It has come to my attention that many women, even those who are big fans of the penis, don’t know much about it. Well into their thirties and beyond, they are unfamiliar with its workings, temperaments, likes and dislikes. Not you, of course. But a significant number nonetheless.
This is not entirely unexpected. There’s not a whole lot of effective sex education that goes on in most countries. Porn movies are terrible teachers. And people think like they think about driving: everyone imagines themselves to be experts at it, even though they’ve received little formal instruction. So they don’t seek out resources. And for many people, the sexual act itself is fraught with so much uncertainty, emotional vulnerability and just plain fear that entire lifetimes can go by without real communication occurring between partners about likes, dislikes and how the hell does that gizmo work anyway?
So I’m writing a primer for women on the penis. Primer means it’s not comprehensive – there are whole tomes out there on the subject. But this will get you started. And since it’s impossible to avoid puns when writing on a topic like this, I’m just going to crack them as often as possible.
And why does this matter, you ask? Well, this is about your empowerment. Three reasons this knowledge is useful:
- You will avoid mangling his penis, thereby increasing the likelihood of his coming back for more.
- When you know your way around a man’s body and are able to provide an experience of exquisite pleasure for him, you strengthen your bond with him.
- When you know the capabilities and limitations of the penis, your own sexual experience improves, too.
The penis is a masterpiece of engineering. It’s designed to become rigid enough to insert into a vagina and reliably conduct 200 million sperm from one body to another, and yet flexible enough to withstand the considerable mechanical forces inflicted upon it during sexual intercourse. During non-working hours, it deflates to a convenient size suitable for transport, primarily serving as the conduit for urine. And yet, in the heat of passion, it somehow knows which fluid to send out when.
I could rhapsodize for hours on the finer points of penile physiology – the corpus cavernosum, the urethra, the spongiform tissue around the urethra that keeps it open even when it’s under significant pressure, the two separate neural pathways for orgasm and ejaculation, the division of labor between parasymphathetic (point) and sympathetic (shoot) nervous systems – but I’m not going to get technical here. As a woman, most of what you need to know is: what makes it happy, what makes it unhappy, and how to do more of the former and less of the latter. My goal is to get you to 95% competence in this area in the space of a just a few pages, instead of a whole book (or lifetime).
I. Principles of Hap-penis: Essential Anatomy and Physiology
There are two classes of things that stimulate the penis: the psychological and the physical. First, we address the physical.
A. Physical stimulus
There are two classes of physical stimulus: touch and pressure.
The penis is more delicate than it looks. So it’s responsive to light touch. Think about how you would caress the back of your hand in a way that would feel good – a very gentle stroke with your fingertips. Light friction feels good.
What does not feel good is dry friction. Embryologically, the penis and the clitoris come from the same tissue, so think of the penis as an overgrown clitoris with fewer nerve endings (4000 vs 8000 – about half, as Natalie Angier would have reminded you via Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues). You now understand that a dry stroke on the penis is just as unpleasant as a dry stroke on the clitoris. Don’t do it. And don’t insert a penis into your vagina when it’s dry inside. It’s not pleasant for either party, but you already knew that.
Therefore, lubrication is of the essence. The more lubrication there is, the more frictional pressure you can apply. Makes sense, right? Saliva is acceptable lubrication. Seminal secretions coming out of the penis are very good – nature’s ultimate lube. Vaginal secretions also work. Vegetable oils are also okay. Lotions aren’t so great, because they dry up quickly, increasing the feeling of dry friction. So unless you’re reapplying them frequently, lotions don’t work. The best lube is the stuff you can buy in stores – Astroglide and the like. Water-based lubricants make sense, since oil-based lubricants tend to weaken latex, in case the next phase of the party involves condoms.
This also means that if you just grab the penis such that you’re moving its skin up and down the shaft with your hand, as opposed to caressing it so there’s friction between your skin and his skin, then it doesn’t really feel much more pleasant than a very enthusiastic handshake that goes on for too long.
Location: The entire length of the penis is sensitive to touch. The helmet-shaped top called the glans (Latin for acorn, ’cause it looks like one) is more sensitive than the shaft, and the shaft is most sensitive closer you get to the glans, less sensitive as you get closer to his body. The scrotum (the wrinkly sack containing the testicles) also enjoys light touch, and is generally less sensitive than the penis.
The penis is most sensitive on its underside. The most sensitive part of the penis is the little triangle called the frenulum where the bottom of the shaft meets the glans. If the glans were Darth Vader’s helmet, then the frenulum would be located approximately at his chin.
And after that sentence, you will never be able to watch Star Wars the same way again. You’re welcome.
The penis is also sensitive to pressure. Since condoms take away at least half of the frictional stimulus during intercourse, pressure becomes important. Suction is a form of pressure.
Location: The entire length and circumference of the shaft is sensitive to pressure. Interestingly, the glans isn’t all that pressure-sensitive. But the frenulum is. And a note on sensitivity: the glans of an uncircumcised penis is generally more sensitive than that of a circumcised one.
B. Psychological stimulus
1. Visual stimulus:
It comes as no surprise to you that visual stimulus turns a guy on, taking his penis from limp to erect in a matter of seconds. However, visual stimulus is not enough to bring a man to orgasm without accompanying physical stimulus.
On the other hand, visual stimulus can take a man over the edge if he is close to orgasm. The most potent form of this stimulus is the sight of your experiencing pleasure. The more fun you are having, the more turned on he will be.
2. Auditory stimulus
The power of a woman’s ecstatic peals to turn men on is so well-known that researchers have a name for it: female copulatory vocalizations, or FCV. Heck, entire industries have been built around it (remember sex-chat phone lines?). Like visual stimulus, a woman’s voice can bring a man’s penis to erection all by itself, but not to orgasm. And it does have the power to push the man over into orgasm once he’s gotten going.
II. Hap-penis in Practice: What Feels Good in the Sack
Now that you know how the gizmo works, here’s what you can do with it.
Lubricated pressure along the entire length of the shaft, culminating at the frenulum, is good. The key thing to remember: never touch a penis without lubrication. Start slow, and if he wants it faster, he’ll be more than happy to direct your hand to the optimum speed. The more you focus on the area around the frenulum, the more stimulation he will feel. For extra credit, spiral around the shaft in a barber-pole motion. Should reliably drive him bananas.
Since the mouth is always wet, lubrication is taken care of. However, since the penis is so sensitive, it’s very important to keep the teeth out of the way so they never come in contact with his skin. Even a little scrape can be excruciating. The best way to do this is to cover your teeth with your lips so it looks like you’re 90 years old and just took out your dentures. It may not look attractive, but he’ll be too happy to care.
Especially if you’re having sex with a condom, it’s very important to maintain pressure and friction on the penis, since it’s a temperamental little beast that can give up or go supernova on slight provocation (more on that later). This you can do in two ways: via musculature, and via position.
If you strengthen your vaginal muscles, then you can squeeze down on the penis, thereby increasing pressure and friction on command. This is a useful life skill.
You can strengthen the vaginal floor muscle (the pubococcygeus or PC muscle) by doing Kegel exercises or using something like a stone egg to bear down on. Either way, practicing Kegels is easy: pretend that you’re stopping the flow of urine mid-stream – that’s you contracting the PC muscle. Now do a set of 10 contractions, holding the contractions at 80% intensity for a count of 5 seconds each, and release. Do 3-5 sets a day to start, then increase the length and intensity of the holds and build to 10 sets a day.
As a bonus, when your PC muscle is strong, the intensity of your own orgasms also increase. Woot!
Depending on the position of your body relative to him and his penis, you can decrease or increase the amount of pressure on it.
Face-to-face (missionary position) applies the least amount of pressure to the penis. You can increase the pressure by putting a pillow under your butt, which tilts your pelvis up and narrows the opening of a vagina (the introitus) in the same way that a door is ‘narrowed’ if you approach it sideways. It’s like you’re getting [introitus*(sinθ)], if you remember your high school trigonometry.
Woman on top is great, because it allows you to control the pressure. A simple way to increase pressure and friction is by tilting your hips. You do this by alternately contracting your abdominal and lower back muscles, thereby rocking your hips back and forth. When you do this, you’re grinding the top of your vaginal wall directly on the underside of the man’s penis, which is his most sensitive part. This is good.
The position that creates the most pressure and friction on the man’s penis is rear-entry (also known poetically as doggie-style). When you are on your knees, the vaginal entry is tilted in a way that creates a very tight entry for a man’s penis. Bonus: the man’s penis is optimally positioned for stimulating the woman’s G-spot, making this position a crowd favorite.
III. Psychology of the Penis
Men regularly anthropomorphize their penis, giving it names (“Spike”, “Winky”, “Mr Happy”) and describing it in the third person.
Juvenile tendencies aside, there is a place where this metaphor is apt: the penis is a temperamental beast. Not enough stimulus and he loses interest, taking a floppy nap. Too much stimulus and he has an explosive, convulsive fit – and then takes a floppy nap. Older men will have more of the former issue; young men, the latter.
Either way, it means party over for you, the now-bereft penis user. So in the interest of prolonging your pleasure and his, it’s important to maintain an optimal amount of stimulus to the penis, using the toolkit we just described: lubrication, pressure, position, sound, visuals and motion. As in Taoism and Buddhism, the middle path works best.
Thank you for this:) Your sense of humor is an aphrodisiac! (I’m betting you know this already)
I have a question/comment…. Handling a mans penis gently WITHOUT lubrication seems to be perfectly glorious to every man i’ve ever been with. I have brought all my partners to orgasm this way. Lube is fun and great, but never necessary. You make the point a few times, that it is a big no,no. Thoughts?
Generally, dry penis = unhappy penis. There will be exceptions, but for most guys that will be true. Lubrication is good.
WOW!!! I really enjoyed this article Dr. Ali… I put some of these tips into practice with my boyfriend and the results were AMAZING!!! He even asked where i learned all of these tips and I confess i read it from YOU!!!
Wow – I wondered if anyone actually read that article. Not a peep out of anyone, hmm. Thanks for the feedback, Arlene! Glad you found it useful.
When I first read this article, I didn’t comment here, Dr. Ali, but I definitely read it, and learned from it, and shared widely on my Facebook page. Never fear, I’ll bet many women (and men!) have been thanking you (in silence) for this article. Bravo!
It is ridiculous to say to never touch a penis without lubrication. Men can easily masturbate without lubrication. Women know this from the times they have masturbated men. For intercourse or oral sex – yes – lubrication is necessary. But, to tell a woman never to touch a penis without lubrication is ridiculous.
Yeah, agree. It’s a bit overstated to lay down the edict to “never touch it” while dry. I’m hetero and I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever compared notes with any other dudes, but I can personally attest that I prefer dry (self) masturbation. And I’m a pretty average, unremarkable guy, so I know I can’t be alone, haha.
Realistically, though, that only works because I’m getting instant tactile feedback from my own hand. If a woman is going to try to masturbate you to climax — quite a lot of total stimulation — it’s not reasonable to expect her to magically get the pressure and friction just right the whole way without painfully overshooting the mark at times. That’s where the lube will come into play; it’ll take the edge off when she’s a little overaggressive.
If she’s going to just do some light stroking as a part of general foreplay, you definitely don’t need lube for that, though. There’s a huge divide that separates that level of stimulation from going to town on your junk for minutes at a time to try to reach climax. You’d better have some lube for the latter.
Great post! Have nice day ! :) olbuk
Wow! After 24 years of marriage, I feel so guilty for not knowing all of this. Some of it I knew but hey, better late than never.