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Background: The pursuit of sexual pleasure is a key motivating factor in sexual activity. Many things can stand in the way of sexual orgasms and enjoyment, particularly among women. These are essential issues of sexual well-being and gender equality. Objective: This study presents long-term trends and determinants of female orgasms in Finland. The aim is to analyze the roles of factors such as the personal importance of orgasms, sexual desire, masturbation, clitoral and vaginal stimulation, sexual self-esteem, communication with partner, and partner's sexual techniques. Design: In Finland, five national sex surveys that are based on random samples from the central population register have been conducted. They are representative of the total population within the age range of 18-54 years in 1971 (N=2,152), 18-74 years in 1992 (N=2,250), 18-81 years in 1999 (N=1,496), 18-74 years in 2007 (N=2,590), and 18-79 years in 2015 (N=2,150). Another dataset of 2,049 women in the age group of 18-70 years was collected in 2015 via a national Internet panel. Results: Contrary to expectations, women did not have orgasms that are more frequent by increasing their experience and practice of masturbation, or by experimenting with different partners in their lifetime. The keys to their more frequent orgasms lay in mental and relationship factors. These factors and capacities included orgasm importance, sexual desire, sexual self-esteem, and openness of sexual communication with partners. Women valued their partner's orgasm more than their own. In addition, positive determinants were the ability to concentrate, mutual sexual initiations, and partner's good sexual techniques. A relationship that felt good and worked well emotionally, and where sex was approached openly and appreciatively, promoted orgasms. Conclusion: The findings indicate that women differ greatly from one another in terms of their tendency and capacity to experience orgasms. The improvements in gender equality and sexual education since the 1970s have not helped women to become more orgasmic. Neither has the major increase in masturbation habits (among women in general). One challenge for future studies is to understand why women value their partner's orgasms more than their own.
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CLINICAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Osmo Kontula, Researcher Professor, PhD* and
Anneli Miettinen, Researcher, MSSc
Population Research Institute, Family Federation of Finland, Helsinki, Finland
Background: The pursuit of sexual pleasure is a key motivating factor in sexual activity. Many things can
stand in the way of sexual orgasms and enjoyment, particularly among women. These are essential issues
of sexual well-being and gender equality.
Objective: This study presents long-term trends and determinants of female orgasms in Finland. The aim is to
analyze the roles of factors such as the personal importance of orgasms, sexual desire, masturbation, clitoral
and vaginal stimulation, sexual self-esteem, communication with partner, and partner’s sexual techniques.
Design: In Finland, five national sex surveys that are based on random samples from the central popula-
tion register have been conducted. They are representative of the total population within the age range
of 1854 years in 1971 (N2,152), 1874 years in 1992 (N2,250), 1881 years in 1999 (N1,496),
1874 years in 2007 (N2,590), and 1879 years in 2015 (N2,150). Another dataset of 2,049 women in the
age group of 1870 years was collected in 2015 via a national Internet panel.
Results: Contrary to expectations, women did not have orgasms that are more frequent by increasing their
experience and practice of masturbation, or by experimenting with different partners in their lifetime. The
keys to their more frequent orgasms lay in mental and relationship factors. These factors and capacities
included orgasm importance, sexual desire, sexual self-esteem, and openness of sexual communication with
partners. Women valued their partner’s orgasm more than their own. In addition, positive determinants were
the ability to concentrate, mutual sexual initiations, and partner’s good sexual techniques. A relationship that
felt good and worked well emotionally, and where sex was approached openly and appreciatively, promoted
orgasms.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that women differ greatly from one another in terms of their tendency and
capacity to experience orgasms. The improvements in gender equality and sexual education since the 1970s
have not helped women to become more orgasmic. Neither has the major increase in masturbation habits
(among women in general). One challenge for future studies is to understand why women value their partner’s
orgasms more than their own.
Keywords: female orgasm;masturbation;determinants of orgasm;gender differences;sexual trends;communication;
self-esteem;sexual desire;sexual techniques;good relationship
Responsible Editors: Adam Safron, Northwestern University, United States; Victorial Klimaj, Northwestern University,
United States.
*Correspondence to: Osmo Kontula, Population Research Institute, Family Federation of Finland, P.O. Box 849,
FI-001 01 Helsinki, Finland, Email: osmo.kontula@vaestoliitto.fi
This paper is part of the Special Issue: Orgasm: Neurophysiological, psychological, and evolutionary perspectives.
More papers from this issue can be found at www.socioaffectiveneuroscipsychol.net
Received: 15 March 2016; Revised: 5 September 2016; Accepted: 12 September 2016; Published: 25 October 2016
The pursuit of sexual pleasure is a key motivating
factor in sexual activity. An orgasm is an effective
indicator of sexual pleasure and healthy sexuality.
In addition, orgasms are important predictors of happy
relationships, and related sexual satisfaction. Without a
doubt, a better understanding of the predictors of female
sexual orgasms would be a most valuable achievement,
and would be one key factor in improving equality among
women, and gender equality (World Association for
Sexual Health, 2014).
Previous studies have provided consistent results that
men experience orgasms in intercourse considerably more
frequently than women. More than 90% of men usually
experience orgasm in their intercourse; among women, this
æ
Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016. #2016 Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
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Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624
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proportion is only around 50% (Darling, Haavio-Mannila
& Kontula, 2001; Kontula, 2009). This is a problematic
observation from the perspective of both sexual rights and
sexual health frameworks. Given the importance of
orgasms to many people’s sexual health and pleasure, an
increased focus on and understanding of women’s orgasm
is valuable.
Although women have had more trouble than men
in reaching orgasm, subjective descriptions of the event
do not differ between genders (Meston, Levin, Sipski,
Hull & Heiman, 2004).
The mental dimension of experiencing an orgasm seems
very similar for both sexes. Meston, Levin, et al. (2004)
reported that different studies have measured the duration
of the female orgasm to be approximately 2035 s. Both
orgasm and vaginal stimulation have pain-suppressing
effects (Komisaruk, Beyer-Flores & Whipple, 2006; Meston,
Levin, Sipski, Hull & Heiman 2004).
Research has found that the capacity to experience
orgasm during intercourse, and to a lesser extent in
masturbation, is partly genetically determined (Dawood,
Kirk, Bailey, Andrews & Martin, 2005; Dunn, Cherkas
& Spector, 2005). An individual’s response to sexual
pleasure during their life is a mixture of both the
physical processes and the subjective responses to those
processes. Some refer to the sensation of orgasm as
being frightening; others speak of it as being the most
exciting, fulfilling, and enjoyable sensation imaginable
(Blackledge, 2004). Some women experience orgasm
as the ultimate loss of control and consider it to be a
vulnerability that should be avoided (Laan & Rellini,
2011).
It is sometimes suggested that orgasms may not be
important for female sexual pleasure (Blackledge, 2004).
The argument has been that women can be fully satisfied
sexually without experiencing an orgasm. However, based
on previous sex surveys, the most important single
predictor of sexual satisfaction for women is without a
doubt the orgasm (Kontula, 2009). If a woman did not
have an orgasm in the latest intercourse, even 38%
of women did not consider that intercourse pleasant. If
they had an orgasm (or more than one), only a few
women did not rate their intercourse as pleasant. This
result concretely illustrates how crucial the role orgasms
play in women’s assessment of the quality of sex they are
having.
Female orgasms are also important for men. Men
enjoy their partners’ orgasms, and they feel that they
have the physical responsibility to stimulate their female
partner to orgasm (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014). Opperman,
Braun, Clarke, and Rogers (2014) found that both female
and male participants felt responsible for their partner’s
pleasure and ultimately their orgasm and, reciprocally,
that their partners felt responsible for theirs. The most
common concern reported by both male and female
participants in Salisbury’s and Fisher’s study (2014) in
regard to the lack of a female orgasm in sexual interac-
tion focused on the male partner’s judgment of himself
as a lover and the associated negative impact that the lack
of a female orgasm would have on his self-esteem. Male
participants reported judging themselves negatively if they
were unsuccessful in their attempts to produce a female
orgasm. Better knowledge of the predictors of female
orgasms could therefore promote sexual well-being in
both partners.
Finland is one of few countries with nationally repre-
sentative surveys of sexual activities and values among
the adult population. According to many international
indicators, social progress is well advanced in Finland. In
relation to social well-being, the European Quality of
Life Survey gave the highest rates of happiness in Europe
to Finland and Denmark. This has some implications
for sexual values and activities. Sexual images and values
are evolving to reflect a more affirming and liberal
approach to sexuality.
Women have a unique position in Finland in inter-
national comparison. An important enduring element
in Finnish society is the equal- and independent
position of women. This can be seen in the realm of
politics, education, paid work, and the division of labor
in the home. The rate of women working full time in
Finland is the highest in Western Europe partly
thanks to the extensive public childcare that is the right
of every child.
Based on the Gender Equity Index (GEI), introduced
by Social Watch, Finland is number one in the world in
gender equity, along with Sweden. In education, Finland
has been several times number one in the world regarding
the results of the Programme for International Students
Assessment (PISA) evaluation (60 countries) and OECD.
Women outnumber men in higher education, and com-
prehensive sex education is at the highest level in Europe
(Kontula, 2010).
Women’s right to be the initiators of sexual interac-
tions was supported by 94% of Finnish men and 90% of
women already in 1992 (Kontula & Haavio-Mannila,
1995). This support for female sexual autonomy has only
increased since then (Kontula, 2009). This social and
educational progress has created positive circumstances
for sexual activities also among the aging population
(Kontula, 2013).
During the last four decades, there have been major
shifts in Finnish sexuality. Two nationally representative
surveys of sexual behavior and sexual attitudes carried
out in 1971 and 1992, showed that people’s attitudes have
become more liberal; sexual behavior more equal; women
sexually more active; and women’s sexual satisfaction in
particular had increased during the 20 years between
these two surveys. One of the main causes of this positive
change (Kontula & Haavio-Mannila, 1995; Kontula &
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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Kosonen, 1996) is estimated to have been the increasingly
copious, open, and versatile treatment of sexuality in
various media sources.
Over the last 20 years, the key shift in sexual culture
in the West has been the opening up of the private
sexual sphere into something that is now part of the
public sphere (Kontula, 2009). This is manifested in
the public proliferation of images of scantily clad people,
intimate stories about well-known celebrities and per-
sonalities, and new technological breakthroughs in
pornography. Sex and nudity are a natural and every-
day part of public media culture. Sex is for everyone,
even though not everyone has an equal opportunity to
engage in it.
In many respects, sexual trends in Finland before the
2000s correspond to research data compiled previously
in Europe on the same topic (Sandfort, Hubert, Bajos
& Bos, 1998). The broader shift that has occurred in
the West has meant a greater number of sexual partners
before forming a committed relationship; lower levels of
commitment in relationships; increased masturbation; an
increase in lifetime partners and parallel relationships;
and increasing commonness of oral and anal sex.
Objective
The aim of this article is to present the predictors of
one of the greatest present-day challenges in sexual life
in Finland, namely female orgasms. This study includes
long-term trends, and the determinants of female or-
gasms. The aim is to analyze various factors associated in
female orgasms, including personal importance of orgasms,
sexual desire, masturbation, clitoral and vaginal stimu-
lation, sexual self-esteem, communication with partner,
and partner’s sexual techniques.
Methods
Design
In Finland, five national FINSEX sex surveys, based on
random samples from the Central Population Register,
have been conducted, so that all Finns have had an
equal opportunity to be selected into the sample. Respon-
dents are representative of the total population within the
age range of 1854 years in 1971 (N2,152), 1874 years
in 1992 (N2,250), 1881 years in 1999 (N1,496),
1874 years in 2007 (N2,590), and 1879 years in 2015
(N2,150). In total, these surveys involve 10,637 respon-
dents, 4,482 men and 6,155 women. The basic aim of these
sex surveys has been to follow trends regarding a number
of sexual issues.
The response rates were 91% (1971), 76% (1992),
46% (1999), 43% (2007), and 36% (2015). The higher
response rates in 1971 and 1992 were due to the face-to-
face interviews carried out at respondents’ homes. In
1999, 2007, and 2015, the data collection was carried out
by Statistics Finland as a mailed survey (because of
lower costs), which resulted in lower response rates.
The impact of the lower response rates in the 1999
and 2007 studies, as compared to the 1971 and 1992
surveys, has been evaluated by analyzing the ways in
which people of particular birth cohorts have responded
to the same questions concerning their own youth. The
representativeness and comparability of the later data
in relation to the 1992 data remained quite good, except
in the case of male respondents over the age of 55. The
later 1999 and 2007 findings provide a slight under-
estimation of male sexual activity over the age of 55
(sexual initiation somewhat later, and sexually a bit
more monogamous in their life time), comparedwith the
previous similar male cohorts of the respondents.
Among women, a similar selection bias was not found.
Data for 19992015 have been weighted to correct for
the response bias.
More detailed information on the sampling, interview-
ing and questionnaires is available in Kontula & Haavio-
Mannila (1995), Haavio-Mannila, Kontula & Kuusi
(2001), Haavio-Mannila and Kontula (2003), and Kontula
(2009).
Another data set (ORGSEX) of 2,049 women between
1870 years of age was collected in May 2015 via a
national Internet participant pool that includes 50,000
respondents. Sexual pleasure and orgasms were the core
measures in this survey. The survey was conducted by
Taloustutkimus Oy Computer Aided Web Interview.
Data were weighted as being representative of the whole
population of Finland.
Measures
The FINSEX questionnaires contained more than 100 ques-
tions, and many of them had a number of sub-sections.
The following questions (translated from Finnish) selected
from the questionnaire, specifically referred to orgasms
in women:
How old were you when you reached orgasm through
masturbation?
How old were you when you had an orgasm for the first
time during sexual intercourse?
Do you usually have an orgasm during sexual intercourse?
Did you have an orgasm during your most recent sexual
intercourse?
1. Including two or more orgasms.
By what type of activities do you usually experience
orgasms during sexual intercourse?
1. By stimulating clitoris
2. By stimulating vagina
3. By stimulating them both
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
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The ORGSEX questionnaire involved 21 questions and
included some social background questions. Questions
referring to measures of orgasm comprised:
Do you have orgasm during sexual intercourse?
Did you have an orgasm during your latest sexual
intercourse?
1. Including two or more orgasms.
Do you have an orgasm more easily via masturbation or
via intercourse?
Do you orgasm while you are stimulated via oral sex?
In what sexual position do you most easily have an
orgasm?
What helps you the most to have an orgasm?
1. Strong personal arousal
2. Partner’s strong arousal
3. Favorable undisturbed and erotic situation
4. Using enough time for love making
5. A skillful and attractive partner
6. Oral or manual stimulation
7. Use of a sexual toy or massage-machine
8. Can’t tell
What issues prevent you from having an orgasm during
love-making?
1. Eight alternatives to select
How important do you consider it to be to have an
orgasm in love-making?
How important do you consider it to be in love-making
to provide an orgasm to your partner?
In what ways have you learned to intensely enjoy love-
making and to experience orgasms?
1. Eight alternatives to select
The analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics
Version 23. In addition to descriptive analysis (Figs. 114),
we examined the main determinants of the female sexual
orgasms with regression analyses (Tables 14). There
were also a few chi-square tests.
Results
Trends in female orgasms
A major challenge in Finnish sexuality is the declining
trends in female sexual satisfaction and orgasm. For
women, having an orgasm from intercourse is much less
guaranteed than for men. In 2015, 46% of women said
that they always or nearly always had an orgasm when
having intercourse, with only 6% of women reporting
always having an orgasm. Nearly one in six (16%) women
had an orgasm approximately half of the time and 38%
of women had orgasms fairly infrequently at most. Over
16 years (19992015), women’s orgasmic capacity has
declined considerably, from 56% of women experiencing
orgasm in intercourse always or nearly always in 1999
to 46% in 2015 (x
2
(20)84.8, p0.000). The decline is
apparent among both young and middle aged women.
In similar fashion, the proportion of women who have
had an orgasm in the latest intercourse has diminished
from 1999.
Difficulties experiencing orgasms has affected a large
proportion of women. In 2015, 9% of women reported
never having had an orgasm from intercourse. In earlier
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
18–24 y 25–34 y 35–44 y 45–54 y 55–64 y 65–74 y
Percentage of women
Women by age group
1971 1992 1999 2007 2015
Fig. 1. Percentage of women who experienced orgasm most of the time or always during sexual intercourse by age group and survey
year. Intercourse defined as penilevaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate standard errors. FINSEX 19712015.
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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studies, the proportion of women who had never experi-
enced an orgasm from sexual intercourse was 47%,
which is lower than in 2015. Furthermore, according
to the 2015 findings, 14% of young women (under the
age of 35) in particular had never had an orgasm from
intercourse. This is a higher figure than in previous
surveys.
It is of particular note that in 2015, only 38% of young
women (vs. 42% in 2007 and 53% in 1999) reported that
they usually had an orgasm during intercourse, whereas
43% said that they had an orgasm fairly infrequently at
most. Similar proportions were observed in the ORGSEX
survey, in which ‘love-making’ was the adopted concept
instead of intercourse. Again, only 38% of women aged
1824 ‘usually’ had an orgasm in love-making. In previous
surveys, middle-aged and older women up to retirement-
age reported a higher incidence of orgasms than women in
younger age groups, and there is a similar trend nowadays.
In the framework of sexual well-being and sexual health,
decline in orgasmic capacity is a major sexological
challenge in the 2000s.
The proportion of people who had an orgasm the
last time they had intercourse was close to the proportion
of women who said that they generally had an orgasm
from intercourse. Of the women surveyed in 2015, 54%
had had an orgasm the last time they had intercourse.
However, there was also some confusion surrounding
what an orgasm is or should be. A total of 6% of women
were not able to tell whether or not they had had an
orgasm the last time they had intercourse.
These findings indicate that women differ greatly from
one another in terms of their tendency or capacity to
experience orgasms. A significant proportion of women
(19%) experienced persistent problems experiencing any
orgasm from intercourse, whereas many (8% of all women
and 11% of young women) found it easy to have multiple
orgasms. The variation in sexual enjoyment among women
was drastically greater than among men. It is particularly
intriguing that women are now experiencing greater, not
fewer, problems regarding orgasms as compared to past
decades, even though the opportunities for gender equal-
ity and sexual enjoyment in society now seem to be better
than ever before.
First experiences of orgasms
Most young women experience their first orgasm during
masturbation. In 2015, half of the youngest generation of
women (under the age of 35) had experienced their first
orgasm in masturbation before the age of 15. The age
of first orgasm achieved via masturbation was in steady
decrease from the oldest generation (over the age of 55) to
the youngest generation. The average age at first orgasm in
masturbation declined significantly from 22 years (age
group 65years) to 15 years (age group 1824 years).
The average age had fallen in the 2000s by 3.5 years
among young women in comparison with the oldest age
group. In the oldest generation, only one-tenth of women
had experienced their first orgasm in masturbation before
the age of 15. There was a continuous declining trend
in this age from one survey to the next and from one
generation to another (r0.365, p0.01).
In 2015, 2015a quarter of young women had their first
orgasm in masturbation before the age of 13 and one-
tenth before the age of 10. Some women reported that
they had their first orgasm in masturbation as early as the
age of 5. However, many women had not experienced an
orgasm until they were in their 40s or 50s. The oldest
reported ages of participants experiencing their first
orgasm via masturbation were women in their 60s. At the
population level, there seems to be a huge variation
in the age of first orgasm in masturbation.
Women are significantly increasing their rate of mastur-
bation over time, and across surveys (Kontula, 2009).
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
18–24 y 25–34 y 35–44 y 45–54 y 55–64 y 65–74 y
Percentage of women
Women by age group
1971 1992 1999 2007 2015
Fig. 2. Percentage of women reporting orgasm during their last intercourse by age group and survey year. Intercourse defined as penile
vaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate standard errors. FINSEX 19712015.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 5
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Although masturbation provides women with a lot
pleasure, orgasms from intercourse have been found to
be more pleasurable. In Mah and Binik’s (2002) study
both men and women recall orgasms experienced with
a partner present as having been significantly more
pleasurable and satisfying than those occurring during
solitary masturbation.
The trends in women’s first orgasms achieved during
intercourse are very different from their first orgasms
achieved via masturbation. To some, it may be surprising
how large the discrepancy is between some women’s age
at first intercourse, and their first time experiencing
orgasm through intercourse. Although women had their
first intercourse, on average, at the age of 17, only a third
of women had their first orgasm at intercourse under the
age of 18. A quarter of women, but three quarters of men,
had achieved an orgasm in the same year as their first
intercourse. Altogether 4050% of women had their first
orgasm at intercourse only after the age of 20.
This proportion has remained quite stable since the
1992 survey. In addition, the average age of first orgasm
during intercourse was similar in older and younger gen-
erations, namely around 2021 years of age. The outcome
was that the difference between the age at first orgasm in
intercourse, and the age of the first orgasm in masturba-
tion had increased. For women, it was common that
there was a few years’ gap between the time of their first
intercourse, and the time of their first experience of
orgasm in intercourse.
Most women have had their first orgasm during
masturbation. Half of the women surveyed had their first
orgasm during masturbation at least 5 years before their
first orgasm during intercourse, and 17% of women 10
years before their first orgasm in intercourse. Only about
10% of women had their first orgasm during intercourse
before experiencing an orgasm via masturbation.
The implication of these results is that women have
usually been able to practice their orgasms for several
years before experiencing them for the first time in
intercourse. It has been hypothesized that this type of
physical practice should enable them to achieve orgasms
in intercourse more easily (McCabe, 2009). However, in
these data, this expected positive outcome did not exist
(Table 2).
Determinants of female orgasms
Poor determinants of female orgasms
We examined the association between several socio-
demographic, lifestyle and personal characteristics and
orgasmic capacity in the pooled FINSEX data. Due to
the large data set, the associations often proved to be
statistically significant. However, in many cases the
differences in the ability to experience orgasms between
different groups of women were relatively small. The
coefficients from the regression analyses and p-values are
reported in Table 1, and in the following, we focus on
those results which appeared to influence women’s
orgasmic capacity the most. Women’s social background
was only weakly associated with the ability to experience
orgasms. Women had orgasms almost with the same
frequency, regardless of their education or income levels.
On the other hand, religious women were more likely to
experience orgasms in the intercourse than were those
women who regarded religion not at all important. The
association was much weaker when church attendance
was considered. Somewhat contrasting, more self-
determining attitudes toward sexuality issues (‘woman
has the right to make sexual initiatives’) were also asso-
ciated with higher orgasmic capacity.
There were a number of other lifestyle and personal
characteristics that were not associated or only very
weakly associated with the frequency of orgasm. These
factors included physical exercise, psychological symp-
toms, smoking, and moderate alcohol use. On average,
46% of women with BMI below 20 experienced orgasm
always or almost always during intercourse, compared
to 51% among normal or slightly overweight women, or
50% among obese women (age-adjusted figures). Mild
mental health problems were not linked to the problem
of having orgasms, while constant feelings of anxiety
and distress were associated with decreased likelihood of
experiencing orgasms.
Relationship and sexual partner history
Women’s relationship and sexual partner history ap-
peared to have no effect on the ability of women to
have orgasms (Table 1). Women’s orgasm frequency did
not vary according to the number of steady relationships
that they had had in their lifetime, nor did it vary
according to the number of times in life they had fallen in
love. The same was also true regarding the number of
sexual partners in recent years, or over their lifetime. In
addition, women’s ability to achieve an orgasm was not
associated with being unfaithful at some point in their
current relationship.
However, sexual experience with a steady partner was
positively associated with the frequency of having orgasms.
Only 40% of single women usually experienced orgasms
in intercourse when the respective figure for women in
marital, cohabiting or living apart together (LAT)-unions
was above 50%. Women who were in newer relationships
of only a few years at most had more frequent difficulties
achieving orgasms than other women. This was partly
related to their young age, and the effect of union duration
disappeared once we controlled for the age.
How important orgasms were considered
The ORGSEX survey asked questions about how im-
portant women considered attaining an orgasm them-
selves to be in love-making, and how important they
felt it was to produce an orgasm to their own partner.
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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The results are presented by women’s relationship status
(Figs. 3 and 4).
Around 60% of women considered having an orgasm at
least ‘rather important’ in love-making, though less than
20% rated it as ‘very important’. Additionally, 10% of
women thought that an orgasm was ‘not at all important’
in love-making. In fact, they usually rated their partner’s
orgasm to be more important than their own.
Almost all women said that it was at least ‘rather
important’ to bring their partner to orgasm. Half of
women considered their partner’s orgasm ‘very impor-
tant’. This proportion was much higher than the propor-
tion of women considering their own orgasm to be
‘very important’. In Nicholson and Burr’s (2003) study,
women reported that it was important to ‘give’ their male
partners pleasure and orgasm, possibly at the expense
of their own pleasure. In Salisbury’s and Fisher’s study
(2014) women asserted that their orgasm was more of a
‘bonus’ than a goal of sexual interactions.
Only single women valued orgasms differently (they
more often could not tell how important their partner’s
orgasm might be), but even they consider a future
partner’s orgasm more important than their own.
Based on these results, women were in their sexual
interaction quite altruistic at least according to them.
Two-thirds of the women who thought that their orgasm
was not at all important considered their partner’s orgasm
at least rather important.
Evaluation of women’s own orgasms in love-making
was highly associated with their orgasmic capacity. Of the
women who considered their orgasms to be very impor-
tant, almost 90% usually had orgasms during intercourse,
and also had one in their latest intercourse (Fig. 5).
These results are in line with Laan and Rellini (2011)
Tab l e 1. Associations between socio-demographic, lifestyle and relationship history characteristics and orgasmic frequency in women
Coeff pN
Socio-demographic
Education (years in education) 0.007 0.185 5477
Income 0.028*** 0.000 5389
Importance of religion 0.083*** 0.000 5420
Attendance of religious services 0.041* 0.015 3258
Sexual attitudes: Woman has a right to initiate sex 0.111*** 0.000 5505
Physical exercise 0.039** 0.009 4120
BMI 0.008 0.131 5474
BMI squared 0.0010.060 5474
Alcohol consumption (6never) 0.001 0.872 5457
Heavy drinking (6never) 0.034* 0.014 4192
Smoking (3smokes) 0.047* 0.033 5500
Psychological symptoms (24many symptoms) 0.038*** 0.000 5179
Psychological distress, anxiety (3often) 0.203*** 0.000 5339
Couple relationship characteristics & history
Number of steady relationships (1) 0.0570.091 4578
Number of persons fallen in love with (0) 0.015 0.301 5403
Number of sex partners within last 5 years (0)0.001 0.813 3071
Number of sex partners lifetime (1) 0.000 0.816 5289
Has had extra-marital relationship(s) (1no) 0.045 0.465 4249
Current relationship: married (vs. single) 0.476*** 0.000 5529
Current relationship: cohabiting (vs. single) 0.422*** 0.000 5529
Current relationship: LAT (relationship, not cohabiting) (vs. single) 0.399*** 0.000 5529
Duration of current relationship 0.002 0.479 4422
Children: own children (1has children) 0.408*** 0.000 5509
Children: household children (1lives children) 0.214*** 0.000 4243
Importance of orgasm and sexual satisfaction
Importance of sex for the couple relationship (4very important) 0.445*** 0.000 4382
How important to have orgasm in love-making (4very important) 1.026*** 0.000 952
How important to provide orgasm to partner (4very important) 0.573*** 0.000 953
pB0.1; *pB0.05; **pB0.01; ***pB0.001.
Coefficients are from regression models adjusting for age and survey year.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
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who determined that women who found it easier to
orgasm were also more likely to regard orgasm as
important. Of the women who considered their orgasms
very important, almost 30% had also a multi-orgasmic
experience in their latest intercourse. This association
may be partly explained by highly pleasurable sexual
experiences prompting women to place a higher value on
orgasms.
At the other end of the orgasm-evaluation scale,
were women who did not consider their orgasms to be
important. Most of them had difficulties experiencing
orgasms. Only 13% of these women had an orgasm
in their latest intercourse. Because these women rarely
experienced orgasm, it makes sense that they did not
value orgasms that much in their love-making. Laan
and Rellini (2011) note that a low female value on own
orgasm can be considered a sensible coping strategy, in
that, by placing less value on orgasms if they are difficult
or impossible to have, they will not be disappointed by
their sexual experiences.
Female orgasmic capacity was also related to how
important women considered sex to be for the happiness
of their current relationship. If they considered sex to
be important or very important for the happiness, they
reported having had an orgasm in their latest intercourse
more often, and were more likely to usually achieve
orgasm in intercourse (Table 1, pB0.001). They reported
having experienced an orgasm even more often if they also
17 14 16
13
33
43 41
48
22
34
30
24
67
10 10
22
235
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
Single LAT Cohabitation Marriage
Percentage of women
Women by relationship status
Very important Rather important Not very important
Not at all important Can't tell
Fig. 3. Importance of experiencing orgasm during love-making for women in different relationship statuses. LATLiving-apart-but-
together (i.e. in relationship but not cohabiting). Marriage includes persons living in registered unions. Definition of love-making left to
the participant. Error bars indicate 95 CI. ORGSEX 2015.
36
50
59
45
35
44
35
44
5424
2012
22
236
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Single LAT Cohabitation Marriage
Percentage of women
Women by relationship status
Very important Rather important Not very important
Not at all important Can't tell
Fig. 4. Women’s responses to question of how important it is to produce an orgasm in their partner during love-making. Women
grouped by their relationship status. Exact wording of the question: ‘How important it is for you to produce an orgasm in your partner
during love-making?’ Definition of love-making left to the participant. LATLiving-apart-but-together (i.e. in relationship but not
cohabiting). Marriage includes persons living in registered unions. Error bars indicate 95 CI. ORGSEX 2015.
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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rated their relationship as being happy. Of women who
were very happy in their current romantic relationship,
and who also considered sex very important for happiness
in a relationship, 76% reported having had an orgasm in
their latest intercourse. If they did not value sex highly
in their relationship, and they had a relationship that was
not happy, only 29% reported orgasmic experiences in
the most recent intercourse. Happy relationships were
associated with orgasm capacity (Table 1, pB0.001), but
less so if women did not consider sex to be important
to the happiness of their current relationship.
Orgasms and sexual techniques
In sexual therapy, a common assumption has been that
physically practicing masturbation or sexual pleasuring
will increase a women’s ability to experience orgasms in
intercourse.
These two sexuality survey data (FINSEX and ORG-
SEX) did not provide clear support for this assumption.
The age at which women began to have sexual intercourse
was statistically significantly associated with the overall
ability to experience orgasms during sexual intercourse
(Table 2, pB0.001). Among early initiators (first inter-
course by age 17) 53% of women had orgasms almost
always during the intercourse, among women who had
had their first intercourse at later age (1824 years), the
respective figure was 47%. Of women who had their
sexual initiation after age 25, 44% were able to usually
have orgasm during the intercourse.
On the other hand, age at which women first had
an orgasm in masturbation was not statistically signifi-
cantly related to orgasmic capacity. This was true also
regarding if the women had one orgasm or several
orgasms in their latest intercourse. In addition, masturba-
tion frequency was negatively (not statistically signifi-
cantly) associated with how often women experienced
orgasm during intercourse. In fact, those women who
had masturbated never or only a very long time ago, were
more likely to experience orgasms during intercourse
(Table 2, pB0.001).
One masturbation-related assumption is that women
achieve orgasm via masturbation more easily than via
intercourse. These data provide some confirmation of this
hypothesis. Nearly half of women (48%) reported that
they achieved orgasm more easily in masturbation than in
intercourse. However, 14% of women achieved an orgasm
more easily via intercourse than masturbation, while 17%
achieved it similarly easily in both ways, and 20% of
all women could not tell by which technique they found
it easier to have orgasms.
The ease of achieving an orgasm via masturbation
versus intercourse had no clear association with how
often women had experienced orgasms in intercourse, or
if they had had an orgasm in their latest intercourse.
There was a low frequency of orgasm in intercourse
among women who much easier achieved orgasm via
masturbation (only 38% of them had an orgasm in
the latest intercourse), this association was statistically
11
27
67
87
26
44
78
87
05
14
28
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Orgasm not at all
important
Orgasm not very
important
Orgasm rather
important
Orgasm very
important
Percentage of women
Importance of orgasm
Orgasm always or almost always during love-making
Orgasm during the last love-making
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last love-makin
g
Fig. 5. Women’s orgasmic capacity by how important orgasm is to them. Note that orgasmic capacity is here measured with three
separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during
love-making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is depicted in the figure with the orange
bar. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your last love-
making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two’ or ‘Yes, more than two’ is depicted in the Figure with the
yellow bar. (3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your
last love-making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two’ or ‘Yes, more than two’ is depicted in the Figure with the green
bar. Definition of love-making is left to the participant. Error bars indicate 95 CI. ORGSEX 2015.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 9
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significant (r0.37, pB0.001). On the other hand, there
was hardly any differences in the orgasmic capacity
between women who achieved orgasm more easily via
vaginal sex as compared to women who achieved orgasm
somewhat more easily via masturbation. Women who
could orgasm equally easily both via masturbation and
vaginal sex were the most orgasmic in the latest inter-
course (90%) (Fig. 8).
A continuous international debate has been if women
achieve orgasm more easily via stimulating their clitoris or
via stimulating their vagina (Paget, 2001). Paget continues
that the discussion can follow the spirit of Masters
and Johnson regarding clitocentrism, including that a
woman can orgasm only via clitoral stimulation.
Blackledge (2004) tells that sexual arousal typically
occurs as a result of the activation of various nerves.
Typically when orgasm occurs, it is the result of one
or more of three genital nerves being activated. These
are pudendal (clitoris), pelvic (vagina) and hypogastric
(uterus, cervix) nerves. These nerves are all genitospinal
nerves they run from the genitalia and then project into a
person’s spinal cord.
In FINSEX, women were asked if they usually achieve
an orgasm during sexual intercourse via stimulating of the
clitoris, of the vagina, or both. More than half of women
(54%) responded that they usually achieve an orgasm via
stimulating both the clitoris and vagina (Fig. 9). Orgasms
that result from such stimulation have been called blended
orgasms (Ladas, Whipple & Perry, 2005) or fusion orgasms
(Otto, 1999). A third of women (34%) reported that
they usually attained an orgasm via stimulating the clitoris.
Only 6% of women reported that they usually have an
orgasm via stimulating the vagina. Also 6% of women told
that they had never experienced an orgasm in intercourse.
The technique of how women usually stimulated their
sexual organs (clitoris or vagina) had a strong association
Tab l e 2. Associations between sexual experiences, sexual skills and couple relationship characteristics with orgasmic frequency in
women
Coeff pN
Intercourse and masturbation, lifetime
Age at first intercourse 0.028*** 0.000 5460
Age at first orgasm in intercourse 0.044*** 0.000 4925
Frequency of intercourse during past month (8daily) 0.165*** 0.000 5476
Recent masturbation (7during last 24 h) 0.091*** 0.000 5310
Frequency of masturbation (64times/w) 0.036 0.414 955
Age at first orgasm in masturbation 0.005 0.203 2313
Experiences related to intercourse
Partner comes too quickly (4frequently) 0.308*** 0.000 3658
Intercourse feels painful (4frequently) 0.365*** 0.000 1723
Experiences: vaginal dryness (6constantly) 0.141*** 0.000 3697
Experiences: partner has erection problems (6constantly) 0.111*** 0.000 4653
Sex techniques and skills
Orgasm via clitoris or vagina or both: vagina (vs. clitoris) 0.640*** 0.000 1065
Orgasm via clitoris or vagina or both: both (vs. clitoris) 0.518*** 0.000 1065
Duration of intercourse 0.207*** 0.000 2456
Partner gives oral stimulation (5most times) 0.154*** 0.000 4152
Last time since partner gave manual stimulation (7less than a week) 0.170*** 0.000 1071
Lack of own sexual desire (4 never) 0.353*** 0.000 3826
Sexual self-esteem (5agree completely) 0.573*** 0.000 953
Orgasm much easier via masturbation (vs. much easier via love-making) 1.585*** 0.000 848
Somewhat easier via masturbation (vs. much easier via love-making) 0.077 0.559 848
As easy in masturbation as in love-making (vs. much easier via love-making) 0.473*** 0.002 848
Somewhat easier in love-making (vs. much easier via love-making) 0.259 0.254 848
Couple relationship: satisfaction and communication
Satisfaction towards couple relationship (4very happy) 0.332*** 0.000 4412
Discussion of sexual issues with partner (4open and easy) 0.370*** 0.000 4405
Physical intimacy in the couple relationship (4not at all) 0.454*** 0.000 3476
pB0.1; *pB0.05; **pB0.01; ***pB0.001.
Coefficients are from regression models adjusting for age and survey year.
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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53 53 50 50
46 42
60 64 68
60 61 59
13 12 11 10
79
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
<=13 y 14–15 y 16–17 y 18–19 y 20–25 y >= 26 y
Percentage of women
Age at first masturbatory orgasm
Orgasm always or almost always during intercourse
Orgasm during the last intercourse
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last intercourse
Fig. 6. Women’s orgasmic capacity by the age at first masturbatory orgasm. Note that orgasmic capacity is here measured with three
separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is depicted in the figure with the orange
line. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your last
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the yellow line.
(3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your last
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the green line. Intercourse
defined as penile-vaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19992015.
53
56 55 55
47
39
43
67 68 69
64 62
54 53
245688
14
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Never +10 years
ago
1–10 years
ago
in the last
year
in the last
month
in the last
week
in the last
day
Percentage of women
Timing of last masturbation
Orgasm always or almost always during intercourse
Orgasm during the last intercourse
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last intercourse
Fig. 7. Women’s orgasmic capacity by timing of last masturbation. Note that orgasmic capacity is here measured with three separate
variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is depicted in the figure with the orange
bars. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your
last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the yellow bars.
(3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your last
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the green bars. Intercourse
defined as penilevaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19712015.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
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with their orgasmic capacity in intercourse (Table 2).
Those women who typically experienced vaginal stimula-
tion during intercourse had orgasms more often (64%)
than did other women. Women who usually achieved
orgasm via stimulating the clitoris achieved orgasm less
frequently during intercourse (40%). In this clitoral stimu-
lation subgroup were the biggest group of women (8%
of this group) who had never had an orgasm during
intercourse. This raises the question of whether a recom-
mendation to focus mainly on clitoral stimulation in
sexual intercourse is a helpful instruction to all women
and their partners.
Sexual techniques that include active partner involve-
ment are effective to female orgasmic capacity. One of
these is concentrating on one’s partner for a longer time.
Duration of intercourse was strongly associated with
women’s ability to experience orgasm during intercourse
(Table 2, pB0.001). Those women whose love-making
21
68
88
56 63
38
77
89 82
74
411
24 21 23
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Orgasm much
easier in
masturbation
Orgasm
somewhat easier
in masturbation
No difference Orgasm
somewhat easier
in vaginal sex
Orgasm much
easier in vaginal
sex
Percentage of women
Ease of orgasm in masturbation vs. love-making
Orgasm always or almost always during love-making
Orgasm during the last love-making
Multior
astic durin
the last love-makin
Fig. 8. Women’s orgasmic capacity by whether orgasm is easier to achieve in masturbation or in love-making. Note that orgasmic
capacity is here measured with three separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an
orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during love-making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is
depicted in the figure with the orange bars. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you
have an orgasm during your last love-making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two’ or ‘Yes, more than
two’ is depicted in the Figure with the yellow bars. (3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm.
Did you have an orgasm during your last love-making?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two’ or ‘Yes, more than two’
is depicted in the Figure with the green bars. Definition of love-making is left to the participant. Error bars indicate 95 CI.
ORGSEX 2015.
31
40 39 36 35
24
53
48
53 55 57 60
54455
10
10
84437
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
18–24 y 25–34 y 35–44 y 45–54 y 55–64 y 65–79 y
Percentage of women
Age group
Stimulatin
g
clitoris Both clitoris and va
g
ina Stimulatin
g
va
g
ina No or
g
asm at all
Fig. 9. How women typically achieve orgasm during sexual interaction by age group. Exact phrasing of the question: ‘How do you
usually achieve orgasm during sexual interaction?’ Sexual interaction defined as either intercourse, oral sex, or manual sex. Error bars
indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 2015.
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usually lasted a minimum of 15 min achieved an orgasm
more easily than women whose intercourse was shorter).
However, if intercourse lasted for longer than 20 min, the
additional effect on increasing a woman’s probability of
experiencing an orgasm was marginal. An exception to
this was women who experienced an increased capacity
for multiple orgasms in cases of intercourse lasting for
more than 1 h.
Another example of behavior that is associated with
higher orgasmic frequency is the sexual position of partners
in the most recent intercourse experience (results not
shown in the Tables). If women were more active
including engaging in woman-on-top position, or using
several positions with the partner during that intercourse
two-thirds of women achieved one or more orgasms
during the intercourse. If their partner was more active,
including man-on-top positions, less than half of women
achieved orgasm. Sanchez, Kiefer, and Ybarra (2006)
have suggested that women with an orgasm disorder tend
to behave according to the traditional female scripts,
in which the woman remains passive, does not let go
mentally, and waits until her male partner evokes feelings
of arousal and pleasure in her.
How partners can promote female orgasms
One way in which partners can promote female orgasms is
by providing women with oral sex. Partner’s manual
stimulation to female sexual organs has almost the
same effect. The more frequently women receive oral or
manual sex from their partners, the more often they have
orgasms (Table 2, pB0.001). However, oral sex does
not stimulate all women to achieve orgasm. Even among
the women who received oral sex most of the time in
sexual activity, only 60% usually achieved orgasm during
intercourse, and 69% experienced orgasm in their latest
intercourse.
Some women find requesting oral stimulation from
their partners to be difficult. In Salisbury’s and Fisher’s
study (2014), the majority of women believed that asking
for, or engaging in clitoral stimulation in the presence of
their male partner would not be welcome.
If a woman experienced low sexual desire, the role of oral
sex in promoting orgasm was notable. Of women who very
often lacked sexual desire, only around 20% experienced
orgasm in their latest intercourse if their partner did not
provide oral sex. 50% of low desire women, who received
oral sex from their partner frequently, had an orgasm.
If women did not lack sexual desire, the role of oral
sex in promoting orgasm was much less notable. Oral
sex was associated with an orgasm somewhat, but even
without oral sex, most of these women had orgasms in
their latest intercourse. Sexual desire and related arousal
were associated with female orgasms, even when sexual
techniques were limited.
The role of oral sex in promoting female orgasm
was notable also in couples who found it difficult to
discuss of sexual issues. If discussions of sexual issues
with partners were quite difficult, oral sex provided
40
53
63
61 65
66
89
10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Stimulating clitoris Both clitoris and vagina Stimulating vagina
Percentage of women
Type of stimulation usually contributing to orgasm
Orgasm always or almost always during intercourse
Orgasm during the last intercourse
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last intercourse
Fig. 10. Women’s orgasmic capacity by the type of stimulation they report as usually contributing to orgasm. Note that orgasmic
capacity is here measured with three separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an
orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is
depicted in the figure with the orange bars. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you
have an orgasm during your last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the
Figure with the yellow bars. (3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an
orgasm during your last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the
green bars. Exact phrasing of the question: ‘How do you usually achieve orgasm during sexual interaction?’ Sexual interaction defined
as sexual intercourse, oral sex, or manual sex. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 2015.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
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by the partner had a very significant association with
women’s orgasm in their latest experience of intercourse
(65% vs. 27%). It is possible that oral sex could
significantly compensate for the missing sexual commu-
nication between the partners. In cases where sexual
communication was open and easy, the role of oral
sex in orgasms was much less remarkable (76% vs.
61%). Good sexual communication contributed to
female orgasms almost as much as favorable sexual
techniques.
67 70 75
50
60
73
38
54
70
37
52
64
26
47
59
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Quite or very difficult Not very difficult Open and easy
Percentage of women
Discussion of sexual issues with partner
Oral sex most times Oral sex sometimes Oral sex seldom
Oral sex 1–5 years a
g
oNever oral sex
Fig. 12. Percentage of women experiencing orgasm during the last intercourse by how often partner has given oral sex and by how easy
or difficult it is to have discussions of sexual issues with one’s partner. Exact phrasing of the questions: ‘Is discussion of sexual issues
easy or difficult with your partner?’; ‘During intercourse, how often you have been given oral sex by your partner during past 5 years?’
Intercourse defined as penilevaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19922015.
43 42
49 53
58
40
48
56 62
69
357913
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Never oral sex Oral sex 1–5
years ago
Oral sex seldom Oral sex
sometimes
Oral sex most
times
Percentage of women
Frequency of oral sex given by the partner
Orgasm always or almost always during intercourse
Orgasm during the last intercourse
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last intercourse
Fig. 11. Women’s orgasmic capacity by how often partner has given oral sex. Note that orgasmic capacity is here measured with three
separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Do you have an orgasm during
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is depicted in the figure with the orange
bars. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your
last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the yellow bars.
(3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm during your last
intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the green bars. Exact phrasing of
the question: ‘During intercourse, how often you have been given oral sex by your partner during past 5 years?’ Intercourse defined as
penilevaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19922015.
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Disagree
completely
Disagree
somewhat
Neither disagree
nor agree
Agree
somewhat
Agree
completely
Percentage of women
Whether the participant considers herself sexually skilled
Discussion not difficult Discussion at least quite difficult
Fig. 14. Percent of women achieving orgasm in the last intercourse by whether they agree they are sexually skilled and by ease of
discussion of sexual issues with partner. Exact phrasing of the question: ‘Do you agree or disagree with the following: I consider myself
quite skilled in sexual issues’. Question on easiness of discussion of sexual issues with partner collapsed into two categories: (1) at least
quite difficultquite or very difficult; (2) not difficult not very difficult or open and easy. Intercourse defined as penilevaginal
intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19922015.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Disagree
completely
Disagree
somewhat
Not agree, nor
disagree
Agrees
somewhat
Agrees
completely
Percentage of women
Whether the participant considers herself sexually skilled
Orgasm always or almost always during intercourse
Orgasm during the last intercourse
Multior
g
astic durin
g
the last intercourse
Fig. 13. Women’s orgasmic capacity by whether they agree they are ‘sexually quite skilled’. Note that orgasmic capacity is here
measured with three separate variables: (1) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Do you
have an orgasm during intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Always’ or ‘Almost always or usually’ is depicted in the
figure with the orange line. (2) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an
orgasm during your last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, one’ or ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure
with the yellow line. (3) ‘Sexual pleasure ending in relaxation and a very good feeling is called an orgasm. Did you have an orgasm
during your last intercourse?’ The proportion of women who answered ‘Yes, two or more’ is depicted in the Figure with the green line.
Exact phrasing of the question: ‘Do you agree or disagree with the following: I consider myself quite skilled in sexual issues’.
Intercourse defined as penilevaginal intercourse. Error bars indicate 95 CI. FINSEX 19922015.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 15
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The role of female sexual self-esteem and communication
with the partner
Another significant factor in female orgasms was sexual
self-esteem. In the ORGSEX survey, women who agreed
with the statement that they were good in bed had orgasms
much more frequently in comparison with women who
disagreed with this statement (Table 2, pB0.001). Of those
women who agreed completely with this statement,
around 80% reported having orgasms most times in their
intercourse, and as many had orgasmic experiences in their
latest intercourse. If women disagreed completely that
they were good in bed only 1 in 10 had had an orgasm in
their latest intercourse. Orgasmic capacity is obviously
one key factor by which women estimate how good they
are in bed.
For some women orgasmic capacity is a learning
process. Regarding their sexual self-esteem, they have
learned to accept themselves and their body. They have
also learned how to concentrate completely on love-
making. They have often been successful in preventing
stress, and to stimulate a high arousal in their intercourse.
In addition, if they have had a skillful and desirable
partner, they can be highly orgasmic.
In the FINSEX survey, one question asked if women
agreed that they are quite skillful in sexual issues. This
type of sexual self-esteem was positively associated to
orgasm. Of women who agreed with this statement
around 70% had an orgasm in their latest intercourse.
This type of self-esteem was more strongly associated
with orgasm ability than open communication regarding
sexual issues with the partner (56% had orgasm).
If women did not consider themselves sexually skillful
and their sexual communication with their partner was
quite difficult, only about one-fifth of them experienced
an orgasm in their latest intercourse. This suggests that
both sexual self-esteem and communication skills with
their partner are important factors that can be associated
with orgasmic capacity.
In addition to sexual self-esteem, and particularly in
relation to a positive assessment of sexual skills, active
female sexual communication with their partner can make
a big difference to orgasmic capacity. In this study, high
sexual self-esteem had a very positive association with
orgasms in the latest intercourse, even when sexual com-
munication with a partner was problematic. This suggests
that even in relationships that would not be considered
positive, women may experience a lot of sexual pleasure if
they have high sexual self-esteem. But in cases where their
sexual self-esteem was low, good sexual communication
with the partner significantly helped a woman’s ability
to achieve an orgasm.
These FINSEX results are in line with the results of
the ORGSEX survey. The ORGSEX survey included a
question regarding how women had learned to enjoy
love-making more intensely, and to experience orgasms.
Almost half of the women reported that they had
achieved this by learning to accept themselves and their
body, or by concentrating completely on love-making.
This may suggest that women who had felt responsible
for their own pleasure had been more successful in
gaining pleasure during intercourse.
Another factor that made a difference was the partner.
A third of women reported that they had learned to
experience orgasms by finding a desirable and skillful
partner. A fifth of women had gained more orgasms by
learning how to increase her partner’s pleasure. A process
of mutual pleasure had presumably promoted more
pleasure for women.
Factors that were frequently associated with a low or
high probability of having orgasms
There were a number of factors that seemed to complicate
female experiences of orgasms. In the ORGSEX survey a
question asked ‘what prevents or inhibits respondents the
most in achieving orgasm’. The most frequent responses
were ‘fatigue or stress’ and ‘difficulty concentrating’. Most
women selected reasons that related to their own qualifi-
cations. The next most frequent responses were ‘unskillful
partner’ and ‘partner is too fast’. One-fifth of women
attributed their orgasmic problems to their partners.
Based on the results of the FINSEX survey, a low
frequency of female orgasm is in many ways related to the
interaction with the partner. Only about a quarter of
women had an orgasm in their latest intercourse if they
did not consider sex at all important for the happiness
in relationship; if they did not have any physical intimacy
in their relationship; if they often lacked sexual desire; if
their partner never had given manual or oral sex; if their
intercourse was very often painful; or if their partner very
often experienced an orgasm too soon.
Other factors related to low frequency of orgasm in the
most recent intercourse included feeling the relation-
ship was quite unhappy; not considering oneself sexually
desirable; continuous vaginal dryness; partner’s frequent
erectile problems; illness hampering sexual interaction;
and intercourse that lasted at maximum only 5 min. For
these women, the rate of orgasm at previous intercourse
was only about one-third.
Finally, we examined the associations between various
factors and female orgasmic capacity in joint regression
models to see, if these factors influenced women’s ability
to achieve orgasm even when we controlled the effects
of other factors. Results are presented in Table 3
(for FINSEX-data) and Table 4 (for ORGSEX-data).
It appears that there were a number of factors that were
associated with high probability of having orgasms. These
can be classified into three groups:
The first of these was related to some types of innate
skills that enabled women to enjoy sexual experiences.
These women had experienced their first orgasm in inter-
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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course at a younger age than others; they did not prac-
tice active masturbation; and they had orgasms at least
as easily in intercourse as in masturbation. In addition,
they did not experience pain in sexual intercourse.
A second group includes factors such as good sexual
skills and high sexual self-esteem. These women consid-
ered themselves good in bed. They got orgasms due to
powerful arousal, and they were able to concentrate com-
pletely on love-making. They also considered it important
to get orgasms in love-making and they also considered
sex important for the happiness in their relationship.
These women had both great mental and bodily capacity
to let go and to experience orgasms.
A third group of factors relates to a woman’s skillful
partner. The partner was able to promote female orgasm
if he was not too fast. There was enough time to concen-
trate on sexual pleasure with the partner and commu-
nication with the partner was open enough in sexual
issues.
Although many variables had highly statistical asso-
ciations with women’s orgasmic capacity, differences in
the orgasm frequency between women were not necessa-
rily very large and in some cases diminished once age of
the respondents and time of the survey was controlled
for. These variables included frequency of intercourse
and oral sex.
Multi-orgasmic women
Women show a greater propensity than men to experience
multiple orgasms as a result of sexual intercourse, or
other sexual stimulation. Women have not been shown to
experience the same kind of post-orgasmic latent state of
arousal as men do, who have just ejaculated. There is some
evidence that this is probably connected to the different
hormonal functions of men and women (Blackledge,
2004).
In the FINSEX survey, 12% of women reported that
they had two or more orgasms in their latest intercourse,
and in the ORGSEX survey 11% of women reported
the same. In the ORGSEX survey, half of these multi-
orgasmic women (5%) had more than two orgasms. In the
FINSEX survey, these figures were relatively stable across
data from 1999, 2007, and 2015. There was no increase
in the proportion of multi-orgasmic women.
Almost half of the women surveyed were multi-
orgasmic if they used almost continuously in their sexual
activities some sexual toys and aids, or if their love making
lasted for more than an hour. One-third of women were
multi-orgasmic if they reported intercourse every day,
or if they agreed completely that they were good in bed.
One quarter of women were multi-orgasmic if they con-
Tab l e 3. Determinants of female orgasmic capacity: FINSEX-data
20072015 19922015 1992 and 2015
Survey years Coeff pCoeff pCoeff p
Frequency of intercourse (during past 1 month) 0.034 0.142 0.023 0.165 0.038 0.127
Duration of intercourse 0.124*** 0.000 
Intercourse feels painful 0.174 0.000
Age at first intercourse 0.028* 0.013 0.030*** 0.000 0.030** 0.002
Duration since last masturbation 0.087*** 0.000 0.087*** 0.000 0.102*** 0.000
Partner gives oral stimulation 0.014 0.605 0.034 0.079 0.009 0.742
Partner comes too quickly 0.236*** 0.000 0.289*** 0.000 0.339*** 0.000
Sexual self-esteem 0.223*** 0.000 0.200*** 0.000 0.185*** 0.000
Sex important for happiness in couple relationship 0.226*** 0.000 0.285*** 0.000 0.288*** 0.000
Satisfaction towards couple relationship 0.126*** 0.005 0.130*** 0.000 0.055 0.257
Discussion of sexual issues with partner easy 0.119*** 0.009 0.130*** 0.000 0.153** 0.003
N1682 2910 1353
pB0.1; *pB0.05; **pB0.01; ***pB0.001.
Model include controls for education, religiousity, age, and survey year.
Tab l e 4. Determinants of female orgasmic capacity: ORGSEX-
data
Coeff p
Frequency of intercourse
(during past 1 month)
0.001 0.970
Duration of intercourse 0.098*** 0.001
Sexual self-esteem 0.289*** 0.000
Frequency of masturbation 0.040 0.360
Achieving orgasm in love-making important 0.854*** 0.000
Orgasm easier via love-making than via
masturbation
0.296*** 0.000
N985
pB0.1; *pB0.05; **pB0.01; ***pB0.001.
Model include controls for age.
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 17
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sidered orgasm in intercourse very important; if they
experienced sexual desire more than once a day; or if they
preferred having intercourse every day. Women achieved
frequent orgasms just as easily via masturbation as
love-making.
In many respects, multi-orgasmic women displayed
strong sexual interests, and were sexually very active.
This goes back to the question of whether strong sexual
interests resulted in these women being multi-orgasmic,
or if it is a case of the very positive sexual experiences
encouraging their broad spectrum of sexual appetites.
There is probably no definitive answer. The only thing
that can be said is that strong sexual interest and sexual
enjoyment often seem to be concentrated in the same
women, and this is probably comparable to men.
Discussion
Regarding the issue of gender equality, Finland is ranked
among the leading countries in the world. There has been
a major improvement in gender equality since the 1970s.
Social and public discourses on the subjects of gender
and sexuality have underscored women’s sexual rights
and the right to sexual enjoyment. Positive female sexual
expectations have been increased, for example, by pro-
gress in comprehensive sexuality education; increasing
sexual knowledge; and by improved sexual health ser-
vices. Altogether, these were expected to enable advancing
sexual pleasures to women.
Feminists in particular have assumed that improving
gender equality should have a positive impact on female
sexual pleasure, including orgasms. This assumption could
be tested in this study by analyzing long term trends
in female orgasms from the 1970s to the present time. The
result was that there has been no improvement in female
orgasmic capacity since the 1970s. Improving gender
equality has not helped women to experience progress
in this key factor of female sexual pleasure even in the
2000s. This finding is contrary to previous expectations.
Young women (under 35 years of age) have had even
more difficulties in having orgasms during intercourse
in the 2000s. This trend continued to the year 2015. It
is a mystery why the difficulty of having female orgasms
has increased in the 21st century, at a time when public
information about how to better achieve orgasms pro-
liferates. The internet and women’s- and health magazines
are full of instructions regarding the pursuit and cultiva-
tion of sexual pleasure. In addition, women’s rights to
sexual pleasure have been acknowledged without any
doubt. That has not given any boost to improving sexual
pleasure.
There have been new lifestyle- and value factors that
can have limited young women’s orgasmic capacity than
in preceding generations. Stressful and busy lifestyles have
resulted in a lack of time; reduced strength of private
life; and in increasing mental pressures that have caused
difficulties to concentrate on intimate life and sexual
interaction. Although there has been a parallel major
increase in masturbation habits, it has not helped young
women to achieve more frequent orgasms.
The findings of this study indicate that women differ
greatly from one another in terms of their tendency
and capacity to experience orgasms. Inequality in sexual
enjoyment is much greater among women than among
men. There are a number of women who are multi-
orgasmic, but at the same time, there are a large number
of women who have never had an orgasm during inter-
course. Almost half of women do not orgasm most of the
time when they have intercourse. This inequality among
women warrants a more comprehensive study about the
predictors of female orgasms.
There have been claims that high proportions of
women probably do not report their orgasms because
they report, or the surveys ask about orgasms only via
vaginal intercourse. In this framework, low orgasmic
prevalence could be true, based on a limited under-
standing of the concept of intercourse. In this study, the
concept of intercourse was adopted in the FINSEX
surveys but in the ORGSEX survey, the concept adopted
was love-making thus allowing respondents to decide
more freely what they include in the concept. However,
asking about orgasms in love-making gave exactly the
same results regarding orgasmic prevalence during inter-
course. Women seem to connect similar components in
their mind relating to intercourse as to love-making.
The promotion of self-stimulation via masturbation
(Komisaruk et al., 2006) is assumed, especially in sexual
therapy, to contribute to an increase in female orgasms.
In this study, women did not have more frequent orgasms
by increasing their current practice of masturbation, or
by increasing experiments with different partners in their
lifetime. Orgasms did not seem to be something that
could be learned via increasing physical experiences or via
frequent masturbation. Women masturbate nowadays
much more actively than in the 1970s, but that reform
has not helped them to increase their orgasmic capacity
in intercourse. On the contrary, women who had not been
active in masturbation lately experienced orgasms even
more regularly in their intercourse.
There has been a continuous declining trend regarding
the age of first orgasm in masturbation, but not regarding
the age of the first orgasm in intercourse. Nowadays, half
of women have had their first orgasm in masturbation
at least 5 years prior their first orgasm in intercourse.
They have had more time to practice their sexual pleasure
via masturbation before their first intercourse, but that
has not helped them to achieve an orgasm any younger
during intercourse. This result diverges from expectations.
There are even some findings that masturbation is
associated with poorer relationship quality, greater risk of
female sexual arousal disorder, impaired sexual satisfaction,
Osmo Kontula and Anneli Miettinen
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impaired orgasm (especially vaginal orgasm) and with
other adverse processes (Brody, 2007). In this study, female
relationship quality was not associated to masturbation
frequency but general sexual satisfaction was lower among
women who masturbated actively. Active masturbators
considered their intercourse more often very pleasant than
women who masturbated less often.
Those women who had orgasms much more easily via
masturbation had problems to experience it in inter-
course. The ease of attaining an orgasm via masturbation
was not a good measure of orgasmic capacity during
intercourse. Half of the women surveyed usually had an
orgasm in intercourse via stimulating both clitoris and
vagina, and only one-third usually via stimulating clitoris.
Based on these results, the role of the clitoris is not
as dominant in sexual stimulation towards orgasm in
intercourse as has been expected.
Meston, Hull, Levin, and Sipski (2004) have argued that
there are no consistent, empirical findings that psycho-
social factors alone differentiate orgasmic from anorgas-
mic women. This study can add more information about
how these factors are actually associated with more- or less
frequent orgasms. These factors include women’s sexual
desire, sexual values, sexual self-esteem, skills in commu-
nication, and their partner’s qualities.
The keys to achieving more frequent female orgasms
were identified in this study as being in the mind and
in the relationship. These factors and capacities included
how important orgasms were considered personally;
how high was sexual desire; how high was sexual self-
esteem; and how open was sexual communication with the
partner. Sexual self-esteem included how sexually skillful
and how good in bed women considered themselves.
Other positive factors of orgasmic capacity were the
ability to concentrate on the moment; mutual sexual
initiations; and a partner’s good sexual techniques. All of
these are factors that should be paid attention to in sexual
therapy.
Based on regression analysis, women who had a high
orgasmic capacity had an innate talent to react with
arousal to sexual stimulation in intercourse. They were
also sexually skillful and they had good sexual self-esteem.
Thanks to their good sexual experiences, they valued
orgasms in their intercourse and in their relationship. Very
often they also had a skillful sexual partner, who provided
them good stimulation and was able to discuss sexual
issues openly. They were able to maintain a positive circle
that even increased their orgasmic capacity.
In short, a relationship that felt good and worked well
emotionally, and where sex was approached openly and
appreciatively, was associated with orgasmic capacity.
These same factors were even more pronounced among
multi-orgasmic women. In addition to this, they realized
more frequent and long-lasting love-makings and sexual
role plays. Thanks to their highly pleasurable intercourse,
they had a high and versatile sexual motivation.
Although masturbation has not stimulated women
to achieve more frequent orgasms, they surely need a
variant sexual stimulation to become aroused during
sexual intercourse, and also to have an orgasm. An
orgasm is a complex response to socially contextualized
physical and mental stimuli and, for the individual, there
will be a variety of sources of effective stimulation, both
physically and mentally (Lauman, Gagnon, Michael &
Michaels, 1994). Based on ideas of Levin (2014), the
factors that are involved in influencing the pleasure of
orgasms are the novelty of sexual stimulation; genital
stimulation with concomitant stimulation in and around
the anus; the use of sexual fantasy; the duration between
orgasms; and the duration and expertise in the sexual
stimulation leading up to the climax are all reasonably
well-known enhancing behaviors.
In this same spirit, Paterson, Jin, Amsel, and Binik
(2014) have found that a greater build-up of sexual arousal
desire prior to orgasm significantly predicted orgasmic
pleasure for both genders. They recommend enhancing
the experience of orgasm by delaying it until having
reached high levels of sexual arousal and desire. According
to Adam, Ge´net, Day, and Sutter (2015) orgasmic women
reported significantly more mindfulness (they were cap-
able of concentrating) during dyadic sexual activities.
By the same token, Laan and Rellini (2011) argue that
women’s orgasm consistency in all forms of partnered
sexual activity is associated with sexual autonomy. In
addition, letting go of control is mandatory for an orgasm
to take place (Georgiadis et al., 2006).
Teaching effective techniques of stimulation may well
improve the orgasmic response of anorgasmic women
(McCabe, 2009). Ignorance of the best techniques; reluc-
tance to use them; and/or an inability to communicate
preferences for sexual stimulation to the partner contri-
bute to low orgasmic frequency during sexual interaction
(McCabe, 2009).
Based on the results of this study, one key issue
regarding female orgasmic capacity is a personal sexual
motivation. Women who have a high sexual motivation;
desire to have sex; communicate sexual issues openly with
their partner; make sexual initiations; and are active in
sexual intercourse are more likely to experience orgasms
during intercourse. Sexual activity means, for example,
using woman-on-top positions in intercourse, and pro-
viding pleasure to the partner. Activity in sexual com-
munication helps women to get the kind of stimulation
that they need for arousal towards an orgasm from their
partner.
Many studies have reported the importance of good
sexual communication. Empirical studies have consistently
demonstrated that anorgasmic women reported experien-
cing significantly greater discomfort with communication
Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 19
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about sexual activities (Kelly, Strassberg & Turner, 2004).
A lack of communication between partners about their
sexual relationship appears to be a factor related to
anorgasmia in women (McCabe, 2009).
Past failure to achieve orgasm can elicit self-defeating
and distracting thoughts about whether a woman will be
able to achieve orgasm this time. A woman may mentally
monitor her own- and her partner’s response, unable to
allow herself to relax and enjoy the sexual stimulation for
its own sake. She becomes a spectator who demands her
body’s response (McCabe, 2009). When someone is not
fully engaged in love-making, it is no surprise that the
enjoyment it brings is not what it could be.
Public discourses and social expectations in today’s
society have mental implications for women and for their
capacity for pleasure. The persistent risk discourse that
relates to sexual issues may have created a situation in
which women increasingly view sexual interaction through
a more rational lens, rather than casting their body and
soul into enjoying sexual experiences with a partner and
realizing their own desires. Excessive rationalism is the
biggest enemy of orgasms. Simply put, thinking does
alight desire, but orgasms come when thinking ceases. The
inability to implement this formula may be one key issue
that particularly young women are increasingly experien-
cing regarding orgasms.
One outcome of female infrequent orgasms can be their
lower sexual desire in comparison to males. In the spirit
of the social exchange theory (Sprecher, 1998), one could
think that the greater rewards that men achieve on average
from sexual interaction could explain their stronger sexual
desires. This might make sense, in that men experience
orgasms so much more often and more easily in inter-
course compared to women. In other words, men might
be more motivated to seek intercourse as something
that offers them particular rewards. This viewpoint was
supported also by the finding that women who enjoyed
sexual intercourse, and got more pleasure out of their sex
lives than other women, were also less likely to experience
lack of sexual desire. If women were to enjoy intercourse
more and have orgasms more regularly, the desire gap
between the genders should decline.
This study has its limitations. The wording of the items
could be more exact. There could be other items that would
measure more comprehensively the predictors of female
orgasms. One example is differentiating between vaginal and
clitoral orgasm. They have different psychological pathways
and processes (Brody & Costa, 2009). In addition, this
study does not enable causal explanations between the
predictors and the dependent variable, the frequency of
female orgasm. There is a need for a longitudinal study.
Some of the trends and associations could be better
understood by conducting qualitative studies.
One more challenge for future studies is to understand
why a great number of women value their partner’s orgasm
much more than their own. According to their responses,
women’s sexual behavior includes quite often altruistic
components. Women assumingly would value their own
orgasms more if they would get them more easily and more
frequently. Sexual pleasure can increase female sexual
motivation. By actively promoting female orgasms, we
could create a positive circle that would favorably increase
female sexual pleasure.
Conflict of interest and funding
The authors have not received any funding or benefits
from industry. Funding for the data collection was
received in 2015 from the National Institute for Health
and Welfare.
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Determinants of female sexual orgasms
Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2016, 6: 31624 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v6.31624 21
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... [22][23][24][25] Another important ingredient to have pleasurable sex is being able to let go and fully be in the moment. 26,27 The ability to fully let go is even considered to be an element of pleasure itself. 28 Relaxation can take place on a physical level, that is, muscle relaxation, and on a psychological level and these two levels are intertwined. ...
... For example, they can decrease cis female sexual pleasure, as they are restricting their freedom to explore their own sexual preferences. 27,54,55 In cis men, high performance pressure can worsen sexual dysfunctions such as erectile dysfunction. 28 At the same time, cis people tend to eroticize gender stereotypes. ...
Article
Background Prevalence of sexual dissatisfaction and dysfunction is high in trans people, as reflected in lower sexual pleasure scores compared to cis people. Aim The aim of this study is to explore components of good sex and sexual pleasure in young, urban trans people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Methods 16 semi-structured interviews were conducted with young urban AFAB trans people. The interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Outcomes Main outcomes were providing participants components of good sex and sexual pleasure. Results Regarding components of good sex, the participants of this study described various influences on their ability to relax as well as strategies to increase relaxation during sex. Next to general influences on relaxation, the ability to relax was influenced by the way their partners interacted with them and thus how accepted they felt in their identities and feeling safe. Further, transition and coming-out status, physical and sexual function changes due to hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries, specific sexual techniques and aids, social constructs and the circumstances in which sex took place were important. Strategies to increase relaxation included using aids such as penis prostheses, preferring certain sexual practices, that is, being more dominant or on eye-level, reducing visual aspects, drinking alcohol, and deconstructing gender and sexual norms. Clinical Implications When working with trans clients, inhibitors of relaxation should be assessed and addressed, which could include working on clients believes about trans sexuality, gendered sexual scripts or various techniques to reduce body dysphoria, if present, during sexual practices. Strengths & Limitations Following a non-clinical community sampling with no treatment-related dependency between researchers and participants, the sample provides an open access to the participating trans people's sexuality. However, the sample is small, selective, and it includes only able-bodied trans people from Christian religious backgrounds. Conclusion Next to sexual problems and dysfunctions, future research on the relationship between medical transition and sexuality should additionally address positive aspects of sexuality, such as sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction, and its possible function as a resource pre, during and post transition. Engelmann, AJ. Nicklisch, S. Nieder, TO. Components of Good Sex in Young Urban Trans People Assigned Female at Birth: A Qualitative Interview Study. J Sex Med 2022;XX:XXX–XXX.
... Thus, among the self-focused reasons for faking orgasm is the desire to avoid feelings of insecurity, shame, and deficiency associated with orgasmic difficulty (OD) during partnered sex. 5,7,10,14,16,[35][36][37][38][39] That is, difficulty reaching orgasm and the concomitant desire to disguise a perceived sexual deficiency may increase the likelihood of the woman's faking orgasm, 6,18,40 with a number of studies documenting an association between faking orgasm and OD. 7,16,18,[40][41][42] Further supportive of this idea, OD has emerged as one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of the frequency of faking orgasm among women who reported "ever" faking an orgasm, independent of the type of relationship, including in romantic relationships that tend to change over time. ...
... As noted, both OD and relationship characteristics-type, quality, and satisfaction-are consistent predictors of the likelihood and frequency of faking orgasm. 8,15,[35][36][37] Yet, knowing about such associations reveals little about why women with greater OD or lower relationship satisfaction ultimately decide to fake orgasm. In this study on women who were currently in an ongoing romantic-sexual relationship, we explored the interrelationships among four variables-orgasmic problems, relationship satisfaction, women's motives for faking orgasm, and the frequency of faking orgasm-with the goal of identifying specific motives that might act as mediators between either OD or relationship satisfaction on the one hand, and faking orgasm on the other hand. ...
Article
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Introduction Faking orgasm by women reportedly occurs quite frequently, with both relationship characteristics and orgasmic difficulty being significant predictors. Aim We explored women's motives that might mediate the associations between orgasmic difficulty and relationship satisfaction on the one hand, with the frequency of faking orgasm on the other. Methods In a study of 360 Hungarian women who reported “ever” faking orgasm during partnered sex, we assessed the direct and indirect (mediated) associations between orgasmic difficulty, relationship satisfaction, and the frequency of faking orgasm. Outcomes Determination of motives that mediate the association between orgasmic difficulty and the frequency of faking orgasm, and the association between relationship satisfaction and the frequency of faking orgasm. Results Increased orgasmic difficulty was directly related to increased frequency of faking orgasm (β = 0.37; P < .001), and each variable itself was related to a number of motives for faking orgasm. However, the only motive assessed in our study that mediated the relationship between orgasmic difficulty and the frequency of faking orgasm was insecurity about being perceived as abnormal or dysfunctional (indirect effect: β = 0.13; P < .001). A similar pattern emerged with relationship satisfaction and frequency of faking orgasm. These two variables were directly related in that lower relationship satisfaction predicted higher frequency of faking orgasm (β = -0.15; P = .008). Furthermore, while each variable itself was related to a number of motives for faking orgasm, the only motive assessed in our study that mediated the relationship between the 2 variables was insecurity about being perceived as abnormal or dysfunctional (indirect effect: β = -0.06; P = .008). Clinical Translation Insecurity related to being perceived as abnormal or deficient, along with sexual communication, should be addressed in women with a history of faking orgasm but who want to cease doing so. Strengths and Limitations The sample was relatively large and the online survey adhered to best practices. Nevertheless, bias may result in sample characteristics when recruitment is achieved primarily through social media. In addition, the cross-sectional sample prevented causal determination and represented Western-based values. Conclusions The associations between orgasmic difficulty and faking orgasm, and between relationship satisfaction and faking orgasm, are both direct and indirect (mediated). The primary motive for mediating the indirect association between the predictor variables and the frequency of faking orgasm was the insecurity about being perceived as deficient or abnormal. Hevesi K, Horvath Z, Miklos E, et al. Motives that Mediate the Associations Between Relationship Satisfaction, Orgasmic Difficulty, and the Frequency of Faking Orgasm. Sex Med 2022;10:100568.
... But even then, assessments of sexual communication and satisfaction are lower in hook-ups and "friends-with-benefits" relationships compared to longer-term dating relationships (Paik, 2010). This is especially true for the ability of women to have orgasms in such encounters, and for both partners to experience post-coital after-play behaviors like cuddling and kissing (e.g., Armstrong et al., 2012;Hughes & Kruger, 2011;Kontula & Miettinen, 2016;Lehmiller, VanderDrift, & Kelly, 2014). However, sexual symmetry can occur in these experiences, enough to make the quality of the sexual interaction result in 23 cuddling afterward rather than an immediate termination of interaction. ...
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In this chapter we review some of the multifarious roles of synchrony in mating psychology. We describe how synchronous dynamics contribute to the coherence of nervous systems; early bonding and development; and sexual and romantic relationships. While it is difficult to do justice to such a deep topic in a single chapter, we have attempted to provide a broad overview of ways in which rhythms have implications for understanding our social and emotional selves, and how our self-boundaries may expand to include others. Given the importance of wisely choosing and skillfully navigating this sort of co-mingling, we describe how varying degrees of intimacy can both gradually and precipitously build through patterns of synchronized rhythmic interactions, which both help to structure and gate the activities through which increasing degrees of closeness are shaped through mutually-rewarding experiences. While here we primarily focus on sexuality from a scientific and humanistic perspective, we believe these explorations point to how rhythmic interaction represents a keystone for our inherently intersubjective minds, allowing us to better understand some of the ways in which humans can be such a strange and extraordinary species.
... Orgasm, being one of the human sexual response phases, has been considered an indicator of sexual functioning, one goal for sexual activities and an important source of SS [58,59]. Research on orgasm is rich and varied, although sometimes controversial: e.g., some results show that many women do not consider it central for their valuation of SS [60], while others have found that women who consider orgasm to be important are more likely to experience orgasms compared to those who think that it is not important to them [61]. These research findings indicate that, despite its significance, orgasm's importance in women's SS still needs to be addressed, hence the importance of measuring it, not only in terms of frequency, but also inquiring the overall value given to it, both in individual and shared sexual practices, and the impact that women perceive it has on their overall SS, when assessing SS. ...
Article
Full-text available
The validated tools for measuring sexual satisfaction (SS) assess in fact other phenomena such as sexual functioning, assess SS within the context of a romantic heterosexual relationship and intercourse-type activity or were designed to be applied only in therapeutic or rehabilitation contexts. Consequently, they offer an incomplete understanding of SS, particularly among women. We thus developed an alternative measure of SS, the Sexual Satisfaction Comprehensive Index (SSCI), considering both the individual and with-a-partner dimensions, as well as the actual and desired experiences of satisfaction, along with other dimensions affecting SS, and explored its psychometric properties. A total of 1080 young to mid-aged women with different sociodemographic, relationship and sexual identity backgrounds voluntarily completed several measures of SS, including the SSCI. Results showed that the SSCI is a reliable measure for assessing SS. An exploratory and a confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the latent multidimensional structure of the SSCI, supporting its factorial validity. In addition, the SSCI showed appropriate convergent validity with other measures commonly used to assess SS. In sum, the SSCI was revealed to be a useful multidimensional index of SS for research and practice contexts which allows the practitioner or the researcher to make decisions on which dimension(s) are to be evaluated. This study focused on women’s SS, and future research with other gender, sexual and cultural identities is necessary to support its utility in multi-identity and multi-sexuality scenarios.
... Some works suggest that masturbation does not offer a clear advantage for sexual relationships (15)(16)(17). Nonetheless, it has been found that women who masturbate are more likely to have an orgasm during sexual relationships (18), and those who masturbate more frequently describe better sexual experiences in couples and less sexual inhibition (2,3). Techniques like Directed Masturbation can boost pleasurable stimulation from knowing pleasure points, which improves women's orgasm facility while couples practice sex (19). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective Masturbation is a behavior that can enhance sexual functioning. This study aims to analyze differences between men and women in different masturbation parameters, and to examine their relation with orgasm satisfaction in sexual relationships.Method One thousand three hundred and thirty-fifth men and women from the Spanish population aged 18–83 years (M = 36.91; SD = 11.86) participated in an online survey. A questionnaire was used to collect socio-demographic. Sexual history data, negative attitude toward masturbation, solitary sexual desire and orgasm subjective experience upon masturbation were assessed. Given the differences between men and women, independent regression models are proposed to explain orgasm satisfaction in the sexual relationships context.FindingsMen, compared to women, masturbated at a younger age (p < 0.001), and reported higher current masturbation frequency (p < 0.001) and more solitary sexual desire (p < 0.001). Women reported greater intensity in the subjective orgasm experience on its Affective (p < 0.001), Sensory (p < 0.001) and Intimacy (p < 0.001) dimensions. Regarding regression models, the Affective dimension of orgasm was a common parameter in men (β = 0.36; p < 0.001) and women (β = 0.24) to explain orgasm satisfaction during sexual relationships. In men, solitary masturbation frequency (β = −0.10; p = 0.027) acquired a significant role. In women, the model also included age (β = 0.09; p = 0.038), negative attitude toward masturbation (β = −0.12; p = 0.005) and solitary sexual desire (β = −0.19; p = 0.001).Conclusion When dealing with men and women's orgasm difficulties in the sexual relationships context, it is important to consider the role of masturbation. In men and women, the Affective dimension of the orgasm experience explain the orgasm satisfaction in sexual relationship. Also, in men, the solitary masturbation frequency is negatively related with orgasm satisfaction in sexual relationship, supporting the compensatory hypothesis of masturbation. In women, in addition to the Affective dimension, the orgasm satisfaction in sexual relationship is explained, negatively, by the negative attitude toward masturbation, and positively, by the solitary sexual desire, which could be associated with more sexual self-knowledge. The relevance of masturbation in understanding sexual functioning is highlighted.
... In fact, studies have found that experiencing orgasm is one of the strongest predictors of sexual satisfaction in general, and especially for women (Haavio-Mannila & Kontula, 1997;Haning et al., 2007). Additionally, an individual's partner's orgasm rate is highly correlated with an individual's own sexual satisfaction, and both men and women have been shown to base their sexual satisfaction at least partially on the perceived pleasure or orgasm of their partner (Kontula & Miettinen, 2016;Leonhardt et al., 2018;McClelland, 2011;Young et al., 1998). ...
Article
Full-text available
While previous research has established the existence of an orgasm gap between men and women, research exploring this phenomenon within dyadic samples of mixed-sex couples has been limited. The current study aims to investigate the impact of this orgasm disparity on novel sexual outcomes for couples, including desire and expectation for orgasm. We conducted secondary data analyses on a sample of 104 sexually active mixed-sex couples using an online Qualtrics panel (Mage = 43.9 years; 94.2% heterosexual; 79.3% White). Cisgender men and women within the couple reported on their sexual satisfaction, orgasm frequency, desired orgasm frequency, expectation for how often people should orgasm (“orgasm expectation”), and perceptions of their partner’s orgasm frequency. An orgasm gap emerged, and men significantly underreported the size of the orgasm gap in their relationships. In a dyadic path model, men’s and women’s own orgasm frequency positively predicted their desire and expectation for orgasm. Additionally, women’s orgasm frequency predicted men’s orgasm expectation. This relationship between orgasm frequencies and expectancies may partially explain women’s lower orgasm importance compared to men. A cycle of orgasm inequality within relationships may be perpetuated when women who experience less frequent orgasms lower their desire and expectation for orgasm. Sex educators, activists, and therapists should work to improve entitlement to sexual pleasure and orgasm, particularly for women who wish to increase their orgasm frequency.
Article
Full-text available
This qualitative study aimed to examine the experiences and attitudes toward masturbation among emerging adult women. The study was the first to compare women's solo and partnered masturbation experiences, focusing on how feelings of pleasure, sexual desire, and a sense of empowerment—important markers of women's sexual subjectivity—varied across the two contexts. The sample consisted of 40 women between the ages of 18 and 22 years. The majority of participants identified as Latina (33%) or Black (30%) and were enrolled in community college. Semi-structured interviews about women's masturbation experiences were analyzed using thematic analysis. Women described a multitude of feelings, including pleasure but also awkwardness and guilt. Although women did not describe their masturbation practices as morally wrong, they often alluded to disliking masturbation and preferring it less to partnered sex. Whereas some attitudes and feelings (e.g., awkwardness) arose in the context of both solo and partnered masturbation encounters, others were prevalent only in one (e.g., guilt in the solo encounters). Feelings of pleasure, sexual desire, and empowerment manifested differently in the two contexts. There was more focus on self-knowledge, control, and physical pleasure in the solo encounters and more enjoyment of a partner's desire and intimacy in the partnered encounters. We examine the findings through a feminist lens and consider how race/ethnicity, sexual scripts, and contemporary societal contexts shape women's sexual lives.
Article
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The orgasm gap is the marked difference in the frequency of orgasm between cisgender men and women in heterosexual intercourse that has been documented in research for decades. However, orgasm as a state of intense sexual excitement and gratification is physiologically uncomplicated and readily available for most people regardless of gender. This article undertakes a philosophical study of the processes by which the individual experience of orgasm is invested with meaning and embedded in social and cultural practices that collectively both produce and sustain the orgasm gap. By looking at the experience of orgasm as horizonal, I draw a distinction between the social and the cultural horizons of sexual experiences. I argue that social standards of sexual modesty make sexuality a field where the process through which we make sense of our individual experiences is especially dependent on how these experiences are depicted in cultural representation. The current socially normalised male perspective in cultural representation continues to conflict with the ways orgasm is experienced in female bodies. This is probably one reason why the orgasm gap persists even in countries where sex education and gender equality are highly advanced.
Chapter
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Sexuality is an essential feature of human life throughout the life course. It is a major aspect of intimacy and incorporates components such as sexual desire, activity, function, attitudes, beliefs, values about identity, and self-concepts. It represents an essential nexus for the interaction among social life; culturally determined beliefs and practices; psychological processes; and the biological mechanisms of aging, health, and disease. Variant expectations and interpretations focus on sexual issues related to age (González 2007; Waite et al. 2009). Age shapes the sexual body and also modifies human beings mentally.
Book
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This book introduces the entire spectrum of sexual issues with its desires, pleasures, problems and disorders. The available information is based on systematic national sex surveys and other reliable national and international sources of information of sexual patterns and sexual values. Findings in Finland are compared to sex surveys in ten European countries. Surveys enable to summarize the evolution in sexual desires and activities in Finland during the last 40 years and in sexual initiation even as far as till the 1940s. In addition to empirical results a number of sexological theories are presented and discussed. They provide different frameworks to assess the origin of sexual desire and variations in sexual patterns. Theories are adopted and assessed also while discussing the most significant empirical results of the national sex surveys. In addition, verified sexual problems and disorders are discussed in the framework of available sexual counseling and treatment methods. The results of this long-term study project reveal several sexual mysteries. These include remaining great gender differences in sexual desire, decreasing numbers of sexual intercourse, and significantly increasing masturbation and difficulties to gain sexual pleasure in the 2000s. Liberal sexual attitudes have gained more support among general public, but unfaithfulness is less tolerated than ever before. This intolerance toward unfaithfulness is much more striking than in other comparable European countries. Sexual relationships are evolving towards renaissance of romanticism.
Article
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This study explored gender differences in young adult heterosexual men's and women's experiences, beliefs, and concerns regarding the occurrence or nonoccurrence of orgasm during sexual interactions, with emphasis on the absence of female orgasm during intercourse. Qualitative reports were obtained from five female focus groups (N = 24, M age = 19.08) and five male focus groups (N = 21, M age = 19.29), involving three to five participants per group. Transcripts of the discussions were analyzed for emerging themes across focus group discussions. Results indicated that, for both male and female participants, the most common concern regarding lack of female orgasm in a partnered context focused on the negative impact this might have on the male partner's ego. Male and female participants also agreed that men have the physical responsibility to stimulate their female partner to orgasm, while women have the psychological responsibility of being mentally prepared to experience the orgasm. Men and women tended to maintain different beliefs, however, regarding clitoral stimulation during intercourse, as well as the importance of female orgasm for a woman's sexual satisfaction in a partnered context. Findings suggest foci for sexual education.
Book
The book concentrates on presenting the results of the national survey study in 1992. The central aim was to establish the changes in Finnish sex during the last 20 years (Sex life of Finns 1974, in Finnish language by Kai Sievers, Osmo Koskelainen and Kimmo Leppo). Our models were also Hans Zetterberg's ja Alfred Kinsey's sex studies in Sweden (1967) and USA (in the 1940s).
Article
Mindfulness was studied in relation to sexual distress and the ability to achieve orgasm. The initial hypotheses were that mindfulness abilities would predict women's level of sexual distress and that orgasmic women would possess greater mindfulness skills. In total, 251 women (176 orgasmic women and 75 anorgasmic women) responded to several questionnaires online: the Female Sexual Distress Scale – Revised (FSDS-R), the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), and the Sexual Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ-S). According to our results, mindfulness during dyadic sexual activities (FFMQ-S) explained 54% of the variability in sexual distress (FSDS-R). Overall, orgasmic women reported more mindfulness than anorgasmic women, both in daily life (FFMQ) and significantly more during dyadic sexual activities (FFMQ-S). In conclusion, our results support the evaluation of women's level of mindfulness during dyadic sexual activities and the integration of mindfulness training in future sex therapy treatments.
Article
Relatively little is known about gender differences in the orgasm experience. The objectives of this study were to compare men's and women's patterns of sexual arousal and desire before and after orgasm, and the predictors of their orgasmic pleasure. Using their typical technique, where masturbation enjoyment was similar to that experienced at home, 38 men and 38 women masturbated to orgasm in the laboratory. Physiological sexual arousal (genital temperature) and subjective sexual arousal and desire measurements were taken at baseline, after masturbation almost to orgasm, and immediately and 15 minutes after orgasm. In both genders, all measures increased significantly during masturbation, with a greater buildup leading to a more pleasurable orgasm. After orgasm, however, sexual arousal and desire decreased more quickly and consistently in men than in women, thereby replicating Masters and Johnson's (196616. Masters , W. H. , & Johnson , V. E. ( 1966 ). Human sexual response . Boston , MA : Little, Brown . View all references) observations. More men than women exhibited resolution of subjective sexual arousal and sexual satiation; their genital temperature also decreased more than women's but did not return to baseline. Women's orgasmic pleasure was related to a postorgasmic decrease in genital temperature but, unexpectedly, the maintenance of subjective sexual arousal and desire. Future studies should explore whether this pattern explains gender differences in the pursuit of additional orgasms.
Article
The female orgasm has been examined over the years by numerous scientific disciplines yet it still has many secrets to be disclosed. Because its physiology, especially its neurophysiology, is sparingly understood its pharmacology is necessarily limited based mainly on the side effects of drugs. Few published studies have used a placebo group as controls. The paucity of focussed studies is well illustrated by the fact that there still is no approved medication to treat female orgasmic dysfunction. The present brief overview examines the mostimportant aspects of its biology and especially its physiology highlighting the many questions that need answering if we are to have a comprehensive pharmacology of the female orgasm.