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O, Ladies: Closing the Gap to Sexual Pleasure

by: Sarah G. Bickle, B.A. (Hons.)

For many women, orgasm and sex don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Only one-quarter of women “reliably” orgasm during sex and, on average, say that orgasms are their 15th motivator for sex – following motivators such as an expression of attraction or love, a desire to feel good or have fun, and a desire to please and feel closer to their partner. 

No more is orgasm an essential part of a woman’s typical sexual interaction than it is limited to it; in fact, women report having orgasms during all kinds of experiences – such as sleep, meditation, breastfeeding, assault, and medication-induced states. What’s more, not all women experience orgasms the same way. For example, 70% report feeling an orgasm throughout their entire body, 47% are multi-orgasmic, and 77.5% find that sometimes they have orgasms that are better than others. 

So, what features are important to a good orgasm? More than half of women agree that spending time to build arousal (77.2%), having a partner who knows what they like (58.6%), and emotional intimacy (55.5%), significantly contribute to a good orgasm. The possibilities of what leads to intense orgasmic experiences, however, are vast and highly detailed. For example, 39% of women find that clitoral stimulation is essential for the quality of their orgasm. The specified preferences for this source of pleasure alone can be highly variable among women with respect to: 

  • location (e.g., mons pubis, hood, left side of the clitoris, direct, etc.), 
  • pressure (e.g., light, firm, consistent, variable, etc.), shape/style (e.g., side to side, circular, tapping, flicking, squeezing, etc.), and 
  • pattern (e.g., rhythm & repetition, alternating between motions, teasing & delaying, consistency, etc.).

The obstacles many women face regarding reaching their full orgasmic potential are undoubtedly affected by the lack of education and shame that has been produced by our cultural history. When research shows that most men and women agree that it is the responsibility of the male to stimulate the female to orgasm, and 43.9% of men cannot locate the clitoris on a diagram, many women inevitably reach an impasse. Fortunately, however, the study of female sexuality and education is growing, and research and clinical work with sexuality are helping many women become more empowered to take on an active role in closing this orgasm gap! 

The Relationship and Sex Therapy Service at CFIR offers clients comprehensive assessment, psychotherapy, and counselling to address a wide range of relationship and/or sexual issues for both individuals and couples. Through treatment, we will help you to develop stronger relationships, heal relationship injuries, improve or add new relationship skills, and address sexual issues that interfere with sexual satisfaction and fulfillment, regardless of sexual orientation. 

Read more about our Relationship & Sex Therapy Treatment Service

Sarah Bickle, B.A., is a counsellor at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships, working under the supervision of Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych, and is currently completing a Masters of Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto. Sarah works with adults in psychotherapy to support them to increase emotional wellness and resolve depression, trauma-related symptoms, and interpersonal difficulties.