A common belief is that sex starts in the brain and that women require more mental stimulation to enjoy sex than men do. But the scientific truth is that a woman’s clitoris has up to 8,000 nerve endings—twice the amount in a penis. Women with fully functioning anatomies have the ability to thoroughly enjoy the physical pleasures of sex—we just have to master the arousal process for our bodies. “We have this notion that female sexual pleasure is hard and confusing,” explains Shan Boodram, a sexologist, and host of Make Upor Break Up on Facebook Watch. “A lot of the pressure to get in the mood comes from people just not accepting what makes them feel good [physically] and allowing that to be enough. In fact, it’s often just a matter of stroking the hot button and you’ll get there versus trying to do what you’ve heard and having it not work.”
Own Your Orgasm The arousal cycle—from the first spark of desire to orgasm—takes the average woman anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes to finish. Understanding and being able to clearly articulate what turns you on is not only empowering but also very helpful if you want to successfully complete that cycle with a partner. Rachael L. Ross, M.D., clinical sexologist, physician and former co-host of The Doctors, explains, “A lot of time, especially if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, gentlemen tend to rely on past sexual experiences and porn to figure out how to please their partners. If you can’t direct them in the right way, then they’ll just continue to be going o  mystery and fabrication.” Many women still and it difficult to have straightforward conversations with our lovers about the big O. Luckily, a growing number of resources, podcasts and Web series o er insight on pleasure. For example, OMGYes. com provides research-based information online that explores women’s pleasure and details the ways they can and enhance it. A onetime payment of $39 gives you permanent access to season one: 62 short videos with testimonials, in-depth instructions, and interactive demos. This is no soft-core- porn site. Its founding researchers conducted the first-ever large-scale study of 1,000 women about pleasure in partnership with researchers at Indiana University’s School of Public Health and The Kinsey Institute. The site also charts 12 approaches to pleasure that a woman can put into practice. Self-Service As we age, our bodies and our pleasure preferences evolve. One of the more effective ways that all women— whether single or in a relationship—can stay in touch with themselves and their arousal cycle is through the art of self-pleasure. Pleasing yourself can be sensual or sexual in nature. Something as simple as washing your hair, getting your nails done or treating yourself to a full-body scrub and bubble bath may make you feel so good it creates a sense of desire. “There are lots of sensual experiences that aren’t particularly erotic, yet any experience that awakens your senses can definitely make you feel more sexually responsive,” says Stephen Snyder, M.D., clinical sexologist and author of Love Worth Making. Snyder also recommends that women incorporate a mindfulness practice into their sex routine to further enhance the pleasure. “Mindfulness sounds esoteric, but it’s not. You don’t have to sit cross-legged or eat vegan. It just means learning to pay attention to the present moment with as little judgment as possible,” he says. For those of us who need a little help getting focused in the midst of life’s constant overstimulation, Snyder suggests enrolling in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course. “Life is hard. Sex should be easy,” he says. Even today many women of color still struggle when it comes to the politics of pleasure. The stigma of being loose or inappropriate if you actively enjoy masturbation is often passed down from generation to generation. “The stuff that my mom was teaching me—that old school idea that you just clean it and it’s there but don’t look at it and don’t touch it—still lingers in the air,” says Ross. “The biggest stigma is that people think that you only masturbate if you’re lonely and can’t find a partner. In reality, getting to know yourself and exploring your body is at the crux of having a healthy yourself, the universe and your partner.” Approaches to self-pleasure vary from woman to woman. For many, going straight to stroking the clitoris won’t work—regardless of how long you go at it. Instead, consider starting with touching yourself lightly across your entire body, including neck, nipples, the inner thighs and outer vagina. The stroking and touching engages the nervous system, and the pressure in the pubic area starts the blood pumping to the clitoris, where orgasms “happen.” Synder explains, “The clitoris you see is just your outer clitoris. You also have an inner clitoris, which wraps around your vagina and gets stimulated during intercourse. Vaginal orgasms are from stimulation of your inner clitoris.” Employing vibrators, water and/or lubrication during your masturbation experience can easily decrease inhibitions and enhance the process. “Using lubricant allows for the focus to be pleasure, not moisture,” Boodram says. The pulse of warm water from a removable shower head can also feel good. However, you choose to engage your body, remember that this is all about being good to yourself. Even if you don’t always achieve an orgasm, constant exploration of your sensuality and understanding what turns you on will only serve to benefit you.