Our last column about women’s sexual satisfaction apparently, umm, hit a nerve. We were flooded with questions about orgasms. Here is a small sampling that we hope will fill in some details.
Have an intimate question about sexual health or satisfaction? To e-mail us, click here.
Q: I heard that vaginal orgasms are better than clitoral, is this true?
A: Some researchers say the whole vaginal versus clitoral orgasm is a myth foisted on women by Freud, that an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm. But Beverly Whipple, a Rutgers University professor emeritus who has made orgasms her business for decades, strongly disagrees. Whipple, who recently authored a book titled "The Science of Orgasm"with Barry Komisaruk and Carlos Beyer-Flores, says that “absolutely there is a difference.”
She and her colleagues used imaging technology to see just what happens during orgasm. In vaginal sex, she says, “you have G-spot involvement, the uterus pushes down and the vagina has different nerves involved.” Whether or not there is a G-spot is also controversial, but Whipple is a firm believer.
Also, some orgasms activate the brain’s amygdala (important for processing emotion) and some don’t, Whipple says. Women who can orgasm just by thinking erotically don’t seem to involve the amygdala. Same for women who orgasm from, say, a foot massage. (Seriously, how do you women do this?)
This brain thing brings up a good point. The “quality” of an orgasm has a lot to do with what’s going on up there — what emotions you are feeling, how lost you are in the moment.
Whether or not one is “better” than another is kind of up to you. We say they’re all good.
Q: I am over 60 yet find that my orgasms are not at all affected by age. In fact, after getting off a long list of Prozac-type antidepressants, I have become multi-orgasmic with as many as five strong orgasms in 10 minutes of vibrator stimulation. My question is: What is the age limit for sexual satisfaction in women? I have found nothing in the research about this. Can these multiple orgasms give me a stroke or heart attack?
A: I am always amazed how so many people with great news find something to worry about. Relax. You’ll probably be running up that electric bill for years to, uh, come.
Renowned sexual medicine expert Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor in chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, says there is no limit as long as you are fit. Vibrator sex is easier on the heart than partnered sex, but if you were having sex with a partner, Goldstein says a rule of thumb is that you should be able to “climb three flights of stairs with no chest pain or rhythm problems to tolerate the exercise of sex.”
To be on the safe side, tell your doctor you are planning on running every morning. See if he objects.
Q: Why are women so sensitive after we have an orgasm? What happens physiologically to cause this?
A: Think of your clitoris like a bundle of wires. When you are sexually excited, the wires go live and your clitoris engorges with blood, swelling like a man’s penis.
“So the clitoris is dilated and after orgasm it reduces in size in a few minutes,” explains Goldstein. “But at the point just after orgasm, it is still engorged.”
In other words, you’ve got a bundle of jumpy nerve endings packed in a small, swollen space, which is fine if you are on the way up, but now you are on the way down so, Goldstein explains, “it becomes exquisitely sensitive to touch.”
Q: My wife and I have sex about four to six times a week and I have at times felt that it’s more work than pleasure. Is it common for a woman to expect to have an orgasm every time we have sex?
A: Again with the worry! Four to six times a week? And you’re married?
Look, is it common for a man to expect to have an orgasm every time he has sex? Think about it, then invest in a vibrator, the best labor-saver since the riding mower.
Q: How can I know when my girlfriend is having an orgasm?
A: Do you mean to ask, “How can I tell if my girlfriend is faking an orgasm?” Well, my friend, there’s a school located somewhere in the jungles of South America where all women go to learn how to fake an orgasm for those instances when a man initiates sex during the commercial break just before the start of "American Idol."
So how do you tell? If she’s a good student, you can’t.
Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. Alexander, also a Glamour contributing editor, is traveling around the country to find out how Americans get sexual satisfaction for the MSNBC.com special report "America Unzipped" and in an upcoming book for Harmony, an imprint of Crown Publishing.
Sexploration appears every other Thursday.