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Kinsey Confidential

Q: My boyfriend and I have been sexually active for almost 2 years now and during that time I have experienced several clitoral orgasms but I am unsure if I have had a vaginal one. When we have sex, I feel like I might be having an orgasm because I have uncontrollable muscle contractions, but it does not feel as intense as the clitoral orgasms I have experienced. Does that mean I have not actually had a vaginal orgasm? Do vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms feel different?

A: Orgasms feel different for different women; they can even feel different on different days, or at different times in the same day, so it's hard to say if what you've experienced during vaginal sex is an orgasm or whether it's simply the muscular contractions that occur during sexual excitement.\nSome (but not all) women say orgasms from direct vaginal stimulation feel different than orgasms from direct clitoral stimulation, but the key word here is "direct." That's because many researchers believe orgasms generally involve the clitoris in some way, shape or form, as it's a highly sensitive and responsive part of a woman's body. \nWomen tend to experience orgasms more easily from direct stimulation of the clitoris as may occur during masturbation, hand stimulation by a partner or cunnilingus (oral sex performed on a woman), and less easily from vaginal intercourse. That's because it can be more challenging to directly stimulate the clitoris during intercourse.\nThe clitoris is not just the small part that you see on the outside of a woman's body, but it extends backward into the body via a couple of branches called "crura." These branches are made up of tissue that swells up during sexual arousal. Plus, they extend somewhat parallel to the vagina. \nConsequently, some researchers believe that orgasms from vaginal (or even what's been called "g spot") stimulation are really just orgasms that result from other ways of stimulating the clitoris. Specifically, instead of directly stimulating the clitoris from the outside of the body then, one may be indirectly stimulating it through the vagina. For a more detailed look at female pleasure and orgasm, consider reading "Becoming Orgasmic" by Dr. Julia Heiman and Dr. Joseph LoPiccolo.\nFinally, I'd like to encourage you to consider to what extent it is important to label your experience as an orgasm or not. Some sex researchers worry that our culture places too much emphasis on orgasm, as if the quality of a sexual experience is determined by whether or not a woman has had an orgasm. \nIn reality, many women and men have pleasurable, satisfying sexual experiences alone or with a partner, even if they don't involve orgasm. I can understand your interest in knowing if you've had an orgasm that way -- after all, partners often want to know, women's magazines focus so much on orgasm and even women's best friends often want to know -- but sexual pleasure is (thankfully) so much more than orgasms.

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