By Dr. Laura McGuire
Welcome to the first installment of Asking for a Friend—a new sex education series where a queer certified sexologist (that’s me!) will answer all the sex-related questions our readers Google late at night (or on lunch break—no judgies). So send us your questions to email@example.com—from inverted nipples to anal paps to the age-old question of how much lube is too much lube, there’s nothing we can’t answer together.
This month, one of our readers asked:
I know everyone is different, but I’ve never experienced an orgasm while being penetrated (by a male or female). I have only been able to achieve orgasm by clitoral (don’t know if that’s the right thing to call it) stimulation. I’m just curious about how I can learn what needs to happen (i.e. positioning or technique) in order to have an orgasm while being penetrated.
Many folks—male, female, and non-binary—feel frustrated by their bodies because they don’t respond the way sex is depicted in movies and porn. Because of this, they think something is “wrong” with them, and that most people are experiencing sex in a drastically different (and seemingly better) way. We live in a society where we are saturated with sexual images and ideals, but where no one talks about sex honestly. If someone does talk about sex, it’s usually to brag about their (probably imagined) prowess. As a sex educator and consultant, trust me when I say that, in reality, the large majority of people are struggling with pleasure, identity, and self-esteem. If people were truly honest and open with each other, we would find out just how “normal” and common our concerns and frustrations in the bedroom really are.
Most of the time when I receive this question, it’s from cisgender women—a population that is greatly pressured to respond physically from penetration alone. However, people of any gender or sexuality can enjoy—or not enjoy—penetration, as well as feel confused by their body’s reaction. These issues stem from misunderstandings of basic human anatomy and sexual response. The more you know, the better sex can be, so let’s run through some basic neurology.
The neurological area most connected to sexual pleasure is called the pudendal nerve. This is true for people of all genders. The pudendal nerve wraps around the pelvis (the bones that make up your hips and what you sit on) and connects to the anus and genitals. Yep, you read that right—it does not have a direct connection to the vaginal opening! And while you do have nerve endings in the vagina, they aren’t the strongest ones, nor are they directly designed for pleasure.
The clitoris, on the other hand, is designed for pleasure alone. The clitoris extends deep inside the body—if we measured the entire thing, the clitoris in all its glory would be about nine inches of pure pleasurable tissue! As little fetuses, we all start with the same parts (that’s why all people have nipples). As we develop, however, the same group of nerves that forms into penises for some forms into clitorises for others. The problem is that we then demand sex be about rubbing things inside the vaginal canal, not about the clitoris being stimulated. Fucking patriarchy! So now women spend thousands of dollars—and even have surgeries—to try to “fix” their dysfunction, when the only dysfunction is misogyny! (Okay, I’m trying not to get too mad here, but it’s difficult.) In an analysis of 33 peer-reviewed studies, researchers found that 75 percent of cisgender women have never climaxed from penetration alone!
On to the second part of your question—how do you make sex more pleasurable? First off, remember what we just learned about the physiology of sex—tell your partners to focus on your clitoris, not intercourse, as your “ultimate sex act.” No one has sex with a cisgender man without focusing on the penis. Why? Because we have all been educated on and inundated with messages about the importance of male pleasure. But we shouldn’t expect less just because we have clits!
Secondly, if you do want to engage in intercourse, start by warming up the clitoris alone with manual, oral, or other kinds of stimulation. Then, during penetration, make sure your hips are tilted so that your partner’s pubic bone rubs against your clitoris. Face-to-face positions where your hips are facing each other are the most helpful in this case. Thrust against your partner’s pubic bone until you find the right kind of friction. If your partner isn’t accommodating or tells you to stop moving or to let them do all the work—find a new partner! You need to be with sexual partners who want you to find what works and don’t shame you for doing so.
Lastly, look into cock rings or the hands-free Eva vibrator, which applies vibratory stimulation to your clitoris while simultaneously allowing you to engage in intercourse.
Enjoy your body, never apologize or minimize your desires, and let me know how it goes!
In sex positivity,
Dr. Laura McGuire
Azadzoi, K. M., & Siroky, M. B. (2010). Neurologic Factors in Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction. Korean Journal of Urology, 51(7), 443–449. http://doi.org/10.4111/kju.2010.51.7.443
Elisabeth Lloyd, The Case of the Female Orgasm