Do most other women get physical pleasure from penetration?
June 16, 2021 4:09 AM   Subscribe

I find penetration psychologically erotic, but basically don't find it physically pleasurable at all unless my clitoris is involved. I'm not even talking about trying to orgasm - I know most women can't without clitoral stimulation - but I really don't find the act of penetration physically enjoyable. Do other women have this?

I know it's super common for women to not be able to orgasm without clitoral stimulation, but I can't get within 20 miles of an orgasm without it. Penetration is psychologically enjoyable/arousing, but physically really doesn't feel pleasurable at all without my clit in the game somehow. Which actually makes sense since I believe women don't even have many nerve endings in their vagina because of childbirth - yet I get the sense that a lot of women love penetration from a physical pleasure sense too. And incidentally so does the sex toy marketplace, which I assume caters to what women actually buy.

Are there other women out there who actually don't get much out of penetration physically without clit action? I know people might say use a vibe/touch yourself etc but I am just curious if any other women find penetration, sans clit action, to generally be very substandard in terms of pure physical pleasure. Is this a common female experience? And if so, what do you find makes it more physically enjoyable, if anything?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, I didn't know childbirth kills those nerve endings! No wonder I stopped feeling physical pleasure from penetration, I used to really genuinely feel it before. I also recently threw out a moderate stash of dildos purchased upon the internet's recommendation because I never freaking used them! Because of this exact reason! A little bullet vibe is all I'm ever gonna need.
posted by MiraK at 5:03 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I'm not a woman, but I never used to really be into it until I met my current partner, who for some reason manages to hit all the right buttons (so to speak). I always found it slightly maddening to be with partners who have watched too many of those "how to make a woman squirt/g-spot orgasm" videos and set to work on my bits like they were frantically trying to start a lawnmower.

I don't think you're alone at all, though I don't know if it's entirely a physical thing. I think mental/emotional connection can play a big part as well. Focusing on what you might like about the experience (if there is anything) or some filthy fantasies/ideas may help it be more pleasurable than just trying to jumpstart certain physical reactions.
posted by fight or flight at 5:15 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately I’m virtually completely certain this is a biological difference that varies amongst women like any other trait that has a wide variety of expressions in humans (height, handedness, fertility, etc.)

I do orgasm from penetrative sex (and also from clitoral stimulation). I would say for me, the actual penetration is neutral to mildly uncomfortable but the pay off of orgasm (generally has to happen when the thrusting stimulates the correct location, it’s on the front wall of the vagina about halfway back) makes me associate penetrative sex with pleasure.
posted by stockpuppet at 5:34 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]

Not to get into TMI details, but as a woman who has delivered two children, I can confirm that this is a YMMV situation.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:04 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]

Nah, it doesn't feel like anything. *shrug* I think the range of normal is wide.
posted by stray at 6:13 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

It is 100% normal variation to find vaginal penetration not pleasurable, or even unpleasurable. Painful might be indicative of a problem (or you need more lube or have a bad lover), but just not your thing? Totally normal!
posted by wellifyouinsist at 6:17 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]

I have a similar experience — the *idea* of penetration is super erotic to me, but the actual act, at least the kind of rapid in-and-out thrusting most men seem to default to, doesn’t do much for me.

I do find the area right around the vaginal opening and right inside to be very sensitive, so a gentler penetration that kind of plays around with that area is enjoyable. (Oh, and I also enjoy fisting, which is an entirely different kind of experience for me.)
posted by mekily at 6:34 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Since having kids, penetration gets me off. Before kids, not so much. Bodies are weird...
posted by jeszac at 6:44 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

I like big, fat dicks. I enjoy and get off on penetration from big, fat dicks. Small penises, or long and skinny penises, not only do not get me off but penetration is actively unpleasurable. Every person's body is different, and this is the way that mine works. Men find this to be offensive but it is a fact of my lived in body.

So to answer your question, you sound completely within the range of normal to me. And further, just because you don't like one sort of penis doesn't mean you wouldn't like another. There's lots of different penises out there. It doesn't make you a bad person to have a preference.
posted by I'm just here to talk about my vulva at 7:07 AM on June 16 [29 favorites]

A discussion many years ago that I was personally involved in among about fifteen people with vaginas came up with exactly none who could orgasm during penetrative sex without additional stimulation, and a majority who could not orgasm if penetration was happening at all. I was in my thirties before I met someone who said they enjoyed it and that it always felt good to them.

It is worth noting that the vagina goes through changes in shape and positioning during the lifetime of people with vaginas. Pregnancy and childbirth in particular can cause huge changes in a very short time. A lot of people with vaginas have found a sweet spot and get no pleasure to speak of during penetration unless that sweet spot is stimulated. It's not necessarily the "g-spot". But finding that correct spot or correct angle isn't always reproducible. If you change partners or positions or toys it may be impossible to recreate the pleasure due to a difference in length or angle or position. Having either a full bladder or contents in the colon can change the shape of the vagina so the sweet spot in inaccessible or in exactly the right position. And when the usual downward slide occurs as gravity and/or pregnancy weight lengthens and softens the tissues it can become impossible to find a position that still works, or penetrative sex may suddenly start working where it never had before. Usually however the pleasure disappears and quite often the cervix descends and gets in the way. I don't know anyone who likes the sensation of impact on their cervix; I do know people who gave up on penetrative sex to avoid it.

The people I have talked to who do enjoy piv as the recipient mention that the correct pelvic tilt and the correct amount of swelling is critical for it to work. Some have mentioned that only the first thrust that stretches the tissue works. Once the tissue at the opening has adjusted there are no more sexual sensations to be had. I gather that the older you get the more are are apt to want shorter and thicker penetration, which makes sense as when a person is young the vagina is apt to be longer and narrower, and be close to the dimensions shown in the diagrams of anatomy books, but the older the person gets the shorter and wider it gets until it it may become bowl shaped, with the opening near the bottom of the bowl, but sometimes slightly up one the side.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:22 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

posted by I'm just here to talk about my vulva at 7:07 AM

That comment really delivered.

And I agree with Jane the Brown. Things change over time and everyone is not the same. I'd say with what you've described, super common among those with vaginas! But also, not so common with others. What I enjoy and how things feel has definitely changed along with what my brain thinks is erotic and what isn't.
posted by amanda at 7:25 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Personally, I like it with the right person/fit/position. But nthing what everyone has said above, and I can confirm that the vast majority of my friends with vaginas can not orgasm through penetration and it is not at all physically pleasurable for many of them. So I think it varies a lot between people, and it can also vary based on the sex partner. But 100% normal for sure.
posted by DTMFA at 7:53 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Not that I'm a statistician, but it sounds very rare for women to sexually enjoy penetration. I don't hear of a whole lot of ladies who are into it, but it sounds like 80-90% are all about the clit action.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:55 AM on June 16

For what it's worth, as a person with a vagina, I enjoy penetrative sex with my wife (another person with a vagina) way more than I ever did with people with penises. It's definitely about who is pushing the buttons, for me.
posted by joycehealy at 7:58 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

So, I always found penetration wonderful, until I had kids, and then it became very often quite painful. Not so much the penetration but a painful spot - it felt like my husband was stabbing to the left really hard.

Turns out I had pelvic floor nerve damage - not on the left side, but on the right side. Somehow this meant that I felt nothing on the right side which turned into the left side registering pain. Pelvic floor PT and a medical marijuana cream suppository created for me over time have made things much better and enjoyable again. Interestingly, for me the PT involved learning to RELAX the pelvic floor muscles. All those Kegels had me walking around in a constant state of muscle engagement.

Agree with those saying that it depends on the time of the month too - there are some times that penetration ends up banging my cervix in a particularly painful way.

So, I loved penetration and then I didn't and now I mostly do?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:59 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I will just say that in my experience this can change drastically over time, or maybe over different partners--it's hard to sort it out. But younger me found it uninspiring and often painful. Older me finds it exquisitely pleasurable--although even there, it varies depending on where I am in my cycle. Also, for some reason this particular aspect of sex is really enhanced by being a little high.
posted by HotToddy at 8:27 AM on June 16

It is really important to remember that normal is a very wide range, and whatever you like is certainly very much OK.
My preferences are different from yours, but that doesn't make yours wrong or weird or unusual. It just reminds us all that we need to talk about sex. We can't know what feels good to other people if they don't tell us.

I do want to say one thing after reading some replies here, and that is, please remember to do your kegels. After caring for first my gran and now my mother who didn't learn about this discipline when they were young, I just don't want to go into old age without at least some control of those muscles. Kegel exercises can improve the experience of vaginal sex as a bonus, but they don't always.
posted by mumimor at 8:27 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Like I'm just here to talk about my vulva, for me it depends on the penis. With 90% of them, it is boring and I hope they're "premature" ejaculators. (Unfortunately this has become less likely as my partners and I have gotten older!) For the 10% that work for me, large size is necessary and shape is important in ways I haven't managed to fully determine (for some reason, I can't get partners to participate in a lineup so I can carefully investigate the differences between the big dicks that can and cannot get me off). Skill is relevant, and position is important (I'm going to have trouble coming in missionary even with dicks that generally work for me).
posted by metasarah at 8:59 AM on June 16

I *really* hated it when I was younger. It was so painful and my partners often said that I was 'broken' or unusual in this respect. The ones who weren't outright shaming me would insist I didnt know my body well enough, or that I had some kind of energetic block to sexual pleasure (even though I could orgasm from other methods easily).

Every one of them was sure their penis was some kind of magic wand that would 'fix' me. The men I was with said that all or nearly all of the women they had been with were able to orgasm from or during penetration, so I was the outlier. I kept trying tho, because I didn't want to be a weird, broken outlier and I thought no one would want to be with someone who wouldn't have penetrative sex. But honestly, it mostly felt like I was just being used for someone to get off with. Not awesome.

After talking to many, many women, I realized that lots of men dont necessarily know if a woman has come, and simply assume she has, and that lots of women claim pleasure or fake orgasms for a variety of reasons. This creates an unfortunate cycle of society expecting women to come from, or at least enjoy, penetration when it's very obvious in research and conversation that the majority of us do not.

I have since learned it simply takes more time and effort for me (and most women) to get 'revved up' than previous partners were willing to put in. Consistent lubrication is key. It's still not high in terms of physical pleasure, I still cant orgasm from it, and sometimes it's still uncomfortable, but not nearly like before. There's also a time limit on this. After 15 or 20 minutes, we have to stop because it just gets too painful.

So now I'm able to appreciate other aspects of it -- the physical closeness, giving my partner pleasure, the 'idea' of it. My current partner also takes the time to find a position that is comfortable for me (it varies a lot), and will stop and reposition if it starts to feel bad. Sometimes it even feels really good! Partly, I think, because I no longer feel like I'm weird or broken, and I'm not expecting my body to do something it can't.

So, tl;dr: societal expectations suck, and there's nothing wrong with not enjoying it. Most women can't come from it, and that's ok. Also, more foreplay is good. And use lube.
posted by ananci at 9:10 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]

Maybe it's just not your thing. But if you want to give it a go, try fingers or holding a dildo in your hand. I'd suggest glass for a smoother experience. Many people who don't enjoy penetrative sex with a penis enjoy penetrative sex with other things. Unskillful and inattentive lovers abound, but "substandard" is simply not acceptable. Use coconut oil and start with a vulva massage.
posted by lloquat at 9:55 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

And speaking as a queer person who has a vagina and has played with many, many people with vaginas.. frankly, all this stuff I hear about women not enjoying penetration is cishet bunk. Have I had partners who preferred clitoral stimulation to other sex acts, or liked to pair clitoral stimulation with various things for a resounding finish? Sure, definitely. Very common. But have I had any partners who couldn't come from penetration, or loathed it? No, not even once. I'm sure it happens for all sorts of natural/innocuous reasons, but by and large I truly believe that feeling is a mark of bad sex! Somebody's not paying attention or sharing the pleasure. Ultimately, stop having sex you don't like, start having sex you do like. Whatever equipment you have to work with is good, normal and enough.
posted by lloquat at 10:14 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]

Also not a statistician, but She Comes First cites most* women do not* come solely or even combinationally with penetration, and oral is typically the enabler or sole provider, so the statistic is there.

I can go with either/or interchangeably, depending on the partner, but I could also probably lose it by thinking the right thoughts, which isn't typical.

Point above appreciated but it may help someone women to know, statistically, it genuinely may just not happen a certain way and that's not wrong.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:38 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]

please remember to do your kegels
though carefully if you already experience excessive pelvic floor tightness! which, speaking of, in vaginismus circles it's pretty common that people who've recovered enough for PIV find it's not very pleasurable for them
posted by gaybobbie at 11:30 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

frankly, all this stuff I hear about women not enjoying penetration is cishet bunk.

Uh, please don't summarily dismiss the actual embodied experiences of fully 80% of all women as bunk. I'm sure you're a very skilled lover but your results on a tiny sample size of people with vaginas does not, in fact, make the rest of the world's experiences cease to exist, nor does it mean you (and you alone) hold The Answer that all people with vaginas throughout time have somehow failed to discover.
posted by MiraK at 11:45 AM on June 16 [34 favorites]

Frankly I am sick and tired of being told that Women Are ALWAYS Doing It Wrong.

Bras? You're wearing the wrong size!

Diet? You're eating the wrong things the wrong way at the wrong time!

Fashion? You're wearing the wrong thing and you have the wrong body for it.

Orgasms? If you can't have one with just penetration, you must be psychosexually immature or if you happen to live a century or so later, you might be deluded by cishet bunk!

Screw that! OP, if you don't like penetration, you don't like penetration! If it does nothing for you, it does nothing for you. YOU are the only authority on what your body is feeling. You do not need to spend the next eleventeen weeks or months forcing yourself to try various methods of penetration in hope that you might find one of them enjoyable! IT'S OKAY TO BE 'MEH' ABOUT IT FOREVER. Please go forth and enjoy whichever types of orgasms you enjoy.
posted by MiraK at 11:57 AM on June 16 [15 favorites]

Addendum: She Comes citations are directly from statistics in sexual studies and sex therapy, the data is empirical.
posted by firstdaffodils at 12:42 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I love it, but size matters.
posted by 8603 at 1:33 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

by and large I truly believe that feeling is a mark of bad sex! Somebody's not paying attention or sharing the pleasure

You know that penetration is attainable solo, right? How many people with vaginas do you want to call bad lovers to themselves?

Very much agree with Mira K.--you may decide to continue to have penetrative sex for the benefit of your partner, especially if the idea works for you, but you don't have to keep contorting yourself to try to figure out some way to enjoy the penetration in itself.
posted by praemunire at 2:01 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]

I think it’s important to note that pleasure and orgasms are a spectrum. And things ebb and flow constantly. Personally, I have different kinds of pleasure responses. Penetration is one that can feel fantastic, fully body tingles, and clitoral stimulation is sort of the big finish.

When I fist stared having sex, penetration felt vague and wishy washy. With a common “did you cum?” And me answering honestly “I don’t know.” Many partners didn’t really acknowledge the clitoris exists. And I didn’t have much experience with self exploration. Then I had better partners and learned about my body and what I like, how to focus on it, and how to move where I need and communicate with partners about it.

I agree that what your partner has physically and what they do is important, as well as self exploration. But sex is a huge spectrum. If you’re want to explore this further, then by all means do! But you also don’t have to. We often don’t tell people with a penis that their preference is wrong. I don’t like playing with testicles. My husband doesn’t like someone touching his so that works out. But some people really enjoy it. Same goes for things like anal stimulation.

Sex is so complicated. Everyone is unique. Yet we do not exist in a vacuum. There are thousands of years of social pressures and misinformation and sexism at play in society and how we view our bodies.

So if you’re doing a survey: I have only had sex with people with a penis.
I can immensely enjoy it and not want it to stop. Sometimes it can be a bit bland but fun if my spouse is enjoying which I enjoy emotionally even if my nerve endings are a little done and sometimes it’s a little bland because I’m focusing elsewhere during those moments so my attention gets split - but I enjoy it a lot. It can painful (my health issues are to blame, not my spouse’s fault but past partners have made things painful without adjusting to my needs.) It does matter what me and my partner are doing. My health and age and experience has has huge impacts (endometriosis, hysterectomy, menopause). Most of this has now led to better sex, but due to problems there were rough patches in the middle. But my partner has always accommodated so it can be as pleasurable as possible. And I’ve had to learn things about my body as it changed.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:33 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

It turns out that the clitoris is much larger than what is shown in anatomy textbooks, as proven by dissection, and so the little nubbin that we tend to focus on is not the whole story. Some of the nerve endings are accessible via the vagina. As anatomy differs a bit from person to person, the ways that the clitoral nerve endings can be stimulated differ. Thus, for some of us, penetration feels good with our partner(s), for some of us it does not, and for some of us, the pleasure is highly dependent upon whether the penis or other penetrative item has the shape/girth/curvature to hit those nerve endings. I'm in the latter category. For most penises, I feel nothing at all with penetration, but for the "right" one, I do feel pleasure.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:39 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]

It would be interesting to have an FPP about this subject. As Knowyournuts writes, the clitoris is not what most people think it is. And just reading the replies here makes me think there are some cultural issues at hand that need examination. It worries me that some men are telling women their experiences are wrong, here, now in 2021!
On the other hand, I also have a gut feeling that agrees with lloquat, because it makes sense that most people with vaginas should be able to enjoy penetrative sex because of biology. I may well be completely wrong about that, given the data.
Don't misunderstand me, I am strongly on the side of whatever makes you feel comfortable is what is good for you, and don't let anyone ever tell you anything else. That's why I think the more explorative side of this should be in an FPP, not here. The OP feels what she feels and should have no doubt whatever that is totally OK, good and right. And honestly, I'd meet up to kick anyone in the butt who questions this. We are all (men and women) both nature and nurture and it makes no sense to try to separate the two.
posted by mumimor at 3:11 PM on June 16

As to the original question: generally penetration alone is meh, but like what some others have said, there have been times where the right spot got hit or I was particularly aroused or both, where it was definitely more than meh.

You may enjoy listening to this podcast episode that looks at "centuries of mythmaking about female pleasure."
posted by coffeecat at 3:56 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I would have said no to this question. In my mid-twenties, I had an ex who was great (the only time I had multiple o's).
Now that I'm in my early thirties and use a toy now and then, I would say it depends on the time of the month and how turned on I am. For instance, when I'm on my period, I'm about 5x more sensitive. This is because of the increased blood flow.
posted by thesockpuppet at 7:52 PM on June 16

Like many other women here, for me it has changed over time and with different partners. I also had to experiment on myself for many years to figure out what works. I have to be fully aroused and have clitoral stimulation first. If penetration happens before clitoral stimulation, it does almost nothing for me. If I'm fully aroused and stimulated, then it's great. If I'm super aroused and I or my partner gets me most of the way there with clitoral stimulation, I can get the rest of the way with penetration alone.

My partner's size and shape, while not absolutely critical, does make a big (hehe) difference. Girth is better than length, and an upward curve is better than straight or a curve in any other direction. I had an ex who was pretty insecure about his size though he enthusiastically made up for it in other ways. Years later, he texted to ask if his size was an issue for getting me off. I lied and said it wasn't, but it kind of really was.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:07 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]

Vaginal penetration alone: meh.
Direct clit stimulation by me: generally very good on it's own for a fun/satisfying time.
Direct clit stimulation by a partner: generally very good but didn't used to be - has improved as I age, have settled in with a compatible partner.
Direct clit stimulation with the addition of vaginal penetration: not always desired but when I want it it it adds a sensation dimension to the clit stimulation that is different and sometimes very desirable and great.

But penetration has this huge emotional component - different than clit stimulation (or other sex stuff) that has made it feel at times undesirable, at times repellent to me.

Lots of people I've been with like receptive vaginal penetration but 100% of the time are also stimulating their own clits at the same time. This is an approach that may be interesting to you because it' allows you to 'drive' the experience more and set the rhythm in a way that may make the stuff your partner is doing more fun.
posted by latkes at 8:41 AM on June 17

Since you're seeking first person accounts: Penetration with clitoral stimulation (from the thrusting of pelvis against pelvis, preferably, as opposed to fingers or vibe) is my reliable path to orgasm. It's harder for me to come from clitoral stimulation without penetration.

If I am really aroused (wet and relaxed), penetration without clitoral stimulation feels great, too, but won't lead to orgasm. And it doesn't feel good unless I'm really turned on.

I think you are pretty normal based on what I've heard from friends! It's weird that penetration, key to evolution's main priority of baby-making, is uncomfortable for so many women!
posted by amaire at 9:31 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]

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