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[intro]

Orgasms! One video, less than six minutes, can we get you there? [miming orgasm] Yes, yes, yes, yes!

Let's start with anatomy. The clit is erectile tissue that looks really similar to a wishbone. There's a head that may stick out of the foreskin a little, the shaft, and then two roots, or crura, that are more internal, on either side of the vaginal opening.

The clit is similar to a penis but more tucked away, which means that while most people with penises have been stimulating their erectile tissue for a decade before becoming orgasmic, someone with a clitoris might not even know that they have erectile tissue to touch and explore. Clits aren't often described in health class because the focus is more on the vagina. And if we do learn about them then there's this frequent misunderstanding that you want to really get in there and whap whap whap whap whap. No!

You deserve whatever time is necessary to play with your parts, learn what's what, and access your orgasm! Here's a description of my stimulation pattern from 2006:

"With my palm down, my ring finger rests on the right side of my labia minora, the middle finger on the left. If I don't land exactly the way I want them to and stretch out the clitoral hood, I adjust slightly then try again, moving this rigid v-shape of my fingers across the clitoral area. The motion is a very rapid rocking at a diagonal from eight to one o'clock. I roll over the clit with my fingers, trying to vary the level of pressure. (So not touching the head of the clit directly, using the hood as a buffer.) Sliding ever so easily but with force and edge, I rock the same distance each time and maintain a constant rhythm. Until I take an intermission, let my clit and wrist relax before going again with a big push of effort."

I will get to some techniques that facilitate orgasm during intercourse, but it's important to talk about masturbation. Understanding one's own body makes orgasm much easier. In the words of (?~1:35), "Just like understanding the wind and tide makes it easier to bring your ship to port." When I first learned how to orgasm from self-stimulation it was because I was distracting my mind with something else, like French literature. I'm a big advocate of not paying attention to the strokes, just letting the clit and fingers or toys figure it out. I do think, though, that it's helpful at some point to track your own unique timing and responses.

The model of sexual arousal that I refer to for this comes from Masters and Johnson's study of over 10,000 episodes of sexual arousal: people getting off in the name of science.

The excitement stage consists of increased heart rate, faster breathing, and a rise in blood pressure. Nipples become harder and darker, the breasts themselves enlarge, muscles tone up, and the vulva swells. The labia get bigger, flatten out, and spread apart, and the vagina moistens. Most of you will experience what's called a sex flush, where the chest and neck area reddens from increased blood flow.

This is followed by the plateau stage: a continuation of these changes. More lubrication, more swelling. The clitoris, which has an erection at this point, retracts slightly under the foreskin, and the vagina creates an orgasmic platform, where the first third of the vagina tightens to make the opening more narrow.

Orgasm is stage three, but usually after the person feels like they're hitting a wall. "Hitting a wall" is the most common description I've heard from clients and people in general regarding the process of becoming orgasmic. It can be so frustrating, because you know the orgasm's on the other side of the damn thing – how do you get past it? Deep breath. Most of us have been there. Add your name to the wall. Then remind yourself that you deserve all the time you need to set up an orgasm and that the bigger goal here is pleasure.

If you need a good year of self-stimulation before having an orgasm, so be it! I'll say it again: people born with penises often touch themselves for a decade before they're able to have an orgasm. It will probably take you less time than this, but I want you to get out from under the pressure to catch up with everyone else. Masturbate just to explore your body. Use a vibrator if you want to plow through the wall, prove you can do it, and then get back to basics. Does grabbing your butt help? Does smelling your vaginal fluid get you going? What happens when you moan? Really! You want to orgasm? Moaning makes it easier!

Here are a few extra notes that may contribute to your investigation:

There can be a lot of triggers attached to certain body parts and behaviors which challenge the experience of orgasm, especially for victims of sexual abuse. You can work through this with a therapist.

Age and education are also factors that have an impact. You may have guessed that the older and more educated a person is, the more likely they are to orgasm – in large part, because they're more likely to know what the clitoris is, how to stimulate it, and how to communicate this information to a partner. Likewise, the more liberal a person is in their religious and social views, the less likely they are to view themselves as a object for someone else's pleasure or shame their sexualities, and the more likely they are to be orgasmic. So there are the demographic influences on this process.

There are the relationship dynamics too. In the context of sex with another person, there are so many variables that make a difference. These are the two biggest.

Number one: the quality of the relationship. Do you trust your partner will hold safe supportive space for you to navigate your sexuality? Do you feel comfortable looking like a seething, spitting, quaking, whiny monster in front of this person? Orgasm can look like dying; that's why the French call it "the little death".

Number two: effort. Qualitative and quantitative studies report that incorporating multiple forms of sexual intimacy increases orgasmia maybe even more so than the aforementioned psychological factors. Fewer than half of participants orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex alone. If you add massage, that increases the probability 21%, and oral sex bumps it up another 15%. That's amazing! If only 40-50% of people with clits are coming from penetrative sex, twice as many are orgasmic when there are more acts involved. (Lesbians and bisexual women know this.) By adding oral and manual touch, making the room cozier, playing music, deep kissing, powerplay, changing positions, and talking dirty or romantically, you're improving the adventure, which increases the pleasure! Nice.

In the description I've put links to some of these studies, books that I recommend on the subject, and a playlist of Sexplanations videos that add to this discussion. Stay curious!