The Truth About Vaginal Orgasms: They are More a Myth than Reality for Many Women

In 1976, The Hite Report revealed 26% of women, 1 out of 4, experienced orgasm regularly during vaginal intercourse, when there was no accompanying manual stimulation of their clitoris. While this study was conducted thirty-five years ago, I have not seen (see below) any evidence that suggests this has changed.

The study also found:

  • 19% (1 out of 5) rarely experienced orgasm during intercourse
  • 16% (1 out of 6) did so if there was manual stimulation of their clitoris at the same time
  • 24% (1 out of 4) did not experience orgasm during intercourse at any time
  • 12% (1 out of 8) had never experienced orgasm under any condition
  • 3% (1 out of 33) had never engaged in vaginal intercourse.

In October 2000, a Glamour Magazine article later revealed, in response to the question, "Do you need extra stimulation to orgasm?":

  • I need "a hand" 38%
  • I can do it just from intercourse 28%
  • I need oral sex 21%
  • Other 10%
  • I need a vibrator 3%

During the 24 years between surveys, the number of women who regularly experienced orgasm, as a result of vaginal-penile stimulation alone, did not changed significantly, 28% versus 26%. The majority of women, 62%, required direct stimulation of their clitoris, if they were to experience orgasm. It is not known whether "other" included other forms of clitoral stimulation, so the percentage may have been even higher.

Erotic Image - Couple Embracing

As a positive side note, it appears more than twice as many women, 38% versus 16%, were receiving manual clitoral stimulation during vaginal intercourse, and experiencing orgasm, in 2000 than in 1976, indicating The Hite Report, and subsequent media reports, may have influenced our sexual behavior.

The vast majority of women who have participated in my survey indicate they require clitoral stimulation if they are to experience orgasm, though they may not want clitoral stimulation to be the initial or primary focus of sex. A second survey indicates that having something inside their vagina may actually impair orgasm, under varying conditions.

Additional and current information concerning the sensitivity of the vagina and frequency of orgasm can be found in the articles about Female Sexual Arousal and Orgasm, Anatomy of the Vagina, Sexually Stimulating the Vagina, and The Secret to More Female Orgasms.

Why do most women require clitoral stimulation? The answer for the most part lies in the anatomy of our sexual organs. A man's primary erogenous zone is most often his penis, a woman's is her clitoris. Considering the common embryological origin and structure of the two organs, this would seem to make perfect sense. The reason they are so sensitive is they are highly populated with nerve endings. The greater the number of nerve endings an area of the body has, the more sensitive it is to stimulation. The clitoral glans is often reported to have more nerve endings than the penile glans, in a much smaller area. This results in a very sensitive organ, perhaps even more so than the penis.

Given that so few women masturbate by stimulating their vagina alone, it would appear it is not as sensitive to sexual stimulation as their clitoris. Analysis of the anatomy of the vagina reveals that it is not as densely populated with nerve endings as is the clitoris, and the nerves endings that are present are usually located in the outer third of the vagina. The reason the vagina is not highly populated with nerve endings is likely because it also serves as the birth canal. It would seem counter productive to have an extremely sensitive vagina, when it came time for a woman to give birth.

During vaginal intercourse, a man's penis is being directly stimulated by the walls of his partner's vagina, the movement of her inner labia is at best indirectly stimulating a woman's clitoris. The thrusting penis may then move the labia about, tugging on the clitoris itself. Since the size and shape of women's inner labia varying so much, and given that some women do not have them, it seems unlikely that all clitorises would receive the same amount of stimulation during vaginal intercourse. Structure suggests, the suspensory ligament of the clitoris may transmit pressure and movement of the pubic mound, outer labia, bulbs of the clitoris, and introitus to the clitoris. A woman's clitoris may also be stimulated by her partner's pelvic bone and mound as he presses in toward her body on the forward stroke. During intercourse, a man's primary erogenous zone is being directly stimulated on all sides and a woman's primary erogenous zone is being indirectly stimulated in an inconsistent manner, should we be surprised that the man usually experiences orgasm but the woman does not?

Another factor to consider is time. A man on average can masturbate to orgasm in three minutes, a woman in five minutes(*). Under what may be considered ideal conditions, a man usually reaches orgasm two minutes before a woman. Take this information and apply it to intercourse, where the man is receiving direct stimulation and the woman is receiving indirect stimulation and you can see how this time difference can grow astronomically. If a woman does not receive the same intensity of stimulation, and for the same duration, as she does while masturbating, it is easy to see how she would never reach orgasm during intercourse. It becomes very improbable, no matter how long the man continues to thrust. The ingredients for an orgasm just are not there.

A Question of Time

* Here is a quote from the book The Clitoral Truth by Rebecca Chalker:

"It takes many women far longer than men to become fully aroused - as long as a half-hour in many cases. California sexologists William Hartman and Marilyn Fithian monitored over 20,000 orgasms and found that it takes an average of twenty minutes for women to reach orgasm in the laboratory. For many women, it can take up to a half-hour or more of sustained stimulation to move into orgasmic range."

My statement about women being able to masturbate to orgasm in five minutes is only meant to make a point; that even for women who can quickly masturbate to orgasm, they still usually take longer than the average man to do the same. I certainly would not say there is a benefit to reaching orgasm so quickly, unless you are trying to hide what you are doing, which is often the case for children, teens, and women living with partners and family. The five minute time period was obtained from the book How Big is Big by Dr. Zev Wanderer & Dr. David Radell that used information from two other sources. I do not feel couples should expect sex to last less than half an hour or that there is a benefit in being able to. We spend far too little time showing our partner physical affection as it is without trying to make every sexual experience a quickie. If you do not have half an hour or more to make love to your partner, then you need to make the time.

Last update July 7, 2015
First Published July 27, 1999