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Is She Faking It? New Research Offers Answers Ahead of Valentine’s Day

Is She Faking It? New Research Offers Answers Ahead of Valentine’s Day: ianmcdonnell / Getty

ianmcdonnell / Getty

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many of you lovely Hard Science readers are probably in the midst of frantically brainstorming plans for next Tuesday. But whether you opt for a night out or something more low-key, you can’t go wrong by giving your lady friend the gift of the best orgasm ever. And just in time, a new study out of Queen’s University in Canada will help you do just that, by offering some handy takeaways on how to improve your technique when pleasuring a woman.

In sexology, the term sexual concordance refers to the degree to which two important factors are related: subjective sexual arousal (or how turned on a person feels) and genital response. In men, sexual concordance tends to be high; that is, when a man feels turned on, down below is in agreement. In women, however, sexual concordance is lower; whether or not she feels subjectively turned on may or may not reflect the response in her genitalia.

Vaginal photoplethysmography, a tongue-twister commonly abbreviated to VPP, is the most widely used method across psychophysiological studies assessing female sexual arousal. VPP uses a tampon-shaped device that is inserted in the vagina to measure changes in vasocongestion, or blood flow within the vaginal walls. This study compared VPP with laser Doppler imaging, which uses a low-power laser beam to measure blood flow in a woman’s external vulvar tissues instead.

Men can become sexually aroused quickly, whereas it can take a little longer for a woman to get warmed up.

The study showed that blood flow in the vulva can tell us more about how turned on a woman is than vaginal vasocongestion. This is likely because tissues in the vulva are much more sensitive than those in the vagina. Fun fact: The vulva is filled with tons of receptors that are highly sensitive to touch, pressure, vibration and pain, while sensory nerves are only found in the lower third of the vagina. As a result, changes to blood flow in a woman’s vulva would be more noticeable to her than those happening within her vaginal walls.

What does this all mean when it comes to pleasuring a woman? First of all, many different factors can influence the relationship between a woman’s vaginal response and how turned on she feels. Due to differences in how the male and female sexual systems have evolved, men can become sexually aroused quickly, whereas it can take a little longer for a woman to get warmed up. So take your time with foreplay, if that’s what she likes.

Secondly, it’s important to take into account that although the study found vaginal lubrication (or wetness) was related to changes in vulvar blood flow and feeling sexually excited, lubrication isn’t the whole story when it comes to female sexual arousal. A woman’s body can produce lubrication even when she isn’t feeling subjectively turned on.

Since most of us probably don’t have infrared laser beams lying around at home, my best advice would be to rely on much more straight-forward signs—like her breathing and what she’s telling you—as an indication of whether she’s enjoying what you’re doing. And for ladies who might be reading this column: We need to be honest and upfront about what we’re telling our partners when they ask.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend this recent review paper by Dr. Meredith Chivers, an expert on female sexuality research and one of the study’s co-authors.

Call me a romantic, but I’ve always said that Valentine’s Day is overrated—that couples (and throuples) should make each other feel special and appreciated every day of the year, as opposed to one sanctioned day two weeks into February. The same goes for great sex and making sure your partner is having a good time, every time, no matter how hectic life gets.


Debra W. Soh is a sex writer and sexual neuroscientist at York University in Toronto. She has written for Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, The Globe and Mail, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Follow her on Twitter: @debra_soh.

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