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Understanding female orgasms

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Heather Little-White, Ph. D., Contributor

Carlagot married at 22, a virgin, and surprised her husband with her prudishness about sex. In her attempt to please him during sex, she put into practice what she learned from the movies mimicking the 'oohs' and 'aahs' and simulating body moves as if having an orgasm, responding simultaneously with that of her husband. Carla did not understand that orgasms were an involuntary physical reaction to sexual penetration and stimulation.

She did not realise this until her husband advanced their intimacy on their third wedding anniversary. He performed oral sex on her despite her protest. She realised that her body responded in an unusual way, with rhythmic, involuntary contractions of the pelvis and that she felt ecstatic, caught up in euphoria, totally satisfied. Then, she confessed to her husband that she had been faking orgasms since they got married.

Automatic response

A female orgasm or climax is the conclusion of the sexual response cycle in women. An orgasm is characterised by intense physical pleasure control by the involuntary or automatic nervous system ( According to Sandra Leiblum, PhD, sex therapist of the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness, during a female's orgasm, there are changes throughout the whole body in a head-to-toe kind of experience. (

Understanding female orgasms is complex and scientists still debate the different ways in which women can achieve orgasms. Unlike male orgasms, women are able to feel many different types of climaxes, depending on the stimulus used and whether the orgasm is clitoral or vaginal.

4-step process

Women achieve orgasms in a four-step process discovered by renowned sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

Excitement phase: When a woman initiates sex or agrees to it, there is sexual stimulation and physical reactions begin to take place, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as blood engorging the clitoris, vagina and nipples, creating a full body blush.

Plateau phase: Sexual tension continues to build and an 'orgasmic platform' is created as the outer third of the vagina becomes engorged with blood and as heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases.

Orgasm phase: A series of rhythmic contractions take place in the uterus, vagina and muscles of the pelvic floor. As sexual tension is released, the muscles throughout the body may contract and the feeling of warmth from the pelvis rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the body.

Resolution phase: The body relaxes and blood flows away from the engorged sex organs with heart rate and blood pressure returning to normal.

Vaginal stimulation

Vaginal orgasms result from vaginal stimulation of what is believed to be the G-spot in a place just behind the front wall of the vagina. Several researchers support this thesis that when the G-spot is stimulated, it brings about intense sexual pleasure. Sexual arousal may also take place through stimulation of the breasts and other parts of the body readying the vagina for penetration.

Clitoral orgasms

Contrary to what some may believe, the clitoris is a tremendous source of pleasure for women and was built for orgasms. With more than eight thousand nerve fibers, it is the only organ in the human body that exists solely for pleasure and can facilitate orgasms.

During sexual arousal, the clitoris fills with blood and increases in size just like a penis. After orgasm, as the accumulated blood disburses, the clitoris returns to its normal size. Stimulating the clitoris (for some women) or applying pressure in or around the vagina, cause pelvic fullness and body tension to build up to a peak.

Although every woman is different, the clitoris will be located in the same basic area. It is a small, round bud located above the vaginal opening and is covered by a soft fold of tissue called the 'clitoral hood', which protects the clitoris from overstimulation. During arousal, the clitoris will enlarge and the hood may retract to reveal the tip of the clitoris. Some women do not like direct stimulation to the tip of their clitoris, but prefer to be stimulated through the hood or on the sides of the clitoris.

Multiple orgasms

Women have the ability to have multiple orgasms almost immediately, if sexual stimulation continues. Men, however, require time for restoring and repeating an erection and orgasm. After the first orgasm, subsequent climaxes may be stronger and more pleasurable as stimulation intensifies. The clitoris and nipples may become more sensitive after each climax.

Difficulty achieving orgasms

However, some women experience difficulty in having an orgasm. Her desire to achieve an orgasm can be so strong that if she does not have one she may begin to doubt A woman's self-worth and value as a woman. However, achieving an orgasm should not be the only measure of her success or failure as a sexual partner. Despite the pleasure and happiness associated with orgasms, some women experience difficulty in achieving that sexual bliss. There is nothing physically wrong with women who cannot climax. The ability to orgasm may be blocked by feelings of fear, guilt, inadequacy and anxiety. Apart from therapies such as direct masturbation, sex toys, sex education and behavioural therapy, women can use any of the strategies below to help them achieve an orgasm.


Learn to communicate, tell your partner exactly what you need done to climax.

Have a clear mind and focus on the pleasure that you feel and worrying less about whether you will achieve the orgasm.

Increase clitoral stimulation in foreplay and during intercourse.

Be psychologically ready for intimacy and engage in extended foreplay to get you in the mood. Try to mentally connect with your partner.

Learn what your body likes through masturbation and you will be better able to communicate this to your partner and guide him to the body parts that are easily aroused.

Banish inhibitions about your body and its imperfections and focus on how good intimacy feels.

Urinate before foreplay as when the vagina becomes engorged, it may create the urge to empty the bladder and this creates a distraction, probably in the heat of the moment.

Be careful about shifting positions during intercourse as this could disturb an established rhythm that would lead to an orgasm.

Time is important. Some women require time to build up a momentum.

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