How women enhance their sexual pleasure

Pairing, shallowing, rocking or angling. These are techniques women use to increase their sexual pleasure during vaginal penetration, according to US scientists who surveyed more than 3,000 volunteers – all in the interest of health and wellbeing, of course.  

Results from the “OMGYES Pleasure Report” are published in the journal PLOS ONE. The survey, which was completed by women aged 18–93, was developed following pilot research that identified the four distinct methods.

Ways women experience more pleasure from vaginal penetration. Credit:, from Hensel DJ, von Hippel CD, Lapage CC, Perkins RH (2021)

To “orgasm more or make vaginal penetration more pleasurable”, 70% of women have used pairing, defined as “when a woman herself (Solo Pairing) or her partner (Partner Pairing) reaches down to stimulate her clitoris with a finger or sex toy at the same time as her vagina is being penetrated”.

Shallowing is described as “penetrative touch just inside the entrance of the vagina – not on the outside, but also not deep inside – with a fingertip, sex toy, penis tip, tongue, or lips”, and is applied by 84% of respondents.

Rocking refers to “the base of the penis or sex toy rubbing against the clitoris constantly during penetration, by staying all the way inside the vagina rather than thrusting in and out”, a method used by 76% of women.

The most common technique, used by 87% of respondents, was angling: “rotating, raising, or lowering the pelvis/hips during penetration to adjust where inside the vagina the toy or penis rubs and what it feels like.”

Experiencing sexual pleasure is important for women’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing throughout life, according to lead author Devon Hensel, from the OMGYES Research Group at the company For Goodness Sake in Berkeley, US, along with colleagues from Indiana University. 

Sexual pleasure has been linked, for instance, to more happiness and less depression, stress and anxiety. Research has also found – perhaps unsurprisingly – that women’s sexual pleasure is associated with greater relationship satisfaction, intimacy and commitment.

“Viewing sexual pleasure as a critical scaffold to women’s wellbeing is important because it reframes their enjoyment of sex as a fundamental human right, rather than as a medical or psychological problem to be ‘solved’,” write Hensel and colleagues.

In recognition of this, sexual and reproductive health organisations state that “pleasurable” and “satisfying” sexual experiences are integral to sexual rights.

Hensel’s team notes that it’s important to understand individual differences in achieving pleasure, empowering women to explore what works for them rather than what “should” work and to find the words to better understand and communicate it.

“A woman having access to a wider stimulation and penetration vocabulary may increase her satisfaction with her sexual communication with partners,” they write, “which in turn may have positive implications for both relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction.”

To devise the survey, the team first recruited more than 4,000 English-speaking women from around the world via social media to answer open-ended questions such as “What discovery have you made that really made vaginal penetration more pleasurable for you?”.

To explore the topic more deeply, about a quarter of the sample then took part in follow-up interviews via video chat. Analysis revealed the four distinct methods (among others), which the researchers could not find pre-existing names for. 

The subsequent survey was conducted in a widely representative sample of 3,017 US women, with “descriptive names, tasteful diagrams, animations and videos of women of all ages explaining their own experiences,” says co-author Christiana von Hippel.

“We hope bringing this important knowledge out of the shadows into the light of day with clear language will empower women to better recognise, communicate, and act on what they want.”

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