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.
Responsiveness is the ability to respond to an erotic trigger (an erotic thought or a visual stimulus). We are each born with an ability to respond to erotic stimuli to varying degrees. If we are responsive (most men but only a few women), our mind responds to erotic stimuli. We do not choose to be responsive or unresponsive. It is just the way we are. Orgasm is a response of the mind and body that we cannot control consciously. Orgasm arises as a subconscious response when the correct stimuli are present.
A key characteristic 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. Orgasm works like other physiological responses, such as sneezing. There is a stimulus. We cannot know for sure exactly when, or even if, we will sneeze. We cannot make ourselves orgasm. We orgasm because the circumstances are right.
Responsiveness works like a capacitor. Tension builds in the nervous system (like electrical potential) and is released in a burst. A man is aware 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 women are unaware of tumescence. A woman’s mental arousal (that leads to orgasm) must always be consciously generated. Even a responsive woman has to focus on fantasy before she can sense her arousal. Men, as they age or when alone, may also have to work at arousal depending on their responsiveness.
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 younger woman may be able to orgasm twice in a row with only half an hour between. Typically she waits 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 to 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. Once the clitoris is tumescent, a responsive woman can orgasm by focusing on specific aspects of eroticism.
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. One of the signs that orgasm may be possible is the idea appearing in her head. This is quite random and not related to any real-world triggers. Female responsiveness seems to derive from mental or physiological processes that occur subconsciously and sporadically. A woman has is not conscious of them.
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. Even between men there are huge differences in sexual interest. In general, we are content with the orgasm frequency that we have. 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)