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Science reveals what really makes women orgasm

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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The subject of female sexual pleasure has long been ignored by science, especially when it comes (no pun intended) to the scandalous matter of the clitoris.

Despite being the only organ that exists purely for pleasure – and therefore a pretty amazing and fascinating part of the female body – the clitoris has been historically ignored by medical textbooks and science, from its deletion from Grey’s Anatomy in 1948 to a general refusal to study it due “concerns about social hygiene and morality”.

But now scientists are finally cottoning on to the idea that an organ owned by roughly half the general population might just be worthy of investigation, with a new study focusing purely on female pleasure being published last month.

Asking more than 1,000 woman the question “What feels good to you?”, the study is a comprehensive look at how women experience and, more importantly, find sexual pleasure.

Scientists asked over 1,000 women “what feels good to you?”

Scientists asked over 1,000 women “What feels good to you?”

Published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, the American study was made up of an online questionnaire that quizzed women about where they liked to be touched, and how, alongside questions about orgasms and sex.

Answered by 1,055 women aged 18 to 94, the results are a pretty decent indicator of what women want – although it is worth noting that the majority of respondents were heterosexual and had relationships with men.



The majority of women were clear on the importance of clitoral stimulation during sex, with 18.4% saying they could orgasm from penetration alone but 36.6% saying they also needed to be touched during sex to have an orgasm. A further 36% said their orgasms were better during sex if they were also touched.

And when it comes to touch, the study was pretty thorough in its investigation of what women want. The results found that all kinds of pressures, styles and motions could make women orgasm, but there were also some general trends.

The majority of women enjoyed light to medium pressure applied either directly to the clitoris or its immediate surroundings, with circular, side to side and up and down motions proving popular.

However, obviously not all women are built the same, and around a tenth of the respondents enjoyed firmer pressure – while other kinds of touch, such as tapping or flicking, were also highlighted as being pleasurable.

Over a third of women needed to be touched during sex to reach orgasm

Over a third of women needed to be touched during sex to reach orgasm

There were also some patterns of touch that got the green light of approval from the women surveyed, with touching in a rhythmic motion (enjoyed by 81.7% of respondents), a circular motion (78.3%) and switching between different patterns (76%) proving most popular.

There were also a couple of other take-home messages from the results: namely, that women reported better orgasms when there was a good build-up, their partner knew what they liked and they had increased emotional intimacy with their partner.

Also: less than a fifth of women said that long-lasting sex was the key to better orgasms.

So, there you have it – it’s not rocket science to know that listening to what your partner wants and giving them a good build up is key to an orgasm, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Image: HBO / iStock

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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