Orgasm: It’s All in the Mind

One in three women have difficulty climaxing when they have sex, says Planned Parenthood. Thanks to a culture that represses women’s sexuality.

Others can climax via thought alone.

What we’ve learned from the mind-only technique could help women experiencing sexual difficulty.

Using brain scans, Dr. Barry Komisaruk found that some women can climax from “a combination of breathing exercises and fantasy, while others use their imagination and pelvic floor exercises.” He explained, “Some imagined erotic scenarios, but others imagined very romantic scenes such as a lover whispering to them. Others pictured more abstract sensual experiences, such as walking along a beach or imagining waves of energy moving through their body.

“There’s been a lot of focus on the body and our physical responses,” Komisaruk continued, “but for many people, and women in particular, the mind plays an even more important role.”

Physical stimulation seems to be more vital for men than for women, who require the right ambience, mood and relaxation.

As women move toward orgasm the parts of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and emotion relax and lower in activity. (Men’s emotional centers also deactivate, but less intensely.) At orgasm the emotion centers effectively close down and women move into an almost trance-like state.

That emotion shuts down at the critical point is interesting, since so many women say they need to feel emotionally connected to enjoy sex. Contradictory? Maybe not. Sex therapist Paula Hall points out that “women in particular need to feel relaxed and safe in order to let go and enjoy sex fully,” and feeling emotionally connected and safe might get them there.

Relaxation is helpful for both men and women. Perhaps that is why orgasm comes more easily when they keep their socks on. In experiments, cold feet kept orgasm rate down to 50 percent. Add socks, and the rate went to 80 percent. Cold is not relaxing.

All of this resonates with techniques suggested by sex therapist, Lonnie Barbach. In one recommendation, she tells non-orgasmic women to touch themselves just to discover how their bodies feel, but making sure not to come to orgasm.

Two things happen here. Unworried about meeting a goal, stress is minimized. And as bodily sensation becomes the focus the women cease to be distracted by other things, including worries about coming.

Which suggests some advice to men: If you constantly ask a woman if she’s coming, do you really think she will? Not a good technique for avoiding anxiety.

Jill Morrison discovered her ability the for mind-only climax one day as she lay with her husband before making love. “He wasn’t even touching me, but I felt very relaxed and I found my mind slipping into a wonderful and relaxed sexual ‘zone’ where I could see myself lying in a sexually abandoned position, naked, having let go of all the stresses in my normal life,” she related. “To my absolute amazement, I had an orgasm there and then, without any kind of stimulation beyond my mental concentration. 

“In my view,” she says, “sex for women is 90 percent in the mind. It’s about concentrating purely on the physical pleasure and removing myself from all the complications of relationships. It’s very liberating!” She adds, “The more you do it, the better you become.”

Interesting advice.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 23, 2011, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I completely agree with this! I think that women do need to feel emotionally connected to the person to reach an orgasm, and what I think that means is that they have a sexual and a least a conversation or two of attraction to make the woman feel safe, which is most important in regards to the partner. But I think when it comes down to coming to orgasm, thats alllll in the mind. A woman need to be relaxed and clear of any worries. I think another sub-topic of this that would be interesting is the difference between orgasm through the clitoris, or the g-spot and if women must be in a different sort of mind set to achieve orgasm from one or the other, or if its based on the way your body is hard-wired?

  2. This is a very interesting topic because I actually saw some sort of documentary a couple months on the wonders of a womans orgasm and they interviewed a woman who could reach orgasm through her imagination and fantasies with in about 30 seconds. I was completely amazed by this phenomenon. I mean for someone to be sooo relaxed and at such a pure and safe state of mind is something I find incredible. Agreeing with the other comment on this blog, a woman does need to feel some sort of emotional connection and safety with their partneer to be able to even attempt such relaxation and comfortability with another person.

  3. Gladys Knowles-Price

    I believe half of having an orgasm is in the mind and the other half is physical. I am more likely to have an orgasm with someone that I am attracted to physically than someone I am not attracted to. For example: I once dated someone that I was not physically attracted to, but did enjoy going out with him and his conversation. Once we came close to having sex but I could not do it because I had no sexual desire to be with him. On the other hand guys who I am attracted to physically and mentally, I could have an orgasm with them with conversation and foreplay. So I agree, that orgasm can be in the mind.

  4. I would like to come to a conclusion that all these statements above are absolutely amazing. I would like to reiterate on a couple of these comments, especially from Gladys. For a woman to fully engage in her inner sex kitten, she has to be fully attracted to her partner fully which involves both the mind and the body. Relaxation is the key to success for a woman as well, as mentioned in the article, being in a peaceful state of mind and having that feeling of comfort is important to a woman’s climax to her orgasm. I am not trying to stereotype or be sexist, but women are generally very insecure. Insecurities do not help in the realm of orgasms therefore a woman needs to feel safe and at ease before she does anything sexual with anyone. I believe that goes out to both of the sexes but women are more entitled to feel insecure about their body, themselves, or about the sexual act itself.

  5. This article is very interesting and I think will be beneficial for me in the future. Also, I’ve heard somewhere before that women can have an orgasm if they’re just sitting there and kind of wandering off thinking of other things (relaxing and sexually I presume) eventually leading to an orgasm right there sitting in her chair!
    And thinking back to personal experiences, it makes sense now that she definitely climaxed a lot faster when I massaged her or if she knew that we were safe and in the clear of wandering family members. Another thing was I realized that when trying too hard to reach orgasm because you want it so much at that moment, or because you feel bad your partner is working really hard for you, that it only drags it out longer because you’re essentially preventing yourself from orgasm due to all the stress that has been building up!

  6. Jaylene Caampued

    While reading the article I stopped and thought a couple times if these seemed to be true. I also tried to put personal experiences into my thoughts. I don’t really see how waves can make a women climax, but everybody is different. I understand that the body has to be relaxed along with your mind. You also have to be comfortable with sex inorder for it to happen or intuned with your body. I found this very interesting because I never really knew that climaxing was all in your state of mind, I thought it was more of the feeling/interaction with you or your significant other.

  7. This article is very interesting & it makes me wonder if sex to a woman is 90% in the mind, how does a pornstar feel while she’s having sex? If she’s having sex with a random guy just because of the money, film and acts like she’s enjoying it, is she really enjoying it? Or deep down, is she emotionally sad that she has to take part in 20 to 30 to 40 minute flings? It’s a sad truth that some of these women must go through.

    • It helps men — in their ususal uses of porn — to believe they’re enjoying it as much as they seem. But it’s unusual for real women to “come” as quickly as porn stars. Which suggests it’s more acting than actual pleasure.

  8. I have to put my personal experience into this comment, I promise not to get raunchy or put way too much information in it. I have to say though, that being emotionally comfortable with the guy I’m sleeping with has definitely helped it be easier for me to climax. I’ve experienced the different levels of being comfortable with my partner on quite a few levels. I’ve done the one-night-stand thing; I’ve also done the one-night-stand thing with a guy who was just a friend and we continued to be just friends after this only incident. I’ve dated a guy I was friends with for a few years first, and also dated a guy I was friends with for a year first. Currently I’ve actually been with a guy I’ve known since I was 13, we didn’t get along for awhile until we grew to understand the other person more, and I’ve considered him my best friend for at least six years now.

    I’m more comfortable with my boyfriend than any other person in this world. The only person I might trust more than him is my mom; I don’t even trust my sister more than him. He’s been my best friend for so long no one understands me like he does, and that translates into our sexual relationship as well. I’ve never felt this connected to another human being before, and I’ve never enjoyed sex as much before with anyone else.

    So I have to agree that I feel as long as a girl is comfortable, climax is going to be easier for her, and the more she relaxes and let’s go of any anxieties she might be having about the sexual experience the easier it’ll be for her.

  9. While reading this I was surprised to read that women orgasms were all in the mind, just fantasy. I honestly thought that when women have a orgasm it was physical not mental. The proof that was stated in the article, and what some women say how they have achieved orgasm mentally; but it does not completely convince me. Science can be amazing when it comes to analyzing anything like biology, astronomy, and the human mind. Yet I do not fully believe that emotions can be explained by science. I believe that emotions are a spiritual feeling that cannot be determined or controlled.

    • Well, the title exaggerates. At the same time, if women feel repressed, anxious, stressed, etc., their minds can stop their bodies from orgasm. The mind is the most important sexual organ — at least for wmn.

  10. Just as mentioned in this article, I agree that a relaxed state of mind would aide women particular attain organism. I found it interesting when I read in the article that this relaxed state of mind could actually bring about organism without any actual sexual activity in question. I however, wonder how women who love to indulge in rapid sex such as what is commonly called “quickie” attain orgasm. Perhaps they have become perfect in the act that it takes them no time to relax.
    I also learned something new and interesting about the socks on men’s feet during sex, that brings about the warmth which helps in organism. At first when I saw the word “socks”, I thought the author used this word metaphorically for a condom, but it’s actually real socks.

  11. 90 % in the mind?… Wow that requires a lot more concentration than I could have ever expected !?
    A very interesting post, great reading, Aquileana 😀

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