The Incidental Orgasm: The Presence of Clitoral Knowledge and the Absence of Orgasm for Women

ArticleinWomen & Health 42(1):117-38 · February 2005with1,067 Reads
DOI: 10.1300/J013v42n01_07 · Source: PubMed
Women report anorgasmia and other difficulties achieving orgasm. One approach to alleviating this problem is to teach women about the clitoris. This assumes that women lack information about the clitoris and that knowledge about the clitoris is correlated with orgasm. Using a non-random sample of 833 undergraduate students, our study investigates both assumptions. First, we test the amount of knowledge about the clitoris, the reported sources of this knowledge, and the correlation between citing a source and actual knowledge. Second, we measure the correlation between clitoral knowledge and orgasm in both masturbation and partnered sex. Among a sample of undergraduate students, the most frequently cited sources of clitoral knowledge (school and friends) were associated with the least amount of tested knowledge. The source most likely to correlate with clitoral knowledge (self-exploration) was among the most rarely cited. Despite this, respondents correctly answered, on average, three of the five clitoral knowledge measures. Knowledge correlated significantly with the frequency of women's orgasm in masturbation but not partnered sex. Our results are discussed in light of gender inequality and a social construction of sexuality, endorsed by both men and women, that privileges men's sexual pleasure over women's, such that orgasm for women is pleasing, but ultimately incidental.
    • As we have seen, a lack of sexual autonomy, which may interfere with one's ability to obtain adequate sexual stimulation, is related to reduced sexual pleasure and orgasm problems (Anthony et al., in preparation; Sanchez et al., 2005 Sanchez et al., , 2006). Knowledge about one's own sexual anatomy is related to the ability to experience orgasm during masturbation, but knowledge alone was found not to translate into increased orgasm-likelihood for women during partnered sex (Wade et al., 2005). This suggests that in partnered sex, factors other than knowledge play a role in women's chances of experiencing an orgasm.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A consistent finding in the literature has been that only about half of the women experiencing orgasm difficulties also report associated distress. This may suggest that orgasms are less important for women's sexual satisfaction than they are for men. Evidence is provided to suggest that orgasms are important for women's sexual satisfaction. The lack of distress seems related to women's lesser consistency of orgasm during partnered sexual activity and not to orgasms being less important per se. In contrast to current suggestions that inability to orgasm during vaginal intercourse points to psychological immaturity, data are presented that imply that women's orgasm consistency in all forms of partnered sexual activity is associated with sexual autonomy (i.e., the extent to which one feels that one's sexual behaviours are self-determined). This paper ends with a brief overview of organic and psychosexual factors associated with problems with sexual excitation and sexual inhibition and reviews evidence-based treatment of anorgasmia. For orgasm problems that are related to problems with sexual excitation, effective treatments are available. We recommend that more effort is given to studying factors associated with sexual inhibition.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2011
    • Such sexual scripts and gender ideologies emerge from a culture in which vaginal intercourse is emphasized, women are taught to be caretakers, women's pleasure is considered incidental , women's genitalia are often considered dirty or unclean compared to men's, and women tend to lack substantial knowledge about theirownbody (Breen,1993; Douglas, 1966; Schwartz, 2007; Wade, Kremer, & Brown, 2005). Such views and tendencies can have consequences for women's body image, feeling comfortable with one's own body, and experiencing sexual pleasure (Wade et al., 2005). These scripts may contribute to women holding more ambivalent attitudes toward masturbation .
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite efforts to identify masturbation as a strategy to improve sexual health, promote relational intimacy, and reduce unwanted pregnancy, STIs, and HIV transmission, masturbation as a context for healthy sexual development has been met with silence or trepidation in the scientific and educational communities. Relegated to the realm of commercial media, rather than rational discourse in families, schools, and the general public, young people receive mixed messages about this non-reproductive sexual behavior. In order to explore how young adults have learned about masturbation and currently perceive masturbation, we conducted a grounded theory study of 72 college students (56 females; 16 males) enrolled in a human sexuality class. Findings revealed that a young adult's perceptions of and feelings toward masturbation were the result of a developmental process that included: (1) learning about the act of masturbation and how to do it, (2) learning and internalizing the social contradiction of stigma and taboo surrounding this pleasurable act, and (3) coming to terms with this tension between stigma and pleasure. Although nearly all participants learned about masturbation through the media and peers (not parents or teachers), gender was salient in coming to terms with the contradiction of stigma and pleasure. Most of the women reported either still struggling with the contradiction or accepting it as normal. Most of the men recognized the beneficial aspects for healthy sexual development that result from masturbation. Both male and female participants identified differential sexual scripts as contributing to the double standard.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2011
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To provide an overview of the alterations in sexuality and sexual function that occur in women with cancer. Research and review articles, books, clinical experience. Although initial concerns of women with cancer may not focus on sexuality issues, most women want support in dealing with body changes. Cancer and cancer treatment for women can result in changes in sexuality and sexual function that may or may not improve over time. Sexual assessment can provide the basis for various approaches to intervention. Sexual assessment is an essential part of nursing practice across the trajectory of cancer. With this information, nurses can plan interventions tailored to address these important alterations in the lives of women with cancer.
    Article · Jun 2008
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Disorders of orgasm in women, defined as the persistent or recurrent delay in or absence of orgasm, affect up to a quarter of the female population. To review existing research findings on the etiology and treatments of disorders of orgasm in women to provide a useful reference tool for clinicians who evaluate and treat patients with these conditions. PubMed and PsycINFO search for articles published between 1980 and 2009 using the keywords "orgasm*,"anorgasmia," and "female*,"woman," or "women," in addition to "female orgasmic disorder" and "disorders of orgasm in women." Findings on the etiological factors and effects of a variety of treatment interventions on improving disorders of orgasm in women. Results.  Literature on prevalence and causes of disorders of orgasm in women is abundant, yet more reports of successful treatments are needed. Nevertheless, many promising approaches have been suggested, and data support several potential treatments such as bupropion, sildenafil, estrogen, and testosterone among others. Although more research is needed to better understand and manage disorders of orgasm in women, significant progress is being made.
    Article · Oct 2010
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Summarizing the major findings of literature on hook-up culture, we propose a new research agenda focusing on when and why this sexual subculture emerged. We explore a series of hypotheses to explain this sexual paradigm shift, including college and university policies, the gender distribution of students, changes in the nature of alcohol use, access to and consumption of pornography, the increased sexual content of non-pornographic media, rising self-objectification and narcissism, new marriage norms, and perceptions of sexual risk. We then recommend new directions for research, emphasizing the need to explore structural and psychological as well as cultural factors, the role of discrete events alongside slowly emerging social change, the need for intersectional research and studies of non-college-attending and post-college youth, and the benefits of longitudinal and cross-college designs. KeywordsHook-up culture-Hooking up-Casual sex and college-aged students-Media-Pornography-Raunch culture-Binge drinking
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  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: On a Friday evening in August 2009, I sat down to watch a special episode of the ABC news program 20/20 entitled "Medical Mysteries." A friend had alerted me about the show because she'd heard that it was going to feature vulvar pain, a condition I had been researching for most of a decade. Though I have a background as a women's health clinician, I study vulvar pain as an anthropologist, attending to the ways that culture shapes the emergence and the experience of symptoms. A major challenge associated with vulvar pain is that linguistic and social norms discourage most women, including symptomatic ones, from spending too much time "down there." These tacit prohibitions can be so stifling that women's private experiences of their genitalia are sometimes filled with an even greater sense of apprehension than are their public ones (Kaysen 2001; Reinholtz and Muehlenhard 1995). In the "Medical Mysteries" episode, ABC News adhered to this evasive storyline by repeatedly referring to the subject of their investigation with the nonspecific and gender-neutral phrase "sexual pain." Throughout the segment-interviews with symptomatic patients, visits to specialist clinicians and researchers, and concluding tips for the viewer-the producers refrained from uttering the word vulva, undercutting both their educational and journalistic efforts. The real "mystery," it seemed, was how a woman with this pain would be any more able to describe it-to anyone-than she might have been before the show aired. Though rarely discussed, vulvar pain is fairly common. Estimated U.S. prevalence rates range from 15 to 18 percent among adult women, and a growing body of medical literature attests to the relative urgency of this condition (Goetsch 1991; Harlow and Stewart 2003, 2005; Harlow, Wise, and Stewart 2001; Leclair and Jensen 2005). Marked by such discomforts as an inability to tolerate vaginal-penile intercourse, wear pants comfortably, and sit down for longer than a few hours (Bachmann et al. 2006; Harlow and Stewart 2003), chronic vulvar pain is simultaneously characterized by an "absence of visible pathology or a specific, clinically identifiable disorder" (Goldstein and Burrows 2008). Nonexperts, who make up the bulk of providers consulted by these patients, and who can number up to five before the woman is referred to a specialty clinic, vacillate between furrowing their brows with incomprehension and prescribing ineffective (or inappropriate) medications and procedures. Expert clinicians, in contrast, spend a great deal of time guiding symptomatic women through a complex algorithm of treatment strategies-including antidepressants, surgery, and sex therapy-none of which has been proven to eliminate or "cure" vulvar pain.3 Because there is scant clinical evidence, women with genital pain have been historically misunderstood, often being told that they are just "too uptight" about sex. Many therefore come to rely on the external validation that mass media (such as a national news program) can provide.4 But in late September, about a month after I had seen the 20/20 episode, I came upon an online support group that seemed to reveal a slightly more complex picture. Though many members were grateful simply that the show had aired-evidence of the "any press is good press" philosophy that peppers the vulvar pain support literature-one woman's voice instantly reminded me of the consternation that had colored my own experience of watching the segment. Frustrated by the producers' linguistic evasions, she poignantly observed the paradox through which vulvar pain patients live their disease: "I was very disappointed with the 20/20 segment. The words 'vulvodynia' and 'vulvar vestibulitis' were not mentioned once, even though the narrator kept mentioning how difficult it was for women to get a diagnosis. The word 'diagnosis' was used over and over, and yet they never actually said what the three women profiled in the segment were diagnosed with!".
    Article · Jan 2011 · Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC
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