William Masters and Virginia Johnson became famous for the groundbreaking sex research they conducted at Washington University in St. Louis in the 1950s and 1960s—so famous, in fact, that Showtime decided to turn their story into a new drama series, Masters of Sex. Masters and Johnson’s discoveries changed the way we think about sex and about women’s sexuality in particular. Their studies showed that women were capable of multiple orgasms, among other things. These were revolutionary ideas the time, but new research about women and sex has revealed some facts that would shock even Masters and Johnson. Here’s the latest on sex research from Dr. Eden Fromberg of SoHo OBGYN and Naomi Wolf’s most recent book, Vagina: A New Biography.
1. Cycles of light affect our fertility
Women used to menstruate during the new moon (when it’s dark at night) and ovulate during a full moon (when it’s light). Now, in a world full of artificial lighting and bright screens, women are not as in tune with the connection between their biology and nature. Some have tried “lunaception,” altering the lights in their bedrooms based on the moon lighting to change their ovulation.
2. Women can get pregnant five to eight days after having sex
Studies have shown that some sperm can live in the cervical mucus crypt before the egg is actually fertilized for anywhere from five to eight days after sex.
3. Wearing high heels can negatively affect a woman’s orgasm
Certain high-end shoe brands developed the arch in their high-heeled shoes to approximate the arch in a woman’s pelvis when she is having an orgasm. The heels create a contraction in the pelvic floor, which is problematic because the pelvic floor then cannot contract further during orgasm. “An orgasm is usually like going from zero to 60,” explains Fromberg. “If you’re already at 55 [from wearing heels], you’re not going to have a full experience.”
4. Orgasms can make women more creative
Studies have shown that orgasms can make women more confident, productive and creative. And it’s a feedback loop—women achieve fuller orgasms when they are being creative.
5. Birth control pills dampen the libido
Any hormonal contraception has that psychological side effect. Sometimes women even have trouble conceiving once they’re off the pill because while they may have been attracted to their partner on the pill, they’re not actually compatible with each other biochemically without the extra hormones.
6. Sitting in chairs can arouse women
Pudendal nerves, underneath the buttox and the sitting bones, feed arousal tissues (in the vagina, clitoris, anus, etc.). Sitting in a certain kind of chair pressing on the pudendal nerves in a certain way can lead to sexual arousal.
7. …But it can also dampen their orgasms
On the other hand, sitting in chairs for most of the day shortens the pelvic floor and psoas muscles—muscles which are essential to a full-body orgasm. When these muscles are tight from sitting too much, women find it harder to achieve a great orgasm.
8. Women have three erogenous zones
The clitoris, the G Spot, AND the opening of the cervix. Some argue nipples belong on that list too.
9. Nerve endings are distributed differently in every woman’s vagina
Like a snowflake, each woman is unique in that her nerve endings are distributed in her genitalia differently than anyone else. That means, every woman needs to employ slightly different methods to achieve orgasm.
10. The pulsations a woman feels during orgasm are actually her uterus trying to gather sperm
Round ligaments that end in the labia majora “rock the uterus back and forth during orgasm so that the cervix has the opportunity to potentially scoop semen up that may have pooled in the back of the vagina to enhance fertility,” says Fromberg.
11. Being well hydrated leads to better orgasms
Because the body is mostly fluid, being hydrated enhances people’s ability to achieve orgasm.
12. All woman can achieve orgasm
Almost no woman was born unable to achieve an orgasm. “Women have the innate machinery programmed to have orgasms,” Fromberg explains. “But not everybody learns how to use that machinery well.”