Luckily, researcher Nicole Prause and her colleagues came swooping in this week with a bit of healthy validation: clitoral orgasms are not to be messed with. In fact, the new study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that women who turned to clitoral stimulation sometimes had even stronger sexual desire.
"A series of published studies made the shocking claim that women who reached orgasm by clitoral stimulation were mentally unfit in a variety of ways," Prause said in a statement. "They were shocking because we know that a majority of women report using clitoral stimulation to help themselves experience orgasm, so these studies were pathologizing a majority of women."
The researchers studied 88 women, from the ages of 18 to 53 years old. After a detailed interview and questionnaire about their mental and sexual health, the women viewed a series of films, some of them neutral and some of them sexual, selected from the Adult Video Network Award winners for Best Film and Best Scene. They were then asked to track their arousal throughout the process.
Later, the women reported how they were stimulated when they reached their most recent, and usual, orgasms. Most of them said it was a combination of vaginal and clitoral stimulation.
But clitoral orgasms have been a thing of great scrutiny. Most of this disconnect is because straight men have failed to understand, for centuries, why women would need anything more than what was working on their end: penetration. And they were further encouraged by Freudian theory that posited that as women developed, both psychologically and physically, they became more in tune with their vaginal orgasm.
Women don't orgasm the same way as men. There is actually a wide range of experiences in how women orgasm, according to a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. In a recent survey of 2,300 women by Cosmopolitan magazine, only 57 percent of women said they orgasmed every time they had sex, compared to 95 percent of men, and 38 percent of the responders said it was because of "not enough clitoral stimulation."
Meanwhile, women who don't reach vaginal orgasm have not always been forthcoming about their own pleasure, and reportedly feel shy or uncomfortable approaching clitoral stimulation during sex, as the study points out.
Prause, founder of Liberos laboratory, is one of the few researchers trying to demystify female desire, which is a complex combination of physical arousal and emotion. But the more myths she debunks, like that of the clitoral orgasm, the closer we get to mutual satisfaction.
"I hope that this study will give women great confidence to not worry about their orgasm source: Just enjoy!" Prause said.