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Author Notes:

Corresponding Author: Kim Wallen, kim@emory.edu, phone: 404-727-4125


Research Funding:

This work was supported in part by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a Science and Technology Center Program of the National Science Foundation under agreement IBN-9876754.


  • orgasm in intercourse
  • genital anatomy
  • sex differences
  • clitoral position
  • prenatal androgens

Female Sexual Arousal: Genital Anatomy and Orgasm in Intercourse


Journal Title:

Hormones and Behavior


Volume 59, Number 5


, Pages 780-792

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


In men and women sexual arousal culminates in orgasm, with female orgasm solely from sexual intercourse often regarded as a unique feature of human sexuality. However, orgasm from sexual intercourse occurs more reliably in men than in women likely reflecting the different types of physical stimulation men and women require for orgasm. In men, orgasms are under strong selective pressure as orgasms are coupled with ejaculation and thus contribute to male reproductive success. By contrast, women's orgasms in intercourse are highly variable and are under little selective pressure as they are not a reproductive necessity.. The proximal mechanisms producing variability in women's orgasms are little understood. In 1924 Marie Bonaparte proposed that a shorter distance between a woman's clitoris and her urethral meatus (CUMD) increased her likelihood of experiencing orgasm in intercourse. She based this on her published data which were never statistically analyzed. In 1940 Landis and colleagues published similar data suggesting the same relationship, but these data too were never fully analyzed. We analyzed raw data from these two studies and found that both demonstrate a strong inverse relationship between CUMD and orgasm during intercourse. Unresolved is whether this increased likelihood of orgasm with shorter CUMD reflects increased penile-clitoral contact during sexual intercourse or increased penile stimulation of internal aspects of the clitoris. CUMD likely reflects prenatal androgen exposure, with higher androgen levels producing larger distances. Thus these results suggest that women exposed to lower levels of prenatal androgens are more likely to experience orgasm during sexual intercourse.

Copyright information:

© 2010 Published by Elsevier Inc.

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