Ask a Doctor: Female Pleasure FAQs with Dr. Zhana

Hi everyone, this is Dr. Zhana. I’m a professor of human sexuality at New York University and resident LELO sexpert. This month was International Women’s Day, so we’re going to talk about female desire. 

dr zhana female desire

I want women to feel comfortable talking about sensuality.

I want that too, so badly! Unfortunately, we live in a world that stigmatizes and suppresses female sexuality so much, so we have to fight extra hard against it. It’s possible to fight it: by speaking out, by educating, by having conversations with each other. 

How to become more comfortable with my own pleasure?

Three steps: 1) Educate yourself as much as possible about female pleasure, 2) make time to explore your body and what gives it pleasure, and 3) surround yourself with sex-positive friends and partners who will support you in your seeking pleasure rather than shame you for it. 

Do most women have a clear idea of what relationships they want? Or not until they get it?

I actually think that most people, regardless of gender, don’t have a great idea of the kind of relationship they want because we’re never encouraged to explore this. We’re given one type of relationship: long-term, heterosexual, monogamy, living together with kids, and that’s it. And while that works well for some people, it does not work for many others. Yet so many of us never figure it out, even after a lot of trial and error, because all the other options are so heavily stigmatized. I actually teach a whole online course on finding the right relationship type for you.

I think women want a partner who desires them and cares about their desires.

I think almost everyone wants a partner who desires them and cares about their desires. Unfortunately, women often don’t get that because we’re all socialized in this patriarchal system, which teaches all of us that women’s sexual desires don’t matter (or shouldn’t even exist).

How to make her reach orgasm without penetration?

First of all, thank you for asking how to make her come without penetration. Men are all too often fixated on penetration as the end-all, be-all of sex that they never even consider some of the other ways. And there are so many other ways to provide pleasure to vulva-owners! In fact, about 70% of women don’t even orgasm from penetration alone!

There are three main non-penetrative avenues for making vulva-owners orgasm: 1) using your fingers and hands, 2) using your mouth and tongue, and 3) using toys. I highly recommend you master all 3 methods and the different ways in which you can administer them because different women will have different preferences. 

Teaching you how to use these methods goes beyond the scope of this Q&A, but I will tell you one thing – do NOT learn from porn. Mainstream porn is not how real female orgasms happen

I’m a 25F virgin. And I’m looking to pleasure myself without penetration. Help!

Luckily, external clitoral stimulation is the primary source of orgasm for most clit-owners, so use either your fingers or one of the many LELO toys specifically for external stimulation like the Lily, Sona, Smart Wand, Siri

Is it bad if I only cum when I use toys?

Bad? No. It’s amazing! It’s amazing that you have a reliable method for you to have orgasms. There are a lot of women on this planet who can’t say that, who either haven’t discovered toys yet or haven’t been able to come even with toys, so congratulations! That said you can always try to expand the range of activities that give you pleasure. Those are some very fun explorations and I highly encourage you to do it. And if that doesn’t happen, it’s okay. We’re all built a little differently, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s still really fun and pleasurable to explore.

I feel like it’s uncomfortable and not normal to use toys. I want to feel like it’s normal!

I hear you, the stigma is real! And this is so sad, because using toys is perfectly normal! Which is why it’s so important to connect with sex-positive partners, friends, and community; people who are going to tell you “toys are amazing, here let me show you all my favorite ones”. <opens sex toy drawer> 

What do you think about double penetration?

I absolutely LOVE double penetration. I love love love love love love love it SO much! You can’t understand! Ladies, if you like anal, I beg you to try DP!

Proactive ways to work on the orgasm gap.

Orgasm gap = many more men having orgasms than women during partnered sex. There are two ways to close this gap:

  1. Encourage women to speak up and know what they like and speak up about what they like with their partners.
  2. Encourage men to care about women’s orgasms, pleasure, and desire and actually get good at providing that.

There are a myriad of ways to work on accomplishing these things, and we all have a responsibility in moving the needle, however slightly.

What can I do to fulfill my desires if I want to be more adventurous than my partner does?

This is something I hear more and more from women these days. There are a lot of sexually adventurous women out there! The easiest way to explore that is to have some sort of an open or open-ish relationship with your partner. There are so many different ways to incorporate some level of openness, however slight, into an existing relationship that you’re bound to find some version of that that works for you and your partner, even if it’s just you doing the exploring. One relationship format that I think would work for a lot of people is “monogamish,” relationships that are mostly monogamous with a little bit of openness. 

Written by: Dr. Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, is a NYC-based sex researcher who studies casual sex, nonmonogamy, and sexual orientation. She holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, teaches Human Sexuality at New York University, shares new sex research on social media, and runs the Casual Sex Project, a place for people to share their true hookup stories. She provides daily sex education using the live video streaming app Periscope, and is currently writing a book about the science of healthy hookups.

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