Since I know you wondered this immediately after reading that headline: I'm not sure if I've ever had a vaginal orgasm. And yes, it bothers me. I think of myself as someone with a pretty good handle on my genitals, literally and figuratively — I can knock out as many as 15 normal orgasms a day, if highly motivated. But I've never been able to quite wrap my arms (or legs) around the issue of the vaginal orgasm. Of course, that might be because vaginal orgasms don't exist.
This past October, scientific researchers reported to the medical journal Clinical Anatomy that vaginas simply aren't structured to orgasm from stimulation. The researchers traced all orgasms back to the extended clitoral anatomy, which they called the "female penis" (still waiting for that one to catch on).
I decided to try to have a vaginal orgasm one more time (okay, a few more times). I read the articles, boned up on the positions (pun totally intended), and got ready to literally do it for science.
Though this revelation caused women all over the world to exclaim, "I could have told you that. Give me and my vagina a research grant," it was also deeply relieving news for those of us who've spent hours attempting to get off from intercourse alone, knowing all the while that we could be orgasming in like five minutes if someone would just finger our oboe. However, I was of two minds about the news. I was happy, but also a little suspicious, because science has been just as much a foe as a friend to the female orgasm throughout the centuries.
First, A Brief History Of Vaginal Orgasms
Though the female orgasm (and sometimes even female masturbation) was celebrated in ancient art and literature, scientists in the mid-1700s decided that female orgasms weren't important after they discovered that women didn't need to orgasm to conceive. A few decades later, they retconned the entire history of women's sexuality and claimed that women might not be able to orgasm at all. This all happened, of course, at the peak of Victorian "hysteria," during which "hysterical" upper-crust ladies basically paid their doctors to give them handjobs.
Even after the close of the Victorian era, "experts" weren't that much sharper about the issue of the female orgasm. Post-Victorian doctors and psychologists got their ideas about the female orgasm from Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged that they existed, but broke them down into two warring camps: clitoral orgasms, which were "immature," and vaginal orgasms, which were the kind a well-adjusted adult woman was supposed to have. Freud asserted that any woman who continued to have clitoral orgasms as an adult was "frigid."
This kind of thinking went on well into the 1950s, a decade when pretty much all scientists agreed that there was something wrong with you if you couldn't derive an orgasm from whatever your husband felt like doing to your vulva that particular night. The sexual research of Masters and Johnson throughout the '50s and '60s was ground-breaking not only because they proved that most women have clitoral orgasms, but also because they zeroed in on the G-spot as the home base of vaginal pleasure. Masters and Johnson helped set the sexual revolution in swing by pointing out that vaginal orgasms took specific focus — not just five minutes of aggressive, willy-nilly humping.
By the '70s, many second-wave feminists saw achieving vaginal orgasm as yet another impossible standard that women were told to live up to. Anne Koedt's 1970 publication The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm made the case that all female sexual pleasure was generated by the clitoris; a theory that was an almost perfect match for this year's previously-mentioned research study.
But belief in the vaginal orgasm still soldiered on, from the 1982 best-selling book The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality to the "no-fail tips for a G-spot orgasm" articles that occasionally still show up in women's magazines. We now tend to call them "G-spot orgasms" instead of vaginal orgasms because that sounds hipper and more feminist. But for a lot of us, the decades of "vaginal orgasm" baggage are still there. G-spot and vaginal orgasms are still considered a way to show that you're "good" at sex, or a pleasurable sexual partner who is easy to please.
Their generally elusive nature can make us vulnerable to the advice of sexual snake oil peddlers who claim to be able to help women achieve these all-important vaginal orgasms, with pitches like, "These deeper, internal orgasms call on the deeper, internal parts of you. Your vulnerability, your authentic self — they need to be present." Ugh. I think I just threw up in my vagina a little.
A Brief History Of My Vaginal Orgasms
All of this gets at my own personal confusion about the world of vaginal orgasms. As a middle-schooler who should have gotten a Girl Scout merit badge for "hours spent diddling herself to the 'Loverboy' scene from Dirty Dancing," I was well-acquainted with clitoral orgasm many years before anyone would let me anywhere near a penis. And in that time, I never troubled myself thinking about vaginal orgasms — who the hell would want one of those?
Then I started having sex with boys, and the appeal of a vaginal orgasm seemed a little bit clearer: It would give me something to do while my gentleman callers, uh, went about their business. Of course, all orgasms are kind of a reach when you're sexually inexperienced and jamming on each other's genitals like they are broken video game controllers, but I tried. I read New Age guides to finding your G-spot, but all jabbing around at my vaginal walls ever did was make me have to pee.
In college, I once "went to a rave" (ahem, ahem) with a boyfriend, and when we hooked up afterward ... well, something unusual happened. Something I had never felt before (and have not ever quite felt since) in my vagina. Maybe that was what a vaginal orgasm feels like? I was never able to prove anything one way or another.
My search for the vaginal orgasm began to feel a lot like one of those ghost-hunting TV shows. Was that a ghost, or just a creaky floor board? Was that a vaginal orgasm, or did a pillow just kind of rub against my clitoris very nicely? By the time I hit my late 20s, I had given up on my white orgasm whale. I accepted that clitoral orgasms were where things were at for me, invested in a variety of high-quality vibrators, and have been pretty happy with that decision ever since.
Looking for new sex positions? We got you right here:
My boyfriend knows I have stowed away my attempts to have a vaginal orgasm in the same box in the attic where I store my old Von Dutch hat and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle DVD, but I knew that part of him was always bummed about it. Part of that was logistical — hey, it would be fun to have the same sexual activity give both us orgasms! But part of it was that he had grown up surrounded by a slightly different version of the same pressure I had always felt: If he were a real man, a "good lover," he'd be able to "give" me vaginal orgasms, the same way that if I were a "real" woman, I'd be able to have them.
And guys, as angry as I was, I tried with this one. I really did. I went really slow. I went forward, I leaned back, I went side to side. I really did start to feel like an old-fashioned video game controller. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.
Position #1: Masturbation
The problem with most of the advice out there about how to have a vaginal orgasm is that a lot of it amounts to "Figure out how to have a vaginal orgasm, and then go have one." I'm kind of joking, but not really. For example, an article in Women's Health advises that one trying to find their G-spot can "explore the front wall of your vagina with your finger until you feel an area that's rippled and spongy in texture. Touching it directly should feel pretty darn good."
Of course, the obvious line that should follow that is, "If it doesn't feel pretty darn good, then you are shit out of luck. You don't have any sensitive tissue there, and you're definitely not going to have a vaginal orgasm. Sowwy!" But it never does. Even some of the most detailed and evolved G-spot stimulation instructions on the Web, like those from sex-positive sex toy store Babeland, won't admit that there is a chance that you are just not built for this.
I mean, I understand why. It sounds cranky and crotchety and sex-negative to say that. (I feel cranky and crotchety and sex-negative saying it!) But facts are facts. And if you are able to spend the entire length of a porn film, including the terrible dialogue parts, poking and prodding your vagina, and all you have to show for it is a fear that you may have given yourself a UTI, then maybe you're not a good candidate for a vaginal orgasm. So with that experience under my belt, I was not hopeful.
Position #2: Lying On Your Sides, Facing Each Other
I soldiered on, because going through unsatisfying sex for the audience's entertainment is a blogger's most sacred duty. I had intercourse with my boyfriend while we both lay on our sides, facing each other. (Side note here: My favorite position is missionary. I enjoy the pressure, which did not feel present at all for me as we went at it on our sides.) My boyfriend seemed to dig it, though. I could imagine it working if I had some particular spot I was trying to steer his dick into, but without that charted out, I just didn't know what to do.
Position #3: Woman On Top
Of course, the only thing I'm even less into than side-by-side is woman on top. Yeah, sue me — I can barely feel any sensation in my vagina whenever I do it, and even the angle it stretches my clitoris makes it hard to get anything done there.
But the meager practical advice for vaginal orgasm that's out there advises woman on top, though it's still a little fuzzy on the details. A sexologist quoted in Cosmopolitan claimed of the position: "When she's on top, she's in control and can more easily control the depth, pace, and angle her hips in just the right way to hit her G-spot." Okay, fine.
At this point, the search for the vaginal orgasm is frustrating me, which then sends me into sex with a bad attitude, which I'm sure was making vaginal orgasm even less of a possibility. But as I mount my boyfriend for what I am sure will be another failed vaginal orgasm expedition, I think this frustration I feel is part of the experience, too. It's frustration that countless women have felt pursuing this showy, much-desired orgasm that everyone keeps assuring them they could achieve if they just tried a little harder, or did things correctly. Vaginal orgasms are like the AP exams of sex: It's a totally nonsense test that claims to measure your worth and actually measures nothing, but people get obsessed with it nonetheless.
And guys, as angry as I was, I tried with this one. I really did. I went really slow. I went forward, I leaned back, I went side to side. I really did start to feel like an old-fashioned video game controller. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. My boyfriend loves it, but I feel pretty much nothing.
Position #4: Doggy Style
Ha ha ha, no.
But seriously, the idea that you can have a deep G-spot orgasm by arching your back while doing it doggy style has been circulating for a long time. I remember reading it in Jane magazine in the '90s. In fact, I have occasionally thrown it in the mix during my 16 years of sexual activity. But it's never yielded any orgasms.
This time, as I am doing it, I glance in a mirror and almost burst out laughing. On my hands and knees, arching my back and sticking my chest out, I looked like I was dancing on a car in a Motley Crue video. What acclaimed medical researcher came up with this position, Prince?
But you don't have to be an advanced sexual research scientist like Prince to know that guffawing at yourself in the mirror while you're banging is a bad sign. The quest for the vaginal orgasm was wearing me down. Even as I went through the motions, arching into infinity, I knew this wasn't going to work.
Orgasmic? Hell to the no
And honestly, why did it need to work? If you're a sexual explorer and you want to try a vaginal orgasm, more power to you. But why don't we classify them in the same category as an orgasm from anal play — nice work if you can get it, but certainly not part of the main menu in most of our sex lives? I have a perfectly fine orgasm already. Why am I shopping for a new one that I can't find?
When I was single and sleeping with different partners fairly regularly, no one ever explicitly told me that they expected me to have a vaginal orgasm. But I could always tell that it was hoped for. The 20-something guys I was hooking up with had only one or two girlfriends under their belts, but had watched thousands of hours of porn filled with women who exploded into screaming orgasms if you simply penetrated their vaginas.
I knew that they knew enough to know that it wasn't real, the same way that I knew that Titanic wasn't real. And yet, the same way that I held out hope that one of them would draw me like one of their French girls, they held out hope that I would be the one to orgasm with no effort on their part, the one to make them feel like a stud, make them feel proud of themselves. I sometimes wondered, in the aftermath of yet another dumping, if things would have worked out if I'd just been able to come the "proper" way.
But trying this time around, I didn't feel ashamed that I couldn't vaginally orgasm — only angry. I was having sex, not performing my talent in the Miss America pageant, so why did I have to be showboating? Who was I trying to impress with my vaginal orgasms? My boyfriend? The ghost of Sigmund Freud? God? I'm pretty sure all three already think whatever they're going to think of me, and that a hands-free orgasm isn't going to change anything. It was just going to change me into a crabby monster who hated sex.