7 Surprising Discoveries About Sex

The average clitoris is about as long as the average penis.

1. If the G-spot exists, it might explain why some men enjoy anal sex and some women don’t.

Scientists are still arguing about whether the G-spot exists, but one theory is that the coin-sized area on the anterior wall of the vagina might be the Skene’s glands. If so, this explains why some women who report G-spot sensations also experience female ejaculation, a pleasurable expulsion of a (mystery) fluid upon orgasm. This is because the Skene’s are the female equivalent of the male prostate gland, which produces a fluid that contributes to the content of semen.

What does this have to do with men liking anal sex?

Well, if stimulating the G-spot is pleasurable for women, we might expect that stimulating the prostate gland might produce similarly pleasurable feelings for men. The prostate gland can be stimulated through—you guessed it—anal intercourse. So, the prostate is one reason some men may enjoy receiving anal sex even more than some women.

2. There’s no such thing as a “vaginal orgasm.”

Yes, some women have orgasms in response to penile-vaginal sex, but that doesn’t make it a vaginal orgasm. All orgasms are clitoral orgasms. Sometimes women have orgasms in the absence of clitoral stimulation. Women, after all, can have orgasms in their sleep just like men. If they can have orgasms in the absence of any stimulation at all, it makes sense this can also happen in response to a wide range of experiences. When a woman has an orgasm because someone is caressing her face, however, we don’t call it a “face orgasm.” If she has one because someone is rubbing her thigh, we don’t call a “thigh orgasm.”

So what’s all the fuss about the vaginal orgasm? Given that men predictably orgasm as a result of penile-vaginal intercourse, it would be mighty convenient if women’s bodies did, too. The idea of the vaginal orgasm brings women’s bodies into alignment with what men’s bodies supposedly want. It’s all about re-visioning women’s bodies through a lens that prioritizes male sexual pleasure. In fact, even though only about 30% of women routinely have orgasms during intercourse, 67% of women and 86% of men think that women should be having orgasms from intercourse alone. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but we should stop using terminology that confuses the issue.

3. Breasts are sexual organs after all.

You’ve long suspected it and now we know it’s true: breasts are reproductive and sexual organs. A study using functional magnetic resonance imaging—a process that allows us to watch changes in blood flow to parts of the brain in real time—found that the part of the brain responsible for recognizing genital sensation also responds to nipple stimulation. 

To my knowledge the study hasn’t been repeated with male subjects, but given that men and women overwhelmingly have the same anatomy and physiology, I’m going to go on record predicting that the same findings would apply.

4. Concern about penis size is mostly a guy thing...

Almost half of men say they would prefer to have a larger penis. For these guys, worrying about penis size is correlated not just with anxiety about sex, but feeling less positive about their overall attractiveness. Concern about penis size even influences how a man feels about the handsomeness of his face.

Meanwhile, 85% of women with male partners are perfectly happy with the size of his penis. I know of no research correlating female perceptions of handsomeness with penis size, but I’m gonna guess that’s a guy thing too.

5. ...and mostly unfounded.

In contrast to the examples people encounter in pornography, the average penis is a humble 5.57 inches long when erect. More than two-thirds of men fall within one inch of the average and 95% fall within two. So, despite the fact that half of men are worried about their penis size, the majority are average, pretty darn close to average, or above average. The rest shouldn’t worry too much about it. See #4. That said…

6. The clitoris is much bigger than you think.

If men come in two types—growers and showers—women are non-disclosers. Textbooks often describe the clitoris as a cylindrical structure found at the top of a woman’s vulva. Sometimes it’s described as the “size of a pea," and it’s almost always described as small.

In fact, the average clitoris is about as long as the average penis. The part that can be seen is just the tip of a long structure that separates into two branches that lay on either side of the urethra and vagina. The entire clitoris is erectile, adding to the pleasure of vaginal intercourse for women.

7. You probably have a pretty good idea what it feels like to be the other sex.

While we often think of male and female sexual anatomy as opposite, our bodies aren’t as different as they may seem. Nor are our orgasms, it turns out.

The external genitalia of both men and women come from the same fetal tissue. What will eventually become the scrotum in men becomes the outer labia in women; the shaft of the penis shares its origins with the inner labia; the erectile tissue in the penis is the same erectile tissue we find in the clitoris; and the head of the penis and head of the clitoris come from the same tissue as well (fun fact: this means that the head of the clitoris has the same number of nerve endings as the head of the penis, just more densely packed). So, the sensations we experience when those parts of our bodies are touched probably aren’t that different. 

Likewise, in both men and women the experience of orgasm involves muscle contractions in the pelvic floor starting at about 0.8 per second with a declining interval until resolution. Both Kinsey and Masters and Johnson argued that sexual response was quite similar between the sexes. 

All that’s quite clinical, but creative ways of measuring the experience of orgasm more personally tells a similar story. Way back in the 1970s, a team of researchers collected 48 descriptions of orgasm (half from men and half from women), stripped them of obvious markers of sex (like body parts), and asked 70 doctors and psychologists to indicate which were written by men or women. All failed to do so with any accuracy at all. The experience of orgasm, then, is probably pretty similar whether you’re a man or a woman.

Lisa Wade holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in sociology and an M.A. in human sexuality. She is a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.