The Science of Sexual Satisfaction
Maegan Boutot first published this on her Medium blog.
A happy sex life is an important part of a fulfilling life. What a happy sex life means is subjective, as our sexual desires, expectations and needs differ from one another and change as we grow and age. Some people want to have sex daily, while other people are content never having sex throughout their lifetime.
The subjectivity of sexual satisfaction is an important consideration in research and diagnosis of sexual dysfunction. On the World Health Organization (WHO) quality of life survey, the four questions that ask about participant’s sex lives are all subjective (1). Relatedly, although about 4 out of 10 women report some sort of sexual dysfunction, a little more than 1 out of 10 report that their sexual dysfunction is negatively impacting their lives (2–5), suggesting that a satisfying sex life doesn’t mean a “perfect” sex life.
Despite this subjectivity, there are biological, psychological, physical, relational and socio-environmental factors that can positively or negatively affect our sex life. Some of these factors are modifiable, while others, like aging, are not (2–4). Regardless of how much control we exert over these factors, understanding that our sexual function isn’t always 100% under our conscious-influence may reduce stigma and encourage people to discuss their sexual health concerns with their healthcare providers.
Sexual anatomy and sexual pleasure
Our understanding of the female reproductive system as it relates to sexual enjoyment is incomplete. There is generally agreement that stimulation of the clitoris and nerve endings within the female reproductive system can lead to pleasure and orgasm, but scientists debate the existence and location of the Gräfenberg spot, better known as the “G-spot” (6–8).
There are few explanations for the G-spot. Researchers have suggested that the G-spot is a cluster of nerve endings connected to the pudendal nerve or is a highly sensitive area that triggers sensation within the vagina, for the clitoris and within the urethra (6,7). Alternatively, because the clitoris can move during arousal and sex, some scientists suggest that the G-spot is actually part of the clitoris or the clitoris is able to be stimulated during penetrative sex due to its movement (6). Given that nerve and muscular sensitivities may and probably do differ among most women, the G-spot may not be located in the same place or exist in every woman (6, 7).
Similarly, given the differences in physical sensitivities to touch and stimulation, a person may be sexually stimulated by interaction with parts of their body other than their genitals.
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