Studying the female orgasm


Photo: JJ Sulin

If the high volume of answers in the negative to the question “Is foreplay necessary?” from straight men on dating site OkCupid are any indication, there are still a helluva lot of dudes out there who don’t really know how women work.

Consequently it’s often been up to women to take matters into their own hands, as it were (we all remember the “massage wand”-shopping episode of Sex & The City: “That will burn your clit off” “Even with underwear?” “Even with ski pants”).

Time and time again, studies like the Durex Global Survey indicate a lack of satisfaction when it comes to sex: not long enough, not enough orgasms, and so on. If it’s not due to men’s lack of nous, it’s chalked down to women’s lack of awareness of their own capacity for pleasure.

Heartening news on the latter front, then, comes - ahem - to us from the University of Minnesota, which is the latest campus to offer a course entitled “The Female Orgasm”.


Lest that bring to mind this classic image (safe for work, unless your work has a problem with stern looking scientists in lab coats), the free short course is open to all interested students, and promises to maximise, well, it should be obvious.

Hosted by sex educators Sex Discussed Here (aka Marshall Miller and Kate Weinberg), the course description calls for “Orgasm aficionados and beginners of all genders [...] to come learn about everything from multiple orgasms to that mysterious G-spot”.

And lest you write it off as some sort of Joy Of Sex-era love fest with lots of sensual massage, Miller and Weinberg’s course rundown impressively adds that they offer “An emphasis on individuals making sexual decisions that are right for them, including whether to use the information now or when married or in a serious relationship” and note that “people who are well-informed about sexual topics are more likely to make healthy decisions about the risks associated with sex. The program is inclusive of people of all genders and sexual orientations.

I hope I’m not alone in applauding the fact that universities are hosting sex education events like this.

We should by now be well versed in the dangers of abstinence-only sex ed, which has gained a foothold in many schools and institutions worldwide, not to mention the looming spectre of the church in those schools that do offer “normal” sex ed. With that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that university-aged people might feel the need to learn more about female orgasm. It’s also vitally important from a health perspective.

As TheVine’s Alyx Gorman wrote last year, “While male contraceptive pills are still a while off, the armies of unsheathed members that bang against young women’s doors are not. [...] There’s no doubt we’ve made great strides towards equality, but women are still socialised to be passive. The idea that our egos should be bound to our ability to keep men happy is also reinforced in the media we consume, and frequently, the conversations we have amongst ourselves. This makes that old chestnut ‘If it’s not on, it’s not on’ doubly hard to say.”

Then again, it’s important not to see the emergence of courses such as Sex Discussed Here’s as existing solely to answer a lack of education; despite the best (worst?) efforts of their school system, young people - shock, horror - are interested in sex and how to do it safely.

Australian students have already expressed a desire for more (and better) sex education to be offered earlier in their school careers; similarly, there has been a push for sex education to be added to the National Curriculum.

Whichever way you look at it, I hope that courses like The Female Orgasm spread like wildfire - and then maybe one day we can finally even out the old “Average length of time it takes a woman to have an orgasm: 20 minutes. Average length of time it takes a man: 2-5 minutes” stats.


  • Great piece Clem :)

    Last year Melbourne University ran a Rad Sex and Consent week which covered off on all sorts of important topics which are traditionally not discussed in sex-ed (I was there presenting on enthusiastic consent). Topics like pleasure, intimacy and yes- orgasm- were all covered during the week (along with some more risque things like a safe anal play demonstration etc).

    The week itself was not focussed soely on the risks and negatives around sex (like most high school sex-ed still is) and instead it promoted consent and pleasure during sex. I know that this year other unis are running similar weeks following the success of Rad Sex and Consent week.

    So I guess the first thing is that these orgasm courses are not restricted to the USA. We already have them in Australia (Mebourne seems particularly pro-active). And like in the USA there are all sorts of groups who are getting their knickers in a twist about the idea. Last year at the Rad Sex and Consent week a team of Young Liberals attended a seminar and illegally audio taped it so that they could run to the media and 'expose' the week.

    Anyway, Clem thought you might be interested :)

    Nina Funnell
    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 8:44AM
    • Thanks, Nina, that's great to hear!

      Clem Bastow
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 9:29AM
    • Courses like "The Female Orgasm" are necessary because sex education received in school isn't adequate.

      Also, people are different and thus each body responds in a different way. Some may consider this a trivial issue, but it is very important. Hence the importance of these courses.

      And I agree that these courses will help "individuals [to make] sexual decisions that are right for them".

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 10:57AM
    • This article reminds me of a line from a Woody Allen film where he says something like "I'm running late for my Masturbation Class and if I don't get there soon they'll start without me!"

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 11:07AM
    • Gotta love the nutjob Young Liberals.

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 1:00PM
  • Well that is encouraging to see. But haven't there already been a significant number of studies that basically talk about the right kind of circumstances for women to achieve an orgasm? Like the one women are more likely to orgasm if they are with a guy who has more money or earning capacity, or something to that effect. Money in this case just being a general term for having those characteristics of being potentially able to provide, either protection for the potential child or health of both.

    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 8:58AM
    • Dave, got to ask is that a serious question or one that just falls into the trolling or "nice guy" kind of passive aggresive commentary? I presume one's mental state would affect your ability to reach an orgasm regardless of your gender/marital status/sexuality/etc.

      Also quick question where in the article does it even mention "suitability" or wealth?? or is that a personal agenda/issue?

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 11:55AM
    • I think he was just talking about articles like this :

      Apparently some psychologists have done studies that assert that men with money cause woman to have more orgasms.
      Who knows if it's true.

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 1:07PM
    • Hugh Hefner... Donald Trump????? O...K.... On a more serious note in relation to that, I think it must be noted WHERE the study was conducted and under what circumstances. Maybe this link may serve as a counter?

      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 3:12PM
  • A lot of guys are quite simply too lazy to get the job done. They want to skip the fun stuff at the start, get the job done and fall asleep. This is especially the case in well developed relationships where a couple rarely wants to fool around for a couple of hours.

    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 9:08AM

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