I find myself explaining to clients the difference in men’s and women’s orgasmic patterns so often that it seems right to devote a Hot Topic to this essential information. It is true that all human bodies respond physiologically almost identically, but the stimulation we require to achieve orgasm varies considerably. The more we know about our own pleasure paths and those of our partners, the more fun we can have sexually.
The difference revolves around the point of inevitability of orgasm. That is the moment when you know—really know—that you are about to come. What happens for men at this moment is invariable – they come. It doesn’t matter if their mother-in-law walks in the room (or the kids, or the cops, for that matter), they’re gonna come. It doesn’t matter if stimulation continues, stops, or changes. Once a male reaches the point of inevitability, orgasm follows.
Not so for women. During the arousal phases, the physiological signs (muscle tightening, skin flushing, breathing changes) are identical to men’s, but when your girlfriend is shouting “yes, yes, yes” while you are circling her clit with your thumb in rotations of one per second and you figure that if she loves this pace then two per second will be twice as good….well, trust me, you’d be wrong. Any change in stimulation at the point of inevitability and the moment will be lost. The connection is far more fragile for women than it is for men. It is one of the few sexual differences between men and women.
It is not only during partnered sex that women experience this tenuous connection. Sometimes women report that even while masturbating in their usual manner they will sometimes experience an orgasm that ‘gets away.’ Almost at orgasm, the most subtle of shifts will prevent the explosion and they are left to start again. It can be a very frustrating experience.
Women who do not understand the intricacies of the orgasmic pattern can believe themselves unable to achieve regular orgasm. If those same women have been taught to feel shame about self-pleasuring, these fruitless attempts may well confirm their guilt. Without understanding the natural rhythm of their bodies, they believe there is something wrong with them, and that they are not entitled to sexual pleasure.
Add to this our culture’s fairy tale that it is a man’s job to give a woman her orgasm. Now if it is difficult for a woman, who owns a woman’s body, to figure out this complicated stuff, how do we expect a man to know how to do it better than she can?!
What can men do with this situation, then? Spend some long, luxurious time exploring your lover’s vulva in minute detail, requesting feedback. What sorts of touch does she like on her inner labia, her outer lips, her clitoris, her urethral opening, her perineum, around her anus, on her mons? Do those preferences change depending on her state of arousal? Ask her to let you watch her bring herself to orgasm and watch closely how the action stills just before the orgasmic explosion. Let her teach you, and remember to tell her how hot it is to watch—we appreciate that reassurance.
Women do not have orgasms as reliably as men do. When we understand that there is nothing wrong with us and that our next romp will probably reap an orgasmic reward we do not fret about it. When men understand our orgasmic uncertainty, too, we can stop faking orgasms, and we would like to do that. Everyone benefits from this knowledge, and of course, when we relax into open and honest sexual communication with our lovers, sex just gets better and better.