In the most essential sexual act, men and women are unequal and different. Expectations about how intercourse should go differs from reality, interfering with the satisfaction of lovers.  Many partners expect that intercourse should lead to orgasm, that all-important blast of bliss. Most men believe that during intercourse, if they are physically adequate and sufficiently skilled, their female partner will reach orgasm. Most female partners, too, believe that this is how it should go. When sex differs from expectations, problems are not far off.

   The myth that women orgasm during intercourse persists despite the reality suggesting that this is largely untrue.  The statistics show that roughly 30% of women orgasm during intercourse but most of these women most do not climax consistently. The expectations that women “should,” complicates a potentially joyful act with tension.

    With men there is little problem or question; almost all men reach orgasm during intercourse. Responsible for such a large difference in response between men and women, is that during intercourse, a man’s penis is directly stimulated.  The female organ analogous to a man’s penis is the clitoris, similarly loaded with pleasure-giving nerve endings, but located outside of a woman’s vagina. The clitoris is not directly involved in intercourse. In a strange choice of nature, the experience of intercourse is far different for women than for men.  A woman’s vagina, which is fully involved in intercourse, has far fewer nerve endings than does her clitoris. Most women are orgasmic, but just not from intercourse.

    To more clearly illustrate the point, let’s reverse the genders.  If a man’s lower belly were to be stroked, few men would reach orgasm.  Most men would react by saying, “It’s not going to happen, because touching my belly won’t produce an orgasm.” Exactly, and that is true for women as well.  Yet the erroneous myth of female orgasm persists. Women, who seek to enjoy an orgasm when alone in private, overwhelmingly stimulate their clitoris for pleasure, arousal and orgasm.  Far fewer mimic intercourse by involving their vaginas in the experience.

    But what about the roughly 30% of women who do have orgasms during intercourse?  Such women are successful by being deeply relaxed, achieving high arousal and experiencing intercourse as highly erotic. Their successful strategy is less body-based and more mental, emotional and through the proper flow of sexual energy. Some people are able to orgasm without any physical stimulation at all but solely by thinking erotic thoughts.

    To reach orgasm despite the anatomical disadvantage some women choose to stimulate their  clitoris during intercourse. Other women are too embarrassed to attempt it. But this work-around comes with some risk since some male partners feel threatened by a female partner’s self-stimulation. He may interpret her actions to suggest that he is “not enough for her.” Women who believe that orgasms should occur during intercourse, but are unsuccessful, may struggle with feelings of sexual inadequacy.  If her partner also subscribes to this erroneous belief, a woman is susceptible to concluding that “something is wrong with me.” Couples who try hard to force an orgasm in their quest to correct the problem complain that “she takes too long.”

    The long-held ideal of simultaneous orgasms causes more disappointment and pressure than it does satisfaction.  As the “Holy Grail” of sexual experiences, simultaneous orgasm is a bar set too high and functions as a case of perfection preventing good enough.

    Yet if a woman does desire to become orgasmic during intercourse, she may develop this ability.  Some women are successful at learning to relax, focus and redirect the flow of sexual energy within her body to increase her capacity for pleasure and orgasm both during intercourse and beyond.  However, it may be simpler to let go of the myth that women need to orgasm during intercourse by instead seeking to more fully enjoy the relaxed pleasure that is more easily obtained.  Andrew Aaron, LICSW