But it’s also true that a woman could believe that bigger is better, say the researchers, and it’s that belief and not any physical difference that leads to more orgasms.
As it happens, many women may not be all that bothered about the size of her man’s penis. Research has shown that guys tend to fret more about the issue than girls.
In women, the clitoris is where it's at
In women, the clitoris is the main part of the genitals involved in an orgasm. Interestingly, clitoris size varies a lot from one woman to the next – more than penis size (when flaccid) does between men, studies have shown.
Bigger clitoris, better orgasm?
The researchers were curious to see whether the size of a woman’s clitoris could make a difference when it came to climaxing. The verdict: so far, it’s the same story as the penis. No research has found a definite connection clitoris size and orgasms.
Location, location, location
What researchers do know is that the location of a woman’s clitoris seems to be important to regular orgasms. Women who have a smaller distance between their clitoris and vagina might find it easier to climax during intercourse (but not while masturbating). Studies have also shown that anorgasmia can result when they’re farther apart.
During intercourse, the clitoris does its best to get in on the action. When a woman gets aroused, the clitoris actually moves towards the front wall of the vagina. This part of the vagina is very sensitive during sex and it may be the location of the G-spot. There’s still plenty of debate about whether this area full of nerve endings actually exists. But sexual positions that stimulate the front wall of the vagina might up the chances of reaching orgasm for some women during intercourse. So think 'missionary' or 'woman on top' rather than 'doggy style' for maximum stimulation.
Source: Anatomical variation and orgasm: Could variations in anatomy explain differences in orgasmic success? (2016). Clinical Anatomy. Published online April 4.