The Female O: What You Need To Know

Andrew Siegel MD   11/25/2017

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all!  Among the items to be grateful for are food, shelter, family, friends and of course, love–in all its aspects.  What follows are some (hopefully illuminating) words on the female sexual climax.

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Thank you, Pixabay, for image above

The word “orgasm” is derived from New Latin orgasmus and Greek orgasmós, meaning “to swell; to be excited.”  Defining orgasm is hardly necessary for anyone who has ever experienced one (and if you haven’t, Meg Ryan did a fine rendition in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”!), but it is worth reviewing some of the different medically-oriented definitions:

Kinsey: The expulsive discharge of neuromuscular tension at the peak of sexual response.

Masters and Johnson: A brief episode of physical release from the vaso-congestion and myotonic increment developed in response to sexual stimuli.

John Money: The zenith of sexual-erotic experience characterized as voluptuous rapture or ecstasy occurring simultaneously in the brain/mind and the genitalia. Irrespective of its locus of onset, the occurrence is contingent upon reciprocal intercommunication between neural networks in the brain, above, and the genitalia below, and it does not survive their disconnection by the severance of the spinal cord, but is able to survive even extensive trauma at either end.

Definition quoted at a sexual urology meeting I attended: A variable transient peak sensation of intense pleasure creating an altered state of consciousness, usually with an initiation accompanied by involuntary, rhythmic contractions of the pelvic striated circumvaginal musculature, often with concomitant uterine and anal contractions and myotonia that resolves the sexually induced vaso-congestion and myotonia, generally with an induction of well-being and contentment. 

Whoa…That last one is ridiculously technical and complex!

A simple definition is the following: A release of muscle tension accompanied by pelvic pulsations at the peak of sexual excitement that follows sexual arousal, which is marked by genital swelling, muscle tension, erect nipples, increased heart rate, heart contractility, blood pressure and breathing rate and skin flushing.

The are many descriptor terms used to describe what may happen during an orgasm: pulsations, contractions, spasms, goosebumps, shivers, hot flashes, flushing, tingling, perspiration, moaning, building, swelling, flowing, flooding, spreading, spurting, shooting, throbbing, pulsating, shuddering, trembling, quivering.

In terms of achieving orgasm, the most important organ is not a throbbing, erect penis or a pulsating, lubricated vagina, but the brain—the master organ and “governor” of sexuality.  It is capable of fostering an earth-shattering, consciousness-altering, explosive mind-body experience, but is equally capable of dooming a sexual experience to failure. It is a given that in order to have a positive sexual experience, the brain and mind must cooperate with the body.  Emotions, memories, thoughts, perceptions and sensations contribute vitally to the sexual experience.

Pathway to Sexual Climax

Accompanying arousal and sexual stimulation is increased pelvic blood flow that induces vaginal lubrication and congestion and engorgement of the vulva, vagina and clitoris.  The “orgasmic platform” is the Masters and Johnson’s term for the outer third of the vagina with engorged inner lips, which they considered to be the “base” of pelvic blood congestion. With increasing stimulation and arousal, physical tension within the genitals gradually builds and once sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpass a threshold, involuntary rhythmic muscular contractions occur of the pelvic floor muscles, the vagina, uterus and anus, followed by the release of accumulated erotic tension and a euphoric state. Thereafter, the genital engorgement and congestion subside, muscle relaxation occurs and a peaceful state of physical and emotional bliss and afterglow become apparent.

The pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically during climax: a total of 10-15 contractions typically occur, with the first 3-5 contractions occurring at 0.8-second intervals after which the interval between contractions lengthens and the intensity of the contractions decreases. However, orgasm is not only a genital response, but also a total body reaction causing numerous muscles to go into involuntary spasm, including the facial muscles resulting in grimacing, hand and foot muscles resulting in finger and toe curling, and numerous skeletal muscles that tense prior to release. Additionally, pupils dilate, skin flushes and the clitoral head retracts.

Clitoral vs. Vaginal Orgasm

Most women report that both clitoral and vaginal stimulation play important roles in achieving sexual climax. However, the clitoris has the greatest density of nerves, is easily accessible and typically responds readily to stimulation, so for most women is the fastest track to sexual climax. It is estimated that 70% of women require clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.  Clitoral orgasms are often described as a buildup of sensation in the clitoral region with intense waves of external muscle spasm and release. In contrast, vaginal orgasms are described as slower, fuller, wider, deeper, more expansive, complex, pervasive whole-body sensation.

Orgasms can be triggered via different neural pathways–clitoral orgasms via the pudendal nerves and vaginal orgasms via both the pudendal nerves that provide the nerve supply to the more superficial aspect of the vagina and the hypogastric and pelvic splanchnic nerves that provide the supply to the deeper aspect of the vagina.

The truth of the matter is that lady parts are all inter-connected and work together, so grouping orgasm into clitoral versus vaginal is arbitrary and artificial.  Penetrative sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation as the clitoral shaft moves rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner lips, the lips of which join together to form the hood of the clitoris. Furthermore, the “legs” and “bulbs” of the clitoris—the deep anatomy that extends below the surface—are stimulated by vaginal penetration. Upward movement in the missionary position in which there is pubic bone to pubic bone contact provides direct clitoral stimulation as well.

Anatomical variations can affect ability to achieve sexual climax. Clitoral size and the distance of the clitoris to the vaginal opening differ among women. Women whose clitoris is closer to the vaginal opening are more likely to report orgasms from sexual intercourse. Women who have difficulty or cannot achieve orgasm often have a smaller clitoral head.

Orgasms can at times be achieved by non-genital stimulation. Some women can climax simply by erotic thoughts, others by breast stimulation or foot massage.  At the time of climax, some women are capable of “ejaculating” fluid. The nature of this fluid has been controversial, thought by some to be hyper-lubrication and others to be glandular secretions (Bartholin’s and/or Skene’s glands). There are certain women who “ejaculate” very large volumes of fluid at climax and studies have shown this to be urine released due to involuntary bladder contractions that can accompany sexual climax.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

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These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

 

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2 Responses to “The Female O: What You Need To Know”

  1. Preparing For Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): What You Need To Know | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] force that a muscle can exert. With time and effort, PFM contractions become more robust, helping sexual function and improving one’s ability to neutralize stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder and […]

  2. The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 3 | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] including stress urinary incontinence (SUI), overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic organ prolapse (POP), sexual/orgasm issues and pelvic […]

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