Everyone’s fairly interested in sex, including scientists. If you’ve ever wondered what sex looks like via an ultrasound scanner, or you’ve pondered about how much sex you need to be happy, science has got you covered.
A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the Indiana University School of Medicine have investigated why some people find it difficult to achieve orgasm, and they’ve found that it’s not all in the mind. For men, reaching the proverbial peak is strongly controlled by a feedback loop in their nervous system, whereas women’s ability to climax is largely determined by the position they prefer during sex.
The new study, published in the journal Clinical Anatomy, looked at a range of previous studies in an attempt to clarify the links between sexual anatomy and the ability to orgasm. Some of the studies included magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of couples copulating, which provided information as to which sexual positions were the most likely to culminate in an orgasm.
When it comes to men, the performance of their penis came down to something called a reflex loop. As with any sense, the physical stimuli experienced by the penis are processed in both the brain and the spinal cord. This information helps the central nervous system then instruct the penis on how to proceed in a continual feedback loop. This loop is influenced not just by physical stimuli, but also psychological stimuli, such as explicit imagery of the object of their attraction.
Men and women reach orgasm quite differently, it seems. MBLifestyle/Shutterstock
Although this means that psychological problems and physical impairments in the central nervous system, including the brain, may make it harder to achieve orgasm, the researchers concluded in their assessment of previous studies that the physical stimuli-response part of the reflex loop is more likely to fail. This means that a man’s ability to orgasm is strongly dependent on his central nervous system.
Failure could be also caused by an imbalance between the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body during periods of rest, and the sympathetic nervous system, which influences the body’s adrenal and cardiovascular response during active periods. A medical examination will help to determine the cause in men experiencing problems in this regard.
For women, problems achieving orgasm are more related to sexual positioning. The researchers note that the closer the clitoris is to the vaginal wall during sex, the more likely an orgasm will occur. The clitoris actually migrates towards this wall during intercourse, and as the MRI scans revealed, different positions are variably effective in helping to encourage this.
The most ideal position, according to the study, is one that stimulates the front wall of the vagina, like “missionary” or “cowgirl.” They even noted that the ideal penis penetration degree was 30 to 45 degrees, but it’s probably inadvisable to bring a protractor to bed with you unless you’re keen on killing the mood.
The authors conclude that “orgasms are complex phenomena involving psychological, physiological, and anatomic variation.” It’s safe to say that, then, different folks certainly require different strokes, so to speak.