Research indicates that there is a huge range in responsiveness (frequency with which we orgasm) for both sexes that defines normal. Even extreme frequencies can be completely normal for the individuals that have them. Yet orgasm is referred to as if everyone is capable of the same frequency.
One of the key characteristics of orgasm is that it occurs sporadically. Female responsiveness is more noticeably sporadic because of the infrequency. A man may ejaculate spontaneously if he is highly aroused, young or inexperienced. Women never orgasm spontaneously. Female arousal must always be consciously generated. Men, as they age or when alone, may also have to work at arousal depending on their responsiveness.
Orgasm works in a similar way to other physiological responses of the body, such as sneezing. There is a stimulus. We cannot know for sure exactly when, or even if, we will sneeze. We cannot orgasm on demand or make ourselves orgasm. We orgasm because the circumstances are right.
Orgasm arises in much the same way for everyone. Responsiveness works like a capacitor. Tension builds in the nervous system (like electrical potential) and is then released in a burst. In a similar way to how we become increasingly conscious of a need to urinate, we also become aware of tumescence. A man has conscious awareness of his arousal because an erect penis is highly sensitive. But the clitoral organ is never rigid like the penis and it is internal to the body, so most women are never aware of tumescence. Even for a responsive woman, tumescence is deeply buried in the subconscious and she is only aware of it when contemplating orgasm.
Men are often aroused (or confident of achieving an erection) before they start on any sexual activity. A younger and more responsive man can be aroused (at least once) with little rest between a first orgasm and a second. But few men can orgasm many times in a row with only minutes in between. Most older men and less responsive men need at least a few hours between orgasms. A woman is likely to need much longer. A young woman may be able to orgasm twice in a row with only half an hour between. Typically she will wait for 12 hours (early morning or late at night) before trying again.
Responsiveness refers not only to the frequency with which we orgasm but also with the average time a person needs to reach orgasm. The more responsive a person is, the more frequently they orgasm and the less time they need for orgasm. Men orgasm after an average of 2 minutes of intercourse. Research indicates that women take 4 minutes to masturbate to orgasm. Women suggest they orgasm with a lover within 10-20 minutes.
Responsiveness reflects a person’s total orgasm frequency both alone and with a lover. Men are much more responsive than women ever are. Even responsive women only ever orgasm by masturbating alone. Being unresponsive (rarely or never having an orgasm) is completely normal for women. Research indicates that 10% of women have never had an orgasm in their whole lives. Another 20% admit that they rarely orgasm. So a total of 30% of women readily acknowledge that they do not respond erotically.
Responsiveness does not arise because an individual has some special knowledge or techniques. This is not a conscious choice. So a woman who is unresponsive, cannot learn to masturbate. Responsiveness is a characteristic of the brain we are born with. A responsive person discovers orgasm because the sensations of tumescence (increased blood-flow) motivate them to stimulate their genitals. This process occurs quite spontaneously. A responsive woman discovers that when her mind is focused on specific aspects of eroticism she can sense her arousal. Once the clitoris is tumescent, she can orgasm by massaging the internal orgasm.
A highly responsive man may be confident of achieving an erection with a lover at almost any opportunity. But he knows from experience that it is not as pleasurable until some time has passed since the last one. A woman has a similar experience but she needs more time to pass. Her potential to become erotically aroused builds in her subconscious. She has no conscious awareness of it. One of the signs that orgasm may be possible is the idea appearing in her head. This seems to be random and not related to any real-world triggers. Female responsiveness seems to derive from some mental or physiological processes that occur subconsciously and sporadically.
Even between men there are huge differences in sexual interest. In general, we are content with the orgasm frequency that we have. Responsiveness is similar to any other need of the human body. When we are hungry, we are motivated to eat. When we are full, we stop eating until the next time we feel hungry. We are motivated to satisfy a need. Research reveals that when a man leaves his wife for a younger woman, he is initially more sexually active because of the novelty of the situation. But over time the man’s responsiveness (orgasm frequency) returns to what it was before.
Like many other physiologic functions, erotic response depends upon a remarkably fool proof mechanism. When one reaches the limit of physiologic endurance he no longer responds erotically. He is no longer capable of erection and finds little incentive to force the situation. (Alfred Kinsey 1948)