Sex, mood, foreplay illustartion for Verve. Sexual intimacy is vital in a loving relationship, yet may be difficult to achieve. Products can help, says an expert. Pictures: Steve Lawrence 11/04/05

For decades it has been thought that the clitoris was the only key to a woman’s sexual satisfaction.

That meant men who wanted to satisfy their partners believed they must spend hours getting to know the little button-like organ, its location – and the kind of treatment which excited it.

But now research shows that not only can women climax through sexual intercourse alone, but the resulting orgasm is wildly different from those reached by clitoral stimulation.

The new conclusions will chime with many who have found that there is more than one way to satisfy a woman in bed.

Scientists have found that vaginal and clitoral orgasms are, in fact, completely separate phenomena and activate different areas of the brain.

The sensational new evidence is included in a series of essays published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Other startling findings cited by the essays in the series include: women are not only able to orgasm from both vaginal and clitoral stimulation, but from stimulation at a range of erogenous zones, with some able to even “think” themselves to a peak.

The sensitive G-spot – once thought of as a semi-mythical orgasm hot spot – could have a role in pain relief during labour by more than doubling a woman’s pain threshold.

The ability to reach climax through vaginal stimulation could be linked to both physical and mental health, with healthy women more likely to orgasm without clitoral stimulation.

French gynaecologist Odile Buisson in her essay argues the case for the classic understanding of the female orgasm as dependent on clitoral stimulation.

According to this view, the front wall of the vagina is closely linked with the internal parts of the clitoris, meaning that stimulating the vagina without activating the clitoris ought to be impossible.

So, she concludes, so-called “vaginal” orgasms could in reality be clitoral orgasms by another name.

However, that view has now been challenged by recent research which shows that different sensory brain areas activate in women who are erotically stimulated in different areas.

Researchers based at New Jersey’s Rutgers University conducted multiple studies in which they asked women to masturbate while having their brains scanned with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.

Barry Komisaruk, professor of psychology at Rutgers, reported that the brain areas for clitoral, cervical and vaginal stimulation do cluster together, but they overlap only slightly, like a “cluster of grapes”.

“If the vagina stimulation is simply working via clitoral stimulations, then vaginal stimulation and clitoral stimulation should activate the exact same place in the sensory cortex,” Komisaruk told LiveScience.

“But they don’t.”

Other evidence presented backs up the hypothesis that there are multiple different kinds of female orgasms.

For a start, women regularly report that vaginal and clitoral climaxes offer different and distinct sensations but, even more incredibly, women with spinal cord injuries which have cut off links between the clitoris and the brain say they are still able to have orgasms through vaginal stimulation.

Furthermore, there is evidence that some women can bring themselves to a sexual peak merely by thinking about it with no sexual stimulation at all and some women have also climaxed through tough gym workouts.

Rutgers University professor emerita Beverly Whipple, one of the discoverers of the also-controversial G-spot, in her essay backed Komisaruk’s findings.

She wrote: “Orgasm in women is in the brain, it is felt in many body regions, and it can be stimulated from many body regions as well as from imagery alone.”

She also suggests that the G-spot, the controversial alleged erogenous zone on the front vaginal wall which many believe does not exist, may have a role in pain relief during labour.

Whipple’s investigations have found that when pressure is applied to the spot, a woman’s pain threshold increases by 47 percent.

If that stimulation is pleasurable, Whipple and her colleagues found, the pain threshold shoots up 84 percent, compared with no stimulation.

But, most incredibly, her team found that at the point of orgasm that threshold soars 107 percent, possibly giving women the remarkable endurance observed during childbirth.

However, the most provocative finding included in the Journal of Sexual Medicine claims that vaginal-only orgasms are less likely in women with poor physical and mental health.

One study found that women who have vaginal orgasms have a lower resting heart rate than others who did not experience them.

Other research found that women who can reach a sexual peak without clitoral stimulation are less likely to use specific maladaptive psychological coping mechanisms.

Given the psychological link between different kinds of orgasms, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of West Scotland who conducted the research, slammed as “malpractice” the common advice to women that orgasms originate only with the clitoris.

Emmanuele Jannini, a professor of endocrinology at the University of Aquila in Italy, called on women to take heed of the findings, but warned against fetishising them.

She said: “A woman should have an understanding – who is she, how is her body composed, what is the possibility of her body, but she should not be looking for something like a race, like a game, like a duty.

“Looking for the G-spot orgasm or the vaginal orgasm as a need, as a duty, is the best way to lose the happiness of sex.” – Daily Mail