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The Female Orgasm Is Not What You Think It Is

Orgasms, as we’re sure you’d agree, are rather lovely things. Scientifically speaking, there’s also a lot we don’t know about them.

In terms of ladyfolk, it’s been generally agreed that there are three ways to achieve one: stimulation of the vagina, stimulation of the clitoris, or both. There are plenty of nuances to this in terms of timescales, pace, and ability to achieve orgasm in the first place, but those are the basics.

However, a new study published in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology by researchers from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, has highlighted that some women can probably achieve these biological fireworks by being physically stimulated in several, previously underappreciated erogenous zones. These extra special areas include the lips, nipples, ears, neck, fingers, and toes.

Of course, it’s long been acknowledged that arousal can be generated by interacting with these body parts, but it has never been acknowledged (at least, via a scientific paper) that an orgasm can be induced in some women by stimulating them. However, this depends on what an “orgasm” is considered to consist of.

Based on a huge review of the scientific literature, the team concluded that women have “a remarkable variety of orgasmic experiences,” as noted in a statement. They highlight that "orgasms don't have to come from one site, nor from all sites,” and that it (clearly) varies greatly between each individual woman.

Significantly, the research from McGill and Concordia Universities defines an orgasm as something fairly subjective, an experience entirely dependent on what a woman understands an orgasm to consist of. Rather than just being a counterpart to the relatively straightforward male orgasm, they posit that the female orgasm is essentially a plethora of experiences.

The most commonly accepted medical definition involves the contraction of genital muscles, accompanied by a rush of endorphins and, sometimes, ejaculate.

However, the key point that most focus on is the “rush of intense sexual pleasure,” which does lend itself to being quite subjective depending on what individuals experience at the time. Indeed, it appears the objective of this new study is to highlight that the female orgasm has no such concrete definition.

This is a metaphor, by the way. katjen/Shutterstock

In their study, the team point out that they did not just stick to biological research studies when it came to their research into the subject.

“We review the history of the clitoral versus vaginal orgasm debate as it has evolved with conflicting ideas and data from psychiatry and psychoanalysis, epidemiology, evolutionary theory, feminist political theory, physiology, and finally neuroscience,” they explain.

They curiously add that “of all the orgasms on Earth, none are more mysterious than those in females.” This is a reference to the evolutionary enigma of the human female orgasm. Many have concluded that it serves no direct reproductive purpose, and thus it isn’t clear why it evolved in the first place.

Some have suggested that it encourages pair-bonding between partners, but a recent study suggested that it was once the key biological trigger required for ovulation to take place. Earlier in our evolutionary history, both the male and female orgasm were required to begin ovulation. We’ve since evolved a different form of reproduction, and the female orgasm has taken on a more pleasure and bonding-based secondary role – and, as this new review showcases, orgasm-induced happiness comes in many forms.

The open-access study is well worth a read, by the way. Not only for the history of the discussion of the female orgasm, but for the inexplicable number of Star Wars puns in it. From subheadings entitled “the vagina strikes back” to others named “the return of the clitoris,” it’s a surreal rollercoaster of science and sci-fi wordplay.

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