When it comes to a woman’s orgasm, the clitoris-versus-vagina debate has been running for over a century and still rumbles on today in the scientific community. Can you have an orgasm only with the vagina? In fact, is that really a ‘proper’ orgasm? Or do you actually always need clitoral stimulation to climax? Well, perhaps all that genital focus is missing the bigger picture.
Determined to move the orgasm debate forwards, a group of Canadian scientists had a good look at all the research available from every angle, from psychoanalysis to evolutionary theory and neuroscience.
The way she starts to move or moan...
A male orgasm is a fairly straightforward affair. It starts with arousal and an erection and ends with ejaculation. But in women it’s a tad more complicated, and, the researchers say, quite subjective.
As such, where a woman’s orgasm comes from is beside the point, they argue. Instead, what matters is what a woman recognises as the big O.
This depends on different factors. For starters, there are all the experiences she’s learned to associate with climaxing. These can be erotic cues – like the sight of her partner naked or him touching her in a particular way. They can also include her knowledge of the way she starts to move or moan before it happens.
What a woman regards as having an orgasm also depends on the types of stimulation she’s used to associating with the experience. Of course, there’s both clitoral and vaginal stimulation, for many women, caresses to other body parts can also be very erotic.
Nipples, lips, toes...
What are these erogenous zones that can lead to orgasm? Well, nipples are probably the most obvious. But also a woman’s lips, ears, neck, and even fingers or toes can trigger an orgasmic experience, say the researchers. This can happen when one or some of these body parts are stroked and caressed. All of the arousing sensory information joins together and as a woman has more sexual experience, it starts to regularly lead to pleasure and climax.
It’s not unusual for orgasms to change based on the different sensations a woman is feeling or the context in which she has them – think masturbation versus intercourse with a partner, or sex with different partners.
An orgasm is an orgasm, say the researchers, whether it’s triggered by the clitoris, the vagina, other erogenous zones, or a combination. A woman can have a ‘remarkable variety of orgasmic experiences,’ they conclude. So enjoy experimenting!
Pfaus, J.G., Quintana, G.R., Cionnaith, C.M. & Parada, M. (2016): The whole versus the sum of some of the parts: toward resolving the apparent controversy of clitoral versus vaginal orgasms. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology.
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