When I was an innocent pre-teen, my mom gave me a book about reproduction. Flicking through the 1960s-style handbook with yellowing pages, I landed on the page about female orgasm. I always remember reading one line in particular: “Women can only achieve climax through clitoral stimulation.”
I believed this, for years. After all, despite having all kinds of sex in all kinds of positions, the only way I could orgasm was via my little hooded friend—just as my mom’s sex book had prophesied.
This is common. “Research shows that only about 18 percent of women orgasm from penile thrusting alone,” says Dr. Laurie Mintz, psychologist and author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How To Get It. “A vast majority orgasm from some form of clitoral stimulation.”
Despite the fact that most women orgasm from clitoral stimulation, we often read about other, more exotic ways to come, whether they’re cervical or sleep orgasms. Depending on who you ask, there’s between two and 12 types of female orgasm.
”Scientists are still arguing about this,” says Mintz. “Different types of orgasm are achieved by stimulation of that specific organ or area, and some studies have shown that different areas of the brain are activated during different types of orgasm. But there isn’t a definitive answer [to how many types of female orgasm exist].”
But who cares what these dumbass fake news scientists know about female orgasm? Where science fails, I resolved to boldly row, Kurtz-style, down the waters of female desire. How many different types of orgasms can I experience? I roped in my extremely willing boyfriend, cancelled all my social commitments, and got researching.
Orgasm Quest 1: Clitoral
Yawn! This is easy. After some speedy foreplay, my boyfriend flips me over and I bang my ankle on our steel bed frame. He asks me if I'm okay, but I know he doesn’t care! He just wants to put his dick in me, which is okay—his dick feels nice!
Although this isn’t gearing up to be the best orgasm of my life, doggy-style is my favourite position because it means I can touch myself and stimulate my clitoris while also enjoying vaginal penetration.
I climax as quickly and efficiently as a teenage boy discovering PornHub for the first time. My boyfriend gets his too, but whatever—this experiment is about me! Also, I love my job.
According to Dr. Beverly Whipple, sex author, researcher and professor, this wasn’t a solely clitoral or vaginal orgasm, but a “blended orgasm.” “The clitoris is supplied mainly by the pudendal nerve, the vagina mainly by the pelvic nerve, and the cervix mainly by the hypogastric, pelvic, and vagus nerves," she tells me. "While stimulating each of these regions can by itself produce orgasms, the combined stimulation of all three regions—a ‘blended orgasm’—has an additive effect.”
As brilliant as this vagina and clitoral combination is, it’s time to move on. Next stop: pelvic nerve.
Orgasm Quest 2: The G-Spot
I’m skeptical about the existence of the G-spot, because I have a theory that men invented the G-spot as an excuse not to have to go down on women.
“The G-spot is found at the anterior wall of the vagina along the urethra, near the 12 o’clock position, with the woman lying on her back," I read in sex textbook The Science of Orgasm. “Stimulating deep-lying tissue that surrounds the urethra, by pressing against the internal vaginal surface with a 'come here' motion, was most likely to produce orgasm.”
Following instructions, I lie on my back while my boyfriend fumbles for my inner clock face, one finger at a time. I don’t blame him for his analog cluelessness—we’re living in a digital age! Eventually he stumbles across the 12 o'clock setting, after some firm guidance, but all this talk about time-keeping isn’t sexy. Besides, deep fingering without clit-work is like nachos without toppings—passable, but never great.
The area definitely feels different and more sensitive than others, but as I predicted, it’s not enough to make me orgasm. It’s only when I get my fingers involved, and start stimulating my clitoris myself, that orgasm—again, a “blended one”—is possible.
Orgasm Quest 3: The Cervical Orgasm
Because I associate dicks touching my cervix with previous experiences of being jackhammered by bros, I fear my quest to achieve a cervical orgasm will be painful.
To best stimulate the cervix, according to The Orgasm Answer Guide, "the couple should use a position in which there is deep penetration of the penis. One position is with the woman lying on her back with her legs elevated and around the man’s back or neck. Deep penetration is more likely if the woman pulls her legs toward her body. Placing a pillow under the woman’s lower back can also allow deep stimulation.”
I light a stupidly expensive candle to take my mind off the potential damage about to be done to my cervix, but as I feared, I find it too uncomfortable to carry on. I can feel the pressure on my cervix, but rather than being nice, it just feels way too sensitive—like my cervix was rejecting the dick invading its personal space.
I’m not alone in this: According to one study into sexual sensitivity in 132 women, cervical stimulation was less likely to contribute to orgasm (in just 46 percent of cases) than vaginal (86 percent) or clitoral (98 percent.)
Orgasm Quest 4: Urethral Orgasms
As far as I’m concerned, the urethra has one purpose—to expel urine from my body—which seems more than enough for one body part to be getting on with.
Unable to find much evidence of urethral orgasms in medical literature, I turn to my second favorite (and probably least reliable) source of scientific information: Reddit.
“Last night, I was masturbating and started off by rubbing my U-spot,” says one Reddit user. “Within minutes, I was having a mind-bending, legs-up-in-the-air, grin-splitting-my-face orgasm. But a Google search for U-spot orgasms doesn’t return a ton of information. Does anyone else have these?”
“Congratulations!” replies another user. “My first ever orgasm was urethral—they’re the most intense orgasms I can have.”
Theoretically, if you stimulate the small area of sensitive tissue around the urethral opening that lies between your vagina and clitoris, you’re probably stimulating your clitoris, too, which is what leads to orgasm. This is because your clit is mostly internal: It's actually about nine to 11 centimeters in length and extends down the connective tissues of the vulva, with an external hood and glans.
I lie on my bed and start touching around my urethra, all the while evaluating the life choices that led to this decision. It takes a while to get used to, and it’s only when I become less fixated on where or what I’m stimulating that I relax enough to actually orgasm and resist the urge to high-five myself.
But maybe I was just experiencing an orgasm through my clitoris, just stimulated in a different area?
Orgasm Quest 5: Sleep Orgasms
I like to sleep, and I like to come, so I think I'm going to be good at this one.
“Orgasm in women can be elicited from many body regions, as well as imagery alone,” says Dr. Whipple. “It’s not just a reflex; it’s a total body experience.” And I know it’s true, because I’m one of the suspected 37 percent of women who have had an orgasm in their sleep.
But why some women have sleep orgasms isn’t clear. “The areas of the brain that get activated during physical contact can also get activated during sleep and from intense mental focus,” says Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and founder of online orgasm course Finishing School. “It triggers the same physiological responses that we experience during waking orgasms.”
On average, I orgasm in my sleep about once a month, usually when I go to bed very relaxed, tired, and with sex on the brain. After some midnight sex from my boyfriend, no nocturnal emissions—to give sleep orgasms their proper name—come during the night.
The next night I resolve to abstain from sex and instead turn myself on in the best and most effective way I know: by watching an episode of British soap opera Eastenders, featuring the incredibly virile and erotic hardman actor, Danny Dyer. After the episode finishes, I have a joint shower with my boyfriend, all the while thinking of Dyer, before falling into bed feeling tired and incredibly frustrated. It works! About three hours after falling asleep, I wake myself up orgasming from a sex dream set in the Queen Vic pub, the fictitious boozer the Eastenders cast frequents in the show.
My body’s anticipation for orgasm obviously helped, but what if I can make my brain trigger orgasm when I’m conscious? Aside from being good for this article, it would be fucking amazing in general.
Orgasm Quest 6: Mental Orgasms
Being able to think yourself to orgasm is, properly construed, the only superpower worth having— even if my Broadly colleagues have tried, and failed, to achieve this in the past.
If what Dr. Whipple tells me is correct—that orgasm can be produced from imagery alone—then I should theoretically be able to think myself to orgasm. Whipple has conducted research into so-called imagery orgasms, finding that women capable of experiencing imagery orgasms experienced significant increases in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, pupil diameter, pain detection threshold, and pain tolerance threshold over resting control conditions in response to induced imagery—the same symptoms of physically induced orgasms.
But even after watching porn for 40 minutes, I only feel slightly aroused. (Eastenders is equally erotic, and has more narrative!) My heart is beating faster and my pupils are bug-eyed, but I haven’t had a mental orgasm.
I reflect on the fact that achieving four out of six types of orgasm actually isn’t bad. Besides, we’d all do better to be less consumerist when it comes to getting off. Sometimes window shopping is nice, even if you don’t take an orgasm home with you.
“Women need to be encouraged to feel good about the variety of ways they experience sexual pleasure, without the need for specific goals–such as finding the G-spot or orgasming from vaginal sex alone,” Whipple tells me. “Healthy sexuality begins with self-acceptance, rather than sexual ‘goals.’”