HomeSexual responseMisconceptionsWomen orgasm from clitoral stimulation (cunnilingus)

Women orgasm from clitoral stimulation (cunnilingus)

Sexologists assume (as we all do) that women should orgasm in all the same scenarios that men do. These are (1) masturbation alone (the female anatomy and stimulation technique are never specified) (2) vaginal intercourse (3) manual stimulation of the clitoral glans with a lover (by herself or her lover) and (4) cunnilingus (oral stimulation of the clitoral glans).

For men, all of these activities (intercourse, fellatio and masturbation both alone and with a partner) involve stimulating the same anatomy – the penis. Moreover the stimulation technique is similar. Specifically, the shaft of the penis is massaged in a continuous, rhythmic motion. For women, the anatomy varies in the equivalent sexual scenarios. In intercourse, women are assumed to orgasm from being on the receiving end of male thrusting (women assume a receiving role). A woman is assumed to obtain the necessary stimulation for orgasm from the penis thrusting into her vagina. In foreplay activities, the clitoris is stimulated as if it was a penis. Cunnilingus is equated to fellatio. So women assume the penetrator role.

Fellatio involves massaging the corpora cavernosa within the shaft of the penis. Cunnilingus stimulates the glans (the only visible part of the clitoral organ). But the corpora cavernosa are within the shaft of the clitoral organ (inside a woman’s body) – not within the glans. Fellatio mimics the male role in intercourse, where the penis penetrates a warm and wet environment. But the glans of the clitoris was never designed to penetrate a vagina.

Shere Hite followed on from Alfred Kinsey’s work [i] by investigating how and when women orgasm. She asked detailed questions about women’s experiences with a lover including intercourse, cunnilingus and stimulation of the clitoris by hand. Shere Hite hoped to show that women need clitoral stimulation for orgasm whether they are masturbating alone or whether they are with a lover. She found that some women said that they use manual stimulation of the clitoris with a lover. Others said that cunnilingus caused orgasm. But these techniques were not universally effective. Of the women in Hite’s sample (over 3,000 women) only around 40% said that manual or oral stimulation of the clitoris led to orgasm with a lover.

In other words, more women said that clitoral stimulation (oral or manual) did not cause regular orgasm with a lover than those who said that it did. Hite had no explanation to offer for why clitoral stimulation was so effective for women alone compared to when they are with a lover. She, like other researchers, seemed to see no issue with assuming that intense sexual arousal with a lover is just as much a given for women as it is for men.

[i] There are several instances of wives who have murdered their husbands because they insisted on mouth-genital contacts. (Alfred Kinsey)

Excerpt from ‘Understanding Sexual Response’ (to be published 2023)