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.