6.14.2020

Terrible Advice About Vaginal Masturbation



My awesome over-the-web friend who sends me awesome (or more precisely - awesomely incorrect about lady-gasm) web links and articles, sent me one recently to a article on vaginal masturbation at the website Bustle:

How Does Vaginal Masturbation Work? A Sex Educator Breaks it Down. *spoiler: she doesn't actually*

It starts with a simple question from a reader: How does vaginal masturbation work? Not Clitoral.

Now if it were me, I would have said something like:

So, lady (or dude, I guess), for some sensual enjoyment, one can play inside one's vagina all one wants. Touch down there and do what feels good. Putting a vibrator in there is fun and can shake the whole vulva a bit. Use lube. It can feel good, so go forth and explore, but if you're asking how to masturbate to orgasm from vaginal stimulation with no clitoral glans stimulation, which I think is what you're asking? Because you're just curious, or so you can learn to (or help your female partner) come when getting a basic fuck? - then the answer is - it doesn't work. Sorry. 

More precisely, it's super unlikely, maybe impossible.

Don't Expect A Vaginal Orgasm
Although one might assume from looking or reading pretty much anything about sex, that females can orgasm from just inside-the-vagina stuff, one would be wrong. They don't - at least not in any scientific literature. Ever. No actual physical verification of orgasm caused by stimulation inside the vagina has ever been observed and recorded. I'm not lying about that. This is quite unlike clitoral glans area stimulated orgasms which are undeniably a way females can orgasm. Those have been physically verified and recorded tons of times. In fact stimulation of the clitoral glans and surrounding external tissue should be considered no less important to female orgasm than penile glans and surrounding external penile tissue is to male orgasm.

Granted, people do say and insinuate regularly that females can and do orgasm from nothing more than intercourse. The truth is somewhere around 30% of women claim in surveys to orgasm this way. Depending on the question and the study it can go a bit up or down from that,* but only around 1/3 of women claim this happens to them even sometimes. So, at best, it's not common, and I fear there is real reason to assume some women claim to have these orgasms when they don't. I'm more than willing to take any heat from saying that, but I'm honestly not calling anyone liars. It's much more complicated and deeply cultural than that. There's plenty of sensible, good reasons women might feel pressure to say they orgasm this way; or truly believe they do when they don't; or squirt/ejaculate without orgasm but identify it as orgasm; or orgasm from external stimulation, but don't think about it or respond in surveys that way because it happens while they are having intercourse. I could go on. There really are lots of reasons. I have a whole movie about it, and this blog post explaining details about the glaring lack of vaginal orgasms in science and why women might not be having the 'vaginal orgasms' that surveys seem to indicate they are. Point is, just because you hear that women orgasm from nothing more than a banging, and you even see it in our media, doesn't mean it's true - just that it's a ubiquitous idea.

Ejaculation
Although orgasm isn't a sensible goal for inner vag-play, there is one thing you might work on inside the ol' vag. If you're interested in ejaculating, there is indication that stimulating the "g-spot" inside the vagina can cause that in some women. And I'm not using g-spot in the way it is commonly used - which is as a magical button in the vagina that causes orgasms. Again, contrary to popular belief there's no evidence that any stimulation, including g-spot stimulation, vaginal wall stimulation, cervix stimulation, or the very 'hip and now' inner clitoral stimulation through the vaginal walls, has ever caused an orgasm. So, although everything you read about g-spot stimulated ejaculation will probably tell you you'll have intense orgasms and will also conflate and confuse the words ejaculation and orgasm, don't be fooled into expecting this will get you an orgasm.

I'm using g-spot in the way it was (mostly) used in the original book from 1981, The G-Spot- And Other Recent Discoveries in Sexuality, that coined the phrase  'g-spot'. It's the area towards the stomach a few inches in the vagina where the urethra sits against the vaginal wall. The urethra is surrounded by erectile tissue and Skeen's gland (otherwise known as the female prostate), which can engorge and might be felt as a little bean-sized bulge in the vaginal wall. The authors recorded women ejaculating through the urethra from rather strong partner finger stimulation on that area - largely using a 'come hither motion.' They also said it's a little hard to do with your own fingers, but maybe a toy would work. Also, I want to be quite clear. Ejaculation is not an orgasm. This is true in men as well. Orgasm is the sudden rhythmic release of muscle tension and blood congestion in the pelvis, and ejaculation is the emission and expulsion of ejaculate. It just happens that most often men ejaculate and orgasm at the same time.

What I'm saying is you can try it. It might be fun, but don't expect too much. You may or may not be someone that ejaculates. The female prostate may be more or less developed in different women. There's not great knowledge and understanding about if every woman even can ejaculate or what exactly ejaculation looks like in the female population, but it doesn't seem to happen commonly, and again, it's not an orgasm and it's very possible it may not be all that exciting/pleasurable/physically satisfying for you. The pressure that is said to be needed on the g-spot during stimulation may not be that comfortable or worth whatever feeling you get from the ejaculation, but that's for you to explore on your own. You could also explore trying to ejaculate and orgasm at the same time by working the clitoral glans area alongside the g-spot. I will point out there may also be women that tend to ejaculate spontaneously when they orgasm, much like how men ejaculate. If this is you, you'd probably already know. I merely say this because advice writing on ejaculation tends to confuse this phenomenon with ejaculation being an orgasm. In fact writing on ejaculation is almost always confused and convoluted and it's actually quite hard to parse out. Just remember despite everything you will read in sexpert advice columns, the idea that any kind of g-spot or inner vag-area stimulation causes orgasm is very, very much not backed up by science, so judge the things you're reading from that perspective.

Try whatever feels good, but have sensible expectations about orgasm
Okay, so try ejaculating if you want, but don't get too worried about it. You can also touch and enjoy your vagina as much as you want, but if you want to orgasm from masturbation, the vagina is not where I would advice you to focus. There's just no other responsible way to say it. Stimulate the clitoral glans area however works for you if you want a good chance at ogasming. Of course, feel free to add any other body, mind, or vaginal canal stimulation to that clitoral glans area stimulation for some fun, hotness, and variety, but don't assume those other stimulations might, themselves, cause orgasm.


I mean, that's what I would say. However, the advice in Bustle didn't go that way at all 

The author never really answered the question - not in a way I think the questioner wanted - not in a way that actually told the questioner how to self-incite an orgasm from nothing more than stimulating inside the vagina, and not in a way that conveys a realistic and science based understanding of how lady-gasm works.

The author did a few things I very much appreciated, though. She praised masturbation. She said women don't do it enough, but it's important. She suggested lube. She suggested starting slow and with your own fingers (although then it lists out a few toys by name and manufacturer to use if you want and when you're ready - because ads, I guess). I'm completely behind that advice, and I think overall the article was kindly written, well intentioned, and well within the common knowledge about female orgasm that I would expect to see from an educated progressive sex educator.

Problem is, the common knowledge about female orgasm from well-educated progressive sex educators is, if I may say something that I imagine would get me into a brawl at a sex ed conference, not based in good scientific evidence and overall a bit shitty for the future of women and our orgasms. I'm honestly not saying that sex educators are intentionally bad or mean or not knowledgeable. I'm saying that the paradigm in which their education, knowledge, experience, and the sexual culture exists is shit, and they are working responsibly inside of that shit - which seems like the right thing to do from the inside. Looking from the outside, though, it seems clear that complacency about propping up the idea of vaginally stimulated orgasms is a huge underlying, ubiquitous rot that leads to more of the same misunderstandings of lady-gasm. Yes, the rot is wrapped in a new package for each new generation (we're currently in an 'all orgasms are clitoral' phase), but in the end, they lead to oppression of the female orgasm, shame, frustration, and damage to female sexuality.

Those are definitely fighting words, but I'm not actually looking for a fight with anything but bad information. Women, like this author and the expert she uses in it, have exactly the same goals and aims that I do - to make sex better for women and women better through a healthy sexuality (and everyone else better in the process). We just have different ideas about how that happens. Specifically, I will have no part in holding up the idea that women could/should come from stuff stimulating inside their vaginas because it's actually quite ridiculous and not supported by the science on the subject. However, the progressive, feminist, sexual education status quo definitely does take part in holding that up - in a kind, well intentioned way, but a way nonetheless. I think this is largely because it seems harsh, thoughtless, and anti-feminist to assert that vaginal orgasms are a bit BS, when there are actual women who say it happens to them. No-one, especially a progressive sexpert, wants to marginalize a woman's said experience, but, ya know, I'm fine with it. 

So on that note, allow me to do a specific critique of the answers given in this article. I have 2 main problems with it. It incorrectly tells us that there is no difference between a clitoral orgasm and a vaginal orgasm and frankly, it doesn't answer the questions asked (because how could it, really).

"All orgasms are clitoral!" (aka it's easier to believe vaginal orgasms are real if you imagine they have something to do with the clit)

The article very specifically said "'vaginal orgasms' and 'clitoral orgasms' are the same thing." 

Then it goes on to say: "Also, the external part of the clitoris — the clitoral head, which has more than 8,000 nerve endings and is the only human body part that exists solely for pleasure — is kind of hard to avoid when you’re aroused and touching any part of your genitals, inside or out. So, I’d argue that any time a person with a vulva masturbates, it’s going to involve the clitoris, either inside the body or because vibrations/rubbing/sucking/whatever you’re doing is also touching the clitoral head.

So, the author here is repeating a very popular talking point in the progressive, feminist, sex education realm - that orgasms caused from stimulation inside the vagina are not different than orgasms caused by stimulation of the external clitoral glans (aka clitoral head) area. Another way it's often said is 'all orgasms are clitoral.' Either way, the point being made is that, yes, obviously orgasms can be caused by specific external clitoral glans area stimulation - that's undeniable, but given that the internal clitoris extends down into the body and v's on either side of the vagina and that the clitoral head is close to the vag hole, then you can also get "clitoral" orgasms just from a good banging with no additional stimulation of the clitoral glans area.

Let's forget for a second the most glaring problem with this idea, which is that an orgasm caused by a basic banging alone has never been observed - so it really can't be 'the same thing' as an orgasm caused by external clitoral stimulation - a thing that actually has been observed and recorded. I mean something that we understand and something that is unknown simply can't be said to be the same thing.   Instead, let's just pretend that a vaginal orgasm is, as most science, sex ed, and sex advice would have you believe, an undeniable fact of nature. How exactly is it supposed to happen, anyway?

First and foremost it's all about the inner parts of the clitoris. This is said because it is hypothesized that when something moves in the vagina (like a penis), it pushes against the vaginal wall, which presses against the the inner parts of the 'clitoris' through the vaginal wall...and that causes a vaginally stimulated orgasm. I summarize the two main studies about this HERE and HERE. Both use ultrasound, and 1 shows that the clitoral crura get jostled during intercourse and the other shows that the area where the vestibular bulbs** and the crura V around the vagina get crushed against the vagina during penile intercourse. Both claim these are how vaginal orgasms might happen, but of course don't actually observe them happening in this way.

From ScarletTeen:sex ed for the real world  http://www.scarleteen.com/article/bodies/with_pleasure_a_view_of_whole_sexual_anatomy_for_every_body

With this I'd like to point out something the author actually said, because she's right. The clitoral head (aka glans) has 8,000 nerve endings. It's incredibly densely innervated, but that's the head, not the whole clitoris. When people talk about the clit having all those nerves, please remember it's the clitoral head, and so a penis pressing against any part of the inner clit though the vagina during intercourse is not the same as a penis pressing against a dense set of clitoral nerves. That is very often lost.

But, not to worry, there's also hypotheses about the head getting stimulated during intercourse. There's a very old idea (famously studied by Princess Marie Bonaparte in her life-long obsession to have a vaginal orgasm so she wouldn't be frigid anymore) that during intercourse the glans can get stimulated as well if it's big enough or close enough to the vaginal hole...like the closer/bigger it is, the likelier one is to orgasm from just banging. Masters and Johnson in all their research said there was nothing to this bigger/closer idea and there's actually not great evidence that even claims of vaginal orgasm follow this rule, but there are 2 recent studies that have reignited this idea (but aren't that convincing and of course don't give any real physical evidence that orgasms can actually be caused this way). I summarize them HERE and HERE.

Also, just ponder this. If, as the author would argue, anytime a person masturbates - stimulating anything in the genital region apparently, that they are also stimulating the clit (which we know can cause orgasm - the external parts of the clit, at least), then why, might I ask, do the majority of women never orgasm during intercourse? In all the many times we women get fucked, in all the different ways we get fucked? How did all that fucking-related stimulation down there - particularly inside the vagina, - not cause orgasm most of the time for most females? Might it be because it's just not true. It's not true that the external clitoral stimulation that we know can make a female come- will simply happen from just any ol' thing you do down there?

Here's the deal, and this is why saying vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms are the same thing (aka all orgasms are clitoral) sucks. It's because that idea is just the latest in a long line of wishful hypotheses about how an orgasm might happen just from a good banging (because how convenient would it be for females to just come from intercourse - the same thing that makes males come). Although it's fervently believed in, that type of orgasm simply hasn't been observed. Before all-orgasms-are-clitoral was the hip, progressive excuse for validating vag-gasm belief, it was the g-spot. That has only very recently gone out of vogue (kinda), and before that - before Masters and Johnson said that the vagina doesn't cause orgasms in 1968 - it was just believed that the vagina itself was able to cause them. These orgasms don't actually show up in scientific studies, but any idea that can be even kinda sensibly grabbed onto about why they might happen, well, those are abundant in scientific studies.

The belief in an orgasm caused by intercourse is so deep that it not only covers up/completely ignores the lack of vaginal orgasm evidence, but it also makes us super willing to accept any jumbled, messy reasoning for why it might happen. Saying 'it's all the clit' is one of those jumbled messy reasonning that we're currently clinging to, but I find it particularly problematic because just using the word clit makes the idea of the vaginal orgasm feel more substantial, more scientific, more feminist, and more progressive - when in reality it is quite the opposite. 


But, also, the question is never given a good answer...because there is no good answer

I'm sticking with the idea that the questioner was hoping to get direction for orgasming using only vaginal stimulation. I don't think they were intending 'masturbation' as simply touching your genitals in a pleasurable way. It's already pretty obvious how to do that - just touch yourself in a pleasurable way. They wanted to know how to come from vaginal masturbation- which isn't obvious.

The author and sexpert in this article sidestep the answer in a couple ways. They keep pointing out that the whole body should be enjoyed during masturbation, and that it's not all about the orgasm. They also give very little specifics in their advice, and when they do try and give specifics, they often creep in some clitoral glans stimulation into the advise even though the questioner specifically said 'not clitoral.' 

I imagine that the main reason there isn't great advice and why that they keep focusing on pleasuring the whole body and downplaying the orgasm, is because the sexperts in the article are trying to be inclusive and all every-sexual-touch-and-pleasure-is-equal-and-valid, but they simply don't have a straight answer because a straight answer for how to come from vaginal stimulation alone doesn't exist. As well-trained progressive sexual educators, though, they just pivot focus to pleasure instead of orgasm - because it is something they can actually answer. The article ends with this "Not to hate on orgasms (love those!), but there really is something amazing about observing and feeling the different ways your body reacts when you're touching yourself. So start slow, grab the lube, and get exploring! You're in for an excellent time." 

Not an orgasm, but ya know, a good pleasurable time where you get aroused but don't have an orgasm. It's great. Guys call it blue balls.

Let me just go through the most specific of their advice, though. The only discussion of inner vaginal movement/stimulation is the come-hither motion of the finger one can use to hit the 'g-spot.' 

"One motion that many people with vaginas like is the 'come hither' motion, which is when you put two fingers inside your vagina and then bend them at the second knuckle. It’s the sex move that’s most likely to stimulate the G-spot, which is a sensitive area behind the pubic bone. For a lot of people, G-spot stimulation can lead to intense orgasms or even 'squirting.'"

As I discussed above, the g-spot and the come-hither motion to stimulate it might cause ejaculation, but not orgasm. The article never points that out, though, and in fact very wrongly says 'intense orgasms' might occur, even though there is no evidence that any orgasm would occur at all - much less an intense one.  Also, that come-hither motion is not something that will likely happen during intercourse or something that is easy for one to do to themselves, so I imagine the questioner won't be that excited about it.

Other than that, the advice involves the clitoral glans a lot. The article says this. "Even when you’re focused on having a penetrative orgasm, why not get your clitoral head involved too?" (because the question specifically asked for ways to masturbate without the clitoris, but whatever.) "You can work your body up to high arousal by stimulating the external part of your clit in the ways that feel best to you. Then, you can switch to penetration only or penetration plus external stimulation, based on how you’re feeling."

I like the general idea of advising to do both penetrative and external stimulation. That's actually on-point. One can of course come during vaginal penetration as long as the external clit area is stimulated as well, and there's plenty of ways to do that. The problem is, though, that the article is never clear, as I believe it should be, that the outer stimulation has to happen in order to expect orgasm. But, that would mean the article would have to straight up tell the questioner that vaginal penetration shouldn't be expected to cause orgasm, and it isn't going to do that. 

The overall idea of this advice, though, is hilarious (hilariously sad) to me because it's basically the old-timey 1950's marriage manual advice about doing lots of external clitoral stimulation as foreplay, and then right as she's getting close to orgasm, switch to intercourse! If she didn't frustratingly lose her orgasm caused by the change from appropriate clitoral stimulation to vaginal stimulation, it's maybe possibly possible that she might start coming right when the stimulation moved from clit to vagina. This would allow her a half-assed technical win on the vaginal orgasm front - which would have been the goal. Vaginal orgasms were considered the only mature ones by professionals up through the 70's, ya know. Point is, that advise sounds like the masturbation version of the 50's marriage manual advise to me, which is a little sad. 

The next specific advice given is,
"'Try starting at the opening of the vagina, then lightly drag your fingertip ever so slowly towards your clitoris,' Dunne says. 'You can trace your way back down one side of the labia lips to the opening of your vagina, trace circles around it, and then back up. Try placing some gentle pressure on the vaginal opening, and if this feels pleasurable, you can move to insert a finger into your vagina to begin exploring there. A dildo or a vibrator could be interesting — lube included — if you are feeling ready for it.'"

This advice just seems like a sneaky way to get the woman to kinda touch the opening of the vagina a little, so maybe she might technically think it's vaginal, not clitoral, masturbation, but also get working on the clitoral glans area...because again, I think these sexperts know deep in their sexpert hearts that's where it's at.


My big point here is that even though this was a really specific, pointed questions about how to masturbate vaginally - which I can only assume means the woman wanted to know how to stimulate inside her vagina to orgasm. The sexperts mostly avoided it. They first downplayed the idea that she should be interested in orgasm. 'Just touch yourself - that'll be fun enough, right?!' Then they tried to get her to masturbate the clitoral glans anyway, either kinda slyly or in the ol' get real close with the clit and try to move into the vagina right before you come for a technical vaginal orgasm win. Then when they finally did mention inner stimulation, it was just the ol' come-hither move, which is 1. actually quite hard to do to yourself. 2. Not actually something that has been shown to cause orgasm at all - only ejaculation 3. Not that similar to penile intercourse stimulation. 

So, I'd like to point out that if these sexperts can't answer a pointed question about how one might vaginally stimulate themselves to orgasm, how the hell do they or anyone expect intercourse to work for orgasm? And...why do they feel like they need to be so kind to the idea of getting an orgasm from things stimulating the inside of our vaginas - it only breeds the status quo continuation of shitty, clit-ignoring sexual interactions and a lot of misinformation, lack of ladygasms, confusion,  and shame at not being able to orgasm in a way society tells us we're supposed to but our bodies don't actually allow. It's bonkers really, and I know that's not the outcome most sexperts are aiming for.


*The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. LLoyd, Elisabeth A.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2005. (You can find a deep dive into various studies on the % of women that claim they have vag-gasms in the first chapter of this book.)
**(these were deemed the "clitoral bulbs" in a 1998 study - it's the study that leads people to say that the whole clitoral structure wasn't discovered until 1998...but that's not really true. The study just decided to rename the vestibular bulbs the "clitoral bulbs" and call it all the clitoral complex...but that's disputed)

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Hi Trisha
    We are still out here enjoying your posts ... keep up the good work! :-)
    A few random thoughts...
    There's an older post by the same writer (EMMA MCGOWAN) which seems to be the same sort of thing. >> https://bit.ly/vag-o
    .
    What surprises me is how & why these sex eds are perpetuating the myths you are trying to bust. Do they themselves experience what they believe to be vaginal orgasms? (From stimulation of the internal clitoris, as it's now being said). Their mindset seems to have hardly changed since the '80s.
    .
    Which got me thinking, Trish - do you reach out to these columnists, and send them a link to your blog analyses? It would be interesting to hear their side, especially as a podcast discussion! I'm sure many would like to hear it.
    .
    And Trish, have you ever had a heated discussion with any of your friends about the whole '2-types' debate? Ever had to basically explain how everything they think they know is wrong? That would be an interesting podcast, too!
    .
    Do you follow gigi? She's busy on twitter and has lots of articles around the web (Teen Vogue, etc). I'm sure she'd be up for discussion and collaboration of ideas.
    >> missgigiengle.com
    >> https://bit.ly/tv-htm

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  3. Here's another thought that's been knocking around in my head ...
    .
    From a personal perpective as a man, if I had always been told how I could experience both a 'shaft' orgasm and a 'glans' orgasm, and how shaft>glans, then I would likely have believed it. Because the orgasm can feel very different in terms of pleasurability, duration and intensity, for a whole range of different physical and psychological factors, it would be easy for me to believe the myth.
    .
    This could apply both solo and with a partner, and would likely lead to all sorts of experiments and gymnastics in order to achieve the goal of the more mature 'shaft' orgasm.
    Comparing lubed glans masturbation, which would be quick and immature, to an orgasm reached inside a partner who had special skills to squeeze and shaft-grip in just the right way to work me up to a mature orgasm. It's likely the longer duration and slow build-up, along with my partner being really in to it, would lead to a more intense orgasm. Hence confirming my belief that shaft>glans.
    .
    Hope this makes sense! :-)

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