Orgasms uncovered

All you need to know about the elusive ‘Big O’…

When it comes to orgasms, we’ve got a LOT of questions. How do they work? Am I taking too long? And how can we havemoreof them?

A less common question is, why do we orgasm at all?

Well, it’s as if it’s necessary for conception (even though it’s obviously awesome)And, a lot of the time, women don’t orgasm through penetrative sex alone. According to a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies (The Case of the Female Orgasm, Elisabeth Lloyd [Harvard University Press]) only 25% of women achieve orgasm during penetrative vaginal intercourse.

So why would evolution bother giving women the ability to orgasm? I mean, thanks and all evolution, but we’re just wondering.

Some say orgasms increase a woman’s chances of reproductive success, because:

-An orgasm feels good, which makes women want to have sex and the more they have sex the more likely they are to conceive

-The female orgasm causes the sperm to be ‘up-sucked’ into the uterus (great mental image, soz), thus increasing its chances of reaching the egg

-Orgasming makes a woman sleepy, so she stays lying down after sex which gives the sperm a better chance of reaching the egg.

Reproductive success sounds like a promising theory. Except a 2013 study by the University of Queensland which looked for correlations between female orgasms and fertility, didn’t find one.

So if orgasms don’t help us get pregnant, what else could they be for? Again, we’re grateful for them, but we just wanna know…

Maybe it’s all about pair bonding. A woman releases oxytocin when she has an orgasm and oxytocin is known as ‘the love drug’ because it increases feelings of connection and intimacy. Being (swoon) in lurve may encourage a pair to bond, thereby increasing the offsprings’ chances of survival, but did we really need anorgasmto release oxytocin?

It’s possible that women’s ability to orgasm is just an evolutionary by-product. Men and women are the same at the embryo phase. The tissue that becomes the glans penis in men becomes the clitoris in women. So, according to some scientists, women have the ability to orgasm simply because men can. This doesn’t adequately explain why the clitoral glans has twice as many nerve endings as the penis, though. Sidenote: quite right we’ve more pleasurable nerve endings- we also get stuck with periods and childbirth!

So maybe there is no evolutionary reason? Maybe it’s just supposed to feel good? Given the large percentage of woman who need something more (like a vibrator)in order to orgasm, maybe we should all be running to our local adult shop and treating ourselves to a decent vibrator. Chris from says, “Everyone deserves to have better orgasms. Our customers tell us that manual stimulation, and often sexual intercourse, just doesn't work for many women – they simply don’t orgasm,” he says, “but vibrators nearly always get the job done. And a lot of men tell us they love being able to help their partner have such intense orgasms by using a vibrating toy. Once they overcome their personal issue of feeling threatened or incapable, and realise that it’s just a physical limit to what they can do, they enjoy being able to satisfy their partner, and enjoy the moment together. Not only that an orgasm from a vibrating toy is far more intense. In the end, having and using a toy simply doesn’t factor in their minds”.

It’s a very modern way of thinking and we’ve certainly come a long way from the Victorian era, when people believed that women had little sexual appetite and were incapable of enjoying sex. Victorian physicians said that stimulation of the clitoris was responsible for over-excitement of the nervous system, leading to epileptic fits, mania, idiocy and death. May we be the first to say, WTF.

Meanwhile, others in the Victorian medical community were offering their female patients ‘stimulation therapy’ for ‘hysteria’. Masturbation couldn’t be encouraged, because it was considered terribly bad for a woman’s health, but physicians could massage a woman’s clitoris until she achieved ‘paroxysm’.

According to the Victorian medical establishment orgasms were medically bad for women, medically good for women and women couldn’t have an orgasm anyway.

Confused much?

Psychologist Sigmund Freud then told us that clitoral pleasure represented an immature stage of development. He believed that when a girl realised she didn’t have a penis, she stopped clitoral masturbation out of embarrassment at her ‘inferior equipment’. A woman achieved sexual maturity, Freud believed, only when she shifted her sexual experiences to her vagina. Jeez.

Scientists now believe that there is no such thing as ‘vaginal’ orgasm, that if a woman orgasms, it’s because her clitoris has been stimulated in some way.

Until the late 1990s, we didn’t even know how big the clitoris was. That’s when urologist Helen O’Connell of the Royal Melbourne Hospital began to study the nerve supply to the clitoris using MRI. She had found that a lot of the drawings of the clitoris in medical textbooks were outright wrong and that, sometimes, anatomy texts didn’t even bother to include the clitoris at all! So she took matters into her own hands (so to speak), dissecting cadavers and mapping the tissue.

According to O’Connell’s research, the clitoris ranges from four to twelve inches and what we see is just the tip of the iceberg, with the majority of the clitoris located on the inside. Like the penis, it swells up when aroused, (all of it, not just the tip) a fact that wasn’t really understood until 2009 when clitoral reconstruction surgeons Dr Odile Buisson and Dr Pierre Foldès published the first complete 3-D sonograph of the stimulated clitoris.

Given how long it’s taken for medical science to understand the clitoris in all its complexity, it isn’t really surprising that the question of why women orgasm has yet to be satisfactorily answered.

Women will continue to have orgasms, whether the question is answered or not. We’ll have them alone or with a partner, our clit will be stimulated internally or externally, by fingers, a tongue, a penis or by our favourite vibrator. Because no matterhowwe have them and no matterwhywe have them, one thing modern medical sciencecanagree on is that orgasms are good for our health. Hear, hear! This article is brought to you by Sex Toys 24/7.