How Women Differ From Men in Matters of Sex
Sex for women has sometimes been portrayed negatively in pop culture and is generally a less covered topic than sex from a male perspective. However, over the past decade, female pleasure and sexuality are finally beginning to reach a greater momentum within the media, relationships and society.
That's a good thing. For women and their partners.
While female orgasms generally last between three seconds and two minutes, they can take longer to achieve at an average of 14 minutes for partnered sex, whereas men typically orgasm in five to seven minutes.
"An orgasm occurs at the height of a sexual response when the mental and/or physical stimuli have reached a certain threshold," explained Danae Maragouthakis, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., medical director at Yoxly, a provider of at-home STI test kits based in Oxford, England.
A 2019 study by the Kinsey Institute indicated that women reached orgasm with assisted intercourse (clitoral stimulation) 51 percent to 60 percent of the time. Still, without this added stimulation, only 21 percent to 30 percent orgasmed during vaginal sex.
Unlike men, women do not have a temporary refractory period after each orgasm or ejaculation during which they cannot perform sexually. This is why women can experience multiple orgasms much more easily than men.
During the female orgasm, Maragouthakis noted that the following physiological changes are triggered:
- An increase in breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure.
- The skin has increased sensitivity to touch.
- Involuntary rhythmic contractions of the pelvic, vaginal, uterine and anal musculature, as well as muscle spasms in the feet.
- The clitoral tissues fill with blood, making the clitoris and labia appear swollen.
- When orgasm is achieved, there is a release that allows these tissues to return to their usual size.
- During orgasm, some women expel fluid from the urethra (female ejaculation or "squirting"). This fluid can come from the bladder or from small glands—called Skene's glands—which sit on the lower part of the urethra and in the upper part of the vagina.
After a woman has had an orgasm, certain chemicals are released into the bloodstream. Known as hormones, these substances control the actions of certain cells or organs:
- Dopamine. The "pleasure" hormone and neurotransmitter connected to the reward center in the brain promotes feelings of desire and happiness.
- Endorphins. These hormones help relieve pain, reduce stress and lift your mood.
- Oxytocin. The "love hormone" aids feelings of connection and bonding.
Types of sex
There are several different types of sex that women can partake in:
Anal sex is when a penis—or another object, like a finger or sex toy—penetrates the anus or anal cavity. Women can receive anal sex, but in order to deeply penetrate a partner, they would need to wear a strap-on dildo. This is also known as pegging.
Mutual masturbation is the stimulation of each other's genitals, typically using hands or fingers, but it can involve other objects. There can be penetration, too, if desired.
Oral sex is the stimulation of a partner's genitals by mouth. There can also be penetration in the vagina or anus using a tongue, fingers or sex toy for extra intensity. By moving your body head to toe with your partner, mutual oral sex can take place at the same time, the soixante-neuf or 69 position.
Solo masturbation includes any lone sex act that you can do to yourself. Self-pleasuring is one of the best methods to explore your body and find out what you like and need during partnered sex.
Vaginal coitus (sexual intercourse)
Vaginal sex is when the vagina is penetrated by a penis or another object.
How to make sex better
"Distorted portrayals and fantasies have robbed women of their right to own and feel positive about their sexual life," said Edward Ratush, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist and co-founder of SohoMD, based in New York City.
He blames this on societal pressures, particularly ones stemming from Western cultures, and explained that while some progress is being made, women need to "reconnect to the pleasures of sex" in order to find the joy in their own desires.
Kecia Gaither, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN based in New York City, suggested these tips to awaken your sex life:
- Great sexual encounters begin in the mind, so connecting emotionally first can enhance physical engagement later on.
- Suggest new positions to increase the novelty of your sexual experiences.
- Give each other tantric massages.
- Send erotic messages or gifts to each other as this serves to increase anticipation for the act itself.
- Engage in phone sex as it is a great way to decrease inhibitions that may occur during face-to-face encounters.
Certified sexual health expert Isabelle Uren, who works for Bedbible, a sex toy review site, and is based in Aarhus, Denmark, shared these practical sex tips—broken down by type—for women:
- Take your time to get used to the feeling of having your anus stimulated in order to make penetration much more enjoyable.
- Apply lubricant deeper into the anus using an applicator so the lubrication lasts longer.
- Use something small, like a finger, in the anus before moving up to a penis or dildo.
Mutual masturbation and solo masturbation
Find out what your partner enjoys in terms of pressure and adjust to their needs throughout.
It's important to practice any type of sex on yourself to make sure you know what you like in order to communicate it to your partner.
Try introducing foreplay to masturbation as building pleasure can be a part of any sex act.
Build arousal by exploring erogenous zones, such as the inner thighs, labia, perineum, anus and scrotum.
Raise your hips when receiving oral sex so your partner can explore the whole area.
Add a sex toy, such as a vibrator or masturbator sleeve, to stimulate two erogenous zones at once.
- Ensure you're fully aroused before penetration to avoid pain (dyspareunia) during sex.
- Use a positioning pillow to allow for deeper penetration.
- Stimulate your clitoris using fingers, a bullet vibrator or a C-shaped couple's vibrator.
Uren stressed the importance of communicating your boundaries, as well as being able to ask for what you want in the bedroom (or elsewhere).
"Get curious and be open to learning. Having great sex is a combination of being able to communicate and adapt to your partner and ongoing education," she explained.
Women may take longer to climax, so Uren suggested focusing on your pleasure instead of the orgasm itself, which can often distract and detract from the sensations you may enjoy otherwise.
Sex doesn't have to end immediately following orgasm. There are other activities you can do to extend intimacy, known as aftercare or afterplay, including cuddling, having a drink or something to eat, or reflecting on your experience, she said.
Taking control of your sexuality and desires can open so many doors—from multiple orgasms to solo masturbation to squirting—and you'll soon become aware that the female orgasm is truly a thing of beauty that's a joy forever.