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Understanding what works: the clitoris versus the vagina

Regardless of gender, sexual activity that is aimed at achieving orgasm involves continuous rhythmic movements [i] of the whole body focused primarily on the pelvis. The hips are thrust forward or gyrated in a rolling motion and the buttocks clamped together. The toes or feet may be pointed. Some experts advise women to tense their buttocks or point their toes to increase their chances of having an orgasm. Rather like suggesting someone should yawn to induce sleep, this confuses cause with effect. Subconscious reflexes that result from orgasm cannot be applied to cause orgasm.

Regardless of gender we all start out much the same in the womb. A process (called atrophy) inhibits the development of the superfluous anatomy. In the male the Wolffian ducts develop into the vas deferens (and other tubes required for ejaculation of semen) that connects the testes to the penis. But they waste away in the female. The Müllerian ducts persist in the female to become the uterus and vagina but they disappear in the male.

The male and female external genitalia look identical until seven weeks. The sex (XX & XY) chromosomes determine whether the gonads become the testes (male) or the ovaries (female). The labioscrotal folds become the scrotum (male) and the labia (female). Thereafter the testes and ovaries produce hormones that drive further differentiation (concluded at puberty).

The genital tubercle develops into the phallus, which is the first rudiment of the penis or clitoris. In the male the pelvic portion of the cloaca undergoes significantly more development to become the much larger penis. The difference is that most women never realise they even have a clitoris.

When I masturbate I adopt a comforting position of lying on my front with the fingers of both hands placed on my vulva. My index fingers massage over the hood of my clitoris and my second fingers over the sides of my labia. While I generate some arousal (by focusing on fantasy) I gyrate my hips gently. But as I get close to orgasm, I rhythmically clench my buttocks. This thrusts the pelvic area forward. I then press down more firmly over the spongy tissue surrounding the labia (immediately below the pubic bone). The clitoris is pressured between my fingers and the pelvic muscles.

As a mature woman (especially if the arousal phase extends for more than a few minutes) vaginal lubrication can get in the way of my fingers providing the stimulation (traction of dry fingers) that I need to orgasm. Also my vulva remains swollen after orgasm. The area alongside my labia is still mildly pleasurable to touch and my clitoris has a tiny blip of sensitivity.

[i] One of the most striking aspects of a sexual performance is the development of neuromuscular tensions throughout the body … There may be occasional moments when the movements cease and the muscles are held in continuous tension; but … there is usually a flow of continuous muscular movement from the first moment of arousal to the moment of orgasm. (p618 Kinsey 1953)

Excerpt from Jane’s book Sexuality & Sexual Techniques (2015)

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