Arousal, Love, and Sex Part 1

Women’s Sexual Arousal

Information for everyone who wants to know more about how to make sex better, understand their partner more fully and appreciate their sexual relationship to the full.

Women’s Sexual Arousal

Most men respond to sexual stimulation pretty quickly, but getting aroused can be a much slower process for women. This website examines why, and describes how men can make sex better for their partners.

When a woman gets sexually excited, her journey from start to finish (if that’s an orgasm) goes through four stages: arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Here we describe them, and later look at how getting to orgasm can be made easier.

Arousal or excitement

When a woman becomes sexually excited, blood flows into the pelvic area and, specifically, into the outer labia. As excitement builds, the labia gradually enlarge and fill with blood, and as they do so, they begin to part, revealing the entrance to the vagina.

Many men rarely see the beauty of the opening vulva, especially if they make love in dim surroundings or under the bedcovers. And many women may be reluctant to let their partner see their genitals close-up, finding it hard to believe that a man would find them attractive.

But as most men would confirm, the sight, scent, taste and appearance of the vulva and vagina is a very arousing thing to a man: indeed, it’s a sight to be celebrated.

Blood also flows into the inner vaginal walls, making the vagina swell and engorge. Lubrication begins.

One of the most important differences between the two sexes’ arousal processes is that a woman’s excitement takes longer than a man’s to reach its peak. How much longer?

It varies, but in general, men should assume it takes women ten to twenty times as long to get to the same level of arousal that they have reached, even when a woman initiates sex. Women always want men to go more slowly!

A man may have a full erection by the time he undresses for sex, but a woman’s intimate areas may become ready for intercourse rather more slowly – particularly if she feels any reticence or ambivalence about making love.

One reason some women prefer older men as lovers is that their erections take longer to develop than a younger man’s, meaning that the pace of lovemaking is more closely matched between the man and the woman.

Some men believe that the moment their fingers feel the first drop of vaginal lubrication, their partner is ready for intercourse. For the vast majority of women, nothing could be further from the truth. Vaginal lubrication is only the first sign of a woman’s arousal.

It means that she is gradually beginning to get interested in the idea of further sensual explorations. Sometimes, of course, a woman might lubricate during an erotic film or daydream or at the sight of a man who excites her, but “wet” does not necessarily mean “ready”.

Most women need considerable time and lots of sensual touching to lubricate fully.

And indeed, the time that women take to become lubricated is an important reason why playful touch, massage, and other forms of sensual love play are so crucial to their sexual responsiveness.

Stress can inhibit vaginal lubrication and women’s overall sexual responsiveness. The same anxieties that cause non-erection in men also interfere with lubrication in women – and for the same reason.

Stress triggers the fight or flight reflex that constricts blood vessels and redirects blood away from the genitals and out to the muscles.

A woman whose uncertainty about making love is causing her significant stress will be less swollen and lubricated than a woman who feels relaxed.

And pestering a woman about why she’s taking so long to get juicy will have the same effect on her vagina that berating a man for non-erection would have on his penis.

Contraceptives might also interfere with vaginal lubrication. Some women report that birth control pills interfere with their ability to become lubricated.

And any birth control method – or lack of one – that distracts a woman from devoting undivided attention to making love might do the same. Tampons can also absorb some vaginal lubrication.

During the excitement phase, a woman’s nipples may become firmer, more erect and darker in color. Nipple erection is about as common in women as it is in men. Some women’s nipples become erect; some women’s don’t. At times, they become erect, then subside. And sometimes they become erect in nonsexual situations, for example, when they’re cold.

As the excitement phase progresses in men, the scrotum pulls up closer to the body and the testicles become elevated. In women, the uterus, which usually occupies the back portion of the vagina, tips up and forward.

A man who inserts his penis deeply before the woman has become aroused may jam into the cervix, the mouth of the uterus, before it has tipped forward out of the way. This can be unpleasantly painful.

Plateau phase of sexual excitement

In women, the outer vaginal lips become fully engorged with blood, and the clitoris and the G spot become extremely sensitive to touch.

The clitoris is the site of the greatest nerve concentration and hence a great source of sexual pleasure. The clitorises of different women look and respond differently: in some women, the clitoris becomes noticeably erect and peeks out from under its clitoral hood; in other women, the clitoris may not protrude beyond the clitoral hood; sometimes, it peeks out for a while, then subsides, rather like male erections may come and go during lovemaking.

Men should treat the clitoris very gently. It contains as many nerve endings as the head of the penis, but it is much smaller and therefore much more sensitive.

Too much direct pressure can be painful and distracting, so unless a woman requests otherwise, it is not a good idea to fondle her clitoris until she is well lubricated.

Alternatively, artificial lube or saliva can be very pleasant in making gentle touches around the vulval lips and clitoris exacting in the earlier stages of sexual play.

Remember, this can be a loving part of foreplay! Even after the area around the clitoris has become lubricated, some women prefer indirect clitoral touching to any direct touch on the clitoris itself.

Close, slightly oblique stimulation can be applied by finger, tongue, or vibrator on either side of the clitoral shaft and on the clitoral hood.

Good communication – which means discussing what each member of the coupe want from lovemaking, and how they want to be touched – is essential to maximizing pleasure.

A woman’s G spot is also a pleasure center. It is located on the front inner wall of the vagina behind the pubic bone. The G spot can produce extremely erotic and pleasurable sensations when pressed, rubbed, stroked or massaged.

A finger may be best for this – the penis usually only presses it firmly during rear entry sex (unless the man’s cock has a noticeable upward curve to it, in which case he will be able to stimulate it during man on top sex in the missionary position).

Because rear entry sex is the one used by most mammals for reproduction, some people suggest the G spot evolved to make this position more pleasurable for the female.

Some women say they derive more pleasure from G spot stimulation than from clitoral caresses.

In many it needs to be awakened, but in all women it can be a route to intense sexual pleasure and orgasms that are distinctly different to clitoral orgasms.

A woman’s most delightful sexual experience can be achieved through a combination of her man’s fingers on her G spot and his tongue on her clitoris.

Women’s orgasms

Women generally find it harder to reach orgasm than men. Although there are some women who can come quickly, they are the exception, not the rule; in fact, research shows that the average time for a woman to reach orgasm from a “standing start” is nineteen minutes.

In addition, many women find it hard to reach orgasm unless they feel an emotional connection with their partner. In other words, a woman’s sexual responsiveness may be very dependent on the emotional context in which she is having sex.

Having said that, I once knew a woman who could orgasm freely and repeatedly with only a little stimulation. She told me that she really enjoyed sex, and had many lovers, and she could orgasm many times in a session of lovemaking, but she certainly didn’t seem unfeminine in any way (she didn’t have any signs of high testosterone, for example).

So does natural female sexuality imply the ability to orgasm quickly and repeatedly, or does it imply the longer responsiveness described above? We can get a clue from the progress of the woman towards orgasm after fifty.

Sex after 50 can be slower and more relaxed as both the man and the woman take longer to reach orgasm. In the man’s case this is attributed to lower levels of testosterone, and in the woman to her lowered level of estrogen. HRT therapy will quickly restore sex drive and libido to both partners, but there is evidence that it works better for women when testosterone is included in the mix.

This implies that the slower progress towards orgasm for women in earlier life is due to innate biological differences from men.

It’s an important question, because it might mean that female sexuality is suppressed in some way by society or by the way women are sexually brought up.

Generally speaking, women who are more at ease with their bodies, their femininity and their sexuality, find it much easier to reach orgasm than those who are uncomfortable with their sexuality.

The more comfortable a woman is with her deepest feminine self, the more fluid her sexual responsiveness will be, and the more easily she will reach orgasm. But even so, she will need to feel loved and respected to open up at her deepest sexual level and give all of her being to the man she’s with.

And women who’ve experienced Tantric or other forms of sexual healing seem to develop greater sexual responsiveness and an ability to orgasm through G spot or vaginal stimulation (as well as through clitoral stimulation).

As a generality, then, a woman will be much more sexually responsive if she is wooed long before love play or sex begins.

Romance – the feeling of being loved and wanted – establishes a woman’s sense of emotional security and switches on her sexual responsiveness. But even so, she will usually need lots of foreplay before she begins to feel sexually aroused.

Caressing, cuddling, sweet words whispered in her ear, gentle stroking, and so on, all stoke the fires of her passion.

This foreplay is essential unless she is feeling really horny and randy, most likely in her menstrual cycle around the time of ovulation in which case she may want a “quickie”, just like her man!

When she begins to show signs of sexual desire, it may be time to move onto touching her breasts, clitoris and vulva. But men need to understand that touching a woman’s clitoris in the way they would touch their own penis is not likely to produce an orgasm!

Her clitoris is incredibly sensitive at this stage of arousal and she will probably only want an indirect touch until she is approaching orgasm. And many women require the additional stimulation of the G spot to reach orgasm.

Clitoral or vaginal orgasm?

The great majority of women do not orgasm through sexual intercourse. They require clitoral stimulation to come.

Exactly how this happens depends on a couple’s sexual preference: often the man will masturbate or lick his partner’s clitoris and vulva until she orgasms, after which, according to reports from many couples, he will penetrate her and enjoy his orgasm inside her vagina.

This is a source of pleasure for her as well, of course, since she may desire penetration as much as he desires to penetrate her.

But it is possible for women to experience orgasm during intercourse. The first method is to use a variation of sexual intercourse which stimulates her clitoris as he thrusts. This is called the Coital Alignment Technique, and you can find a description of it here.

The second method is to awaken that sensitive area of tissue inside the vagina called the G-spot, which can lead to the wonderful experience of vaginal orgasm during penetrative sex.

A third possibility is for a woman to enjoy vaginal orgasm after she’s had a clitoral orgasm from hand or mouth stimulation. Unlike most men, a woman may find she is still aroused after she’s had her first orgasm; in fact, with each orgasm she has, she may become even more aroused.

At some point she may be so aroused that an orgasm is triggered by vaginal intercourse.

Any other methods of coming during vaginal sex depend on the ability of the woman or her partner to stimulate her clitoris during intercourse.

Woman on top sex makes this easier – the woman can move in a way that gets her the stimulation she needs. But in almost any position, if the man stops thrusting and begins moving his hips in a circular pattern, the two partners can grind their pubic areas together in a way that presses on her clitoris.

Another variation of sex which can be used to stimulate the woman’s clitoris is for the man to move his penis up and down his partner’s vulva, so that he can “tickle” her clitoris with his cock head.

When she begins to come, he can thrust into her vagina. This will intensify her orgasm and allow him to enjoy the contractions of her vagina around his penis as she is in the throws of her orgasm.

Did you come?

Men may wonder how they can tell if their partner has an orgasm. There are various clues (though intimate familiarity with your sexual partner is probably the best way of knowing). But in case you would like to know the signs:

  • Her breathing will get faster and faster as she approaches orgasm.
  • Her eyes become glazed and no longer focus.
  • Her muscles get tighter and tighter, including her facial muscles, so that just before she comes she may even look like she is in pain.
  • She may shout repeatedly: “I love you” or “Fuck me!” or “Oh God!” or something similar.
  • And as she comes she may well let out a scream, a cry or a shout.
  • Her toes may curl up, she may have a pinkish “sex rash” on her chest, and her nipples may become erect.
  • If you happen to have your finger in her vagina as she comes, you may notice that her vagina balloons out deep inside her and/or grips your finger tightly at the entrance.
  • Other possibilities include genital area muscle contractions, involuntary hip thrusts, a release of breath and tension as the orgasm subsides. Orgasmic muscle contractions can be felt by a finger placed at the mouth of the vagina, on the anus, or on the skin between the two.
  • Some women thrash around during orgasm, others are very quiet and passive.
  • Just before orgasm, the inner lips of the vulva, or labia minora, change color, becoming a deep red or wine color.
  • And her clitoris may swell and become intensely hard just before she comes (which, in case you are unaware of it, is exactly what happens to a man’s penis just before he comes).

For men: None of these signs alone – or even together – is a guarantee she has made it to orgasm. You could always ask her, though many women resent the question.

Whatever you do, don’t keep asking her if she’s getting near, or if she’s come yet, as you stimulate her clitoris or finger-fuck her! It’s better to avoid asking if you can, and with a bit of experience you’ll know when she has an orgasm. Asking a woman if she has climaxed during intercourse is a sign that you know little about what turns her on. In addition, the way the question is worded puts women on the spot.

Admitting “no orgasm” can be difficult, because some men indignantly assume that any woman who does not climax with sex with them must be unresponsive and hung up.

This is, of course, simply not true. You need to focus more on how you can give her pleasure before you put your penis in her vagina and less on her orgasm as a symbol of your sexual prowess.

She may well enjoy sex with you whether or not she comes, just because of the closeness and intimacy of the act.

Women’s clitoral orgasms are identical to men’s ejaculatory orgasms except that they usually do not result in ejaculation. In both men and women, these orgasms involve a series of quick rhythmic, wavelike muscle contractions throughout the pelvic region that last for a total of a few seconds.

The same muscles contract in both sexes, notably the pubococcygeus or PC muscle. In one study, where descriptions of orgasm were edited so the writer’s sex could not be determined, a group of men and women could not distinguish women’s descriptions of orgasm from men’s.

What happens during orgasm?

As a woman begins to come, she feels powerful contractions in the outer third of her vagina. These throbbing contractions happen every 0.8 seconds – exactly the same interval as the spurting contractions of a man’s ejaculation.

But these are not the throbs or contractions which a man may feel if his penis is inside a woman during her orgasm: what he feels is the contraction of the pelvic muscles which surround the upper part of her vagina. However, this is splitting hairs – to a man, having his penis inside a woman as she comes may be the nearest thing to heaven on earth.

It is almost inevitable that if he has not come yet, this will set him off, and the couple will experience a simultaneous orgasm.

In the early stages of intercourse, a woman’s uterus (or womb) begins to lift upwards off her vagina so as to make more room for the penis.

As she experiences orgasm, her uterus contracts rhythmically along with all her other pelvic muscles: these contractions contribute a large part of the pleasure she feels during orgasm. There are other changes in the vagina too, but to understand these, it’s necessary to talk a bit about vaginal and clitoral orgasms.

There’s plenty of evidence that a distinct area of tissue on the upper wall of the vagina called the G spot is a sexual nerve center served by a different set of nerves to those in the clitoris. What’s more, the G spot provides very different sensations during sexual stimulation to those produced by the clitoris.

In practice, what all this means is that at least two different orgasmic experiences are open to women during sex: the clitoral orgasm and the G spot orgasm. With simultaneous clitoral and vaginal stimulation, even more orgasmic possibilities open up.

The G spot isn’t automatically responsive in the way that the clitoris usually is. The sexual sensitivity of the G spot is blocked by any negative sexual experiences or emotional trauma, and making it blossom may need fairly intense stimulation.

But once it is functioning, a woman will recognize that she is in the middle of a different kind of orgasm: something more about energy flow, about whole body orgasm rather than genital centered orgasm. And for her partner, there will be some obvious differences too.

For one thing, the behavior of the vaginal muscles is different in these two orgasms.

The easiest way for a man to experience this difference is to bring his partner to orgasm first with a finger inside her, stroking her G spot, and then to compare this with an orgasm from clitoral stimulation.

As a woman approaches a G spot orgasm, her vagina may almost appear to expel her lover’s finger; with a clitoral orgasm the outer reaches of her vagina grip his finger tightly.

What does all this mean? In some ways, the differences are unimportant. What matters is the experience of orgasm and the knowledge that a woman can call upon her lover to help her reach whatever form of orgasm she desires: often a blended orgasm with both G spot and clitoral stimulation will be the most intense and satisfying. But if your sexual experience doesn’t fit these descriptions it’s not a matter of any concern!

Issues for men around orgasm

Although we often think of women as being the sex which has most difficulty reaching orgasm, men with delayed ejaculation may well see it differently!

About the same number of men have delayed ejaculation as women have anorgasmia – a truly shocking fact, since so little attention is paid to this issue for men. Fortunately, there is plenty of good information available on the internet.

Ways for a woman reach orgasm

It’s a shame that even in these liberated days of the new millennium, many women have never had an orgasm and many find it hard to have one.

According to one recent survey, 68% of women cannot climax whenever they want to, 54% worry that they take too long, and up to 15% have never had an orgasm. Considering that men can come at the drop of a hat, this is a real difference between the sexes, and one which both men and women need to understand more fully.

This problem of how to reach orgasm, the sheer inability to have an orgasm, is an enduring one, which affects many women – we don’t know how many women are pre-orgasmic, but estimates range from 10% to 30%, depending on which population you look at.

Anorgasmia is the inability to reach orgasm in any circumstances – but there are many variations on the theme, including difficulty in reaching orgasm and only being able to attain orgasm from time to time.

A woman who is in this situation may feel her self-esteem is low, may have sexual issues such as lack of sexual desire, and generally needs to be assisted to explore her sexuality fully so that she can become fully orgasmic.

Of course sex is full of issues and problems for people in general and women in particular; in our society, women often face challenging experiences such as sexual abuse or oppression of their sexuality as they grow up – and this can inhibit the flowering of their sexual experience and knowledge.

This can be clearly seen here in this account of orgasmic differences between men and women.

Add the fact that so many women are so unhappy with their bodies in general, or their periods or genitals in particular, especially their smell and appearance, and you can begin to understand why so many women find orgasm so elusive.

The final aspect of their challenge is that men often don’t appreciate how slowly women become sexually aroused, at least by comparison with their male partners.

Men often expect women to be as ready for sex as they are, and may be unwilling to work at bringing their lovers to a peak of sexual arousal and helping them to enjoy their orgasm.

On top of all that, a woman’s genitals are tucked away: at least her clitoris is, and her vagina isn’t immediately available for inspection in the way that a man’s penis is.

And the vast majority of women (94%) are told nothing about orgasms, or how to have one, in sex education lessons, either at school or at home.

But even for women who are happy with their sexuality, orgasm can be an elusive and unpredictable thing.

What worked yesterday can fail today; what seemed appealing last time a woman reached orgasm may have no impact on her the next: so pity her poor partner, who repeats what seemed like a sure fire way of getting her to a screaming orgasm, only to be told off by his mate for doing something she doesn’t like!

But there are things that help in this process, you’ll be glad to know. The first is understanding how men and women differ in their approach to orgasm.