Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Written by Jacqueline Giannelli, Family Nurse Practitioner
Jacqueline Giannelli is a women’s health expert, board-certified nurse practitioner, and Assistant Medical Director at Maze Health. She specializes in menopause, urology, sexual health, as well as general gynecology.
Ah, the elusive orgasm. For many women who are going through the transition of menopause, orgasmic release can become a challenge. There are myriad reasons for this, and the lack of ability to find pleasure during sex can be frustrating and even begin to erode libido (and ultimately relationships). The term “orgasm gap” was even coined to define the lack of female orgasm in comparison to male counterparts in heterosexual relationships.
Let’s back up for a minute, and have a little anatomy lesson. Orgasm for women centers around the clitoris. Did you know that the clitoris is the ONLY organ in the human body (male or female) that is designed exclusively for pleasure? Pretty awesome, we think! The clitoris was actually not well understood until it was fully mapped in 2009 by French researchers. At this point, we finally understood that the clitoris was more than just the “glans”, which is the part that protrudes at the top of the vulva. Did you know the clitoris actually has “legs”, that extend down alongside the labia minora (on the inside, so you can’t see them)? These legs allow access to the clitoris through vaginal stimulation, which may provide pleasure for some women. Some think that the “G” spot is actually not a spot, but rather the ability to tap into and stimulate the legs of the clitoris from the inside of the vagina!
Despite what you may have read, no orgasm is inherently "better" than the other. However, the implication that the vaginally activated orgasm is the gold standard has become deeply ingrained in many sexual cultures. Thus, some women will say they cannot achieve an orgasm, even though they are fully capable of doing so through non-vaginal means (i.e. via the outside part of the clitoris!). If women reach orgasm through the clitoris and not the vagina, that’s excellent. It’s in no way a failure through too many women have internalized this false standard. The research is there to back this up. In a study done in 2017, researchers found that nearly 37 percent of American women required direct clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm, compared with 18 percent of women who said that vaginal penetration alone was enough.
Whether you are accessing the clitoris from the outside or inside, the bottom line is that all roads to the - you guessed it – the clitoris. Whether you get there by yourself or with a partner, through vaginal stimulation or external stimulation, or prefer a vibrator to a hand – all orgasms are created equal. Be proud of your ability to find pleasure, and communicate your preferences with your partner. We think it’s especially important to foster intimacy during a pandemic. If you are having trouble finding your pleasure, please don’t sit idly by. Reach out for help. There are solutions, and medical professionals like myself who specialize in sexual health are trained to help you find your “O” again.