This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "She Comes First" by Ian Kerner. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you having trouble in bed? Are you wondering how to sexually arouse a woman?
It’s no secret that women have a harder time reaching orgasm than men do, but there is a way to fix this. In She Comes First, Ian Kerner emphasizes that women get aroused by clitoral stimulation.
Let’s look at the three steps Kerner says can help sexually arouse a woman.
Step #1: First Contact
Kerner places special emphasis on the moment you first make contact with your partner’s clitoris because this is the moment she’s been anticipating—Kerner calls this the “first kiss.”
The first step in practicing how to sexually arouse a woman is getting into a comfortable and practical position. Kerner says to avoid any positions that could make things difficult, uncomfortable, or distracting. Instead, she should be on her back with her legs slightly bent and spread just enough for your head to fit between them. You can prop a pillow beneath her neck, head, and buttocks to direct blood flow to her vulva and increase her comfort—the pillow under her buttocks will also make it easier for you to reach her sexual parts.
(Shortform note: While many cunnilingus guides completely overlook this step, sex educators reiterate Kerner’s claim that getting into a position that’s comfortable for her and you is a vital first step. They elaborate that the position Kerner recommends—the woman on her back with pillows behind her neck and under her buttocks—is called “missionary oral.” If you don’t want to use pillows, they explain that you can alternatively have your partner scoot her bum to the edge of the bed to gain clear access to her vulva and vagina.)
Next, give her a final burst of anticipation. You’ll be in position at this point so she knows what’s coming—but make her want it even more. Kiss her inner thighs, outer corners of her vulva, outer lips, and even the top of her clitoral head. Make sure to use short, pursed kisses with no tongue. You can also do this through her panties before removing or pushing them aside for first contact.
(Shortform note: Before the first kiss, Kerner says you should give your partner a final burst of anticipation with pursed kisses on her vulva, potentially through her panties. While Kerner only briefly mentions using panties as a barrier to build anticipation, sex experts highly recommend this step. They also add that before removing her panties, you should ask your partner for her consent to do so. They elaborate that some women might want to keep their panties on throughout cunnilingus, especially if they have a highly sensitive clitoris.)
Then make contact. Your first lick should be a slow and soft one starting at the vaginal entrance, moving lightly over the clitoral head, and ending at the commissure where you should press the clitoral shaft with the tip of your tongue for a moment.
(Shortform note: Other cunnilingus guides agree that it’s important to make sure your first contact is slow and soft. Stimulating the clitoris too aggressively and failing to communicate about how things feel are two of the most common mistakes men make while giving cunnilingus. To avoid these pitfalls, take a slightly different approach to the first kiss: Stimulate the edges of the clitoris—top, bottom, and both sides—and ask your partner how the pressure feels and if she wants more or less.)
Step #2: Rhythm
After you make first contact, start to create a rhythm with your tongue strokes. Kerner emphasizes that it’s important to strike a balance between action and stillness when performing cunnilingus. If you move too fast, you’ll sabotage her anticipation and may overstimulate her, ultimately decreasing arousal.
Taking this into account, Kerner recommends a system to establish rhythm and increase arousal:
- Press your tongue against her vulva, break contact for a split second, perform the same long, slow lick from first contact, and repeat for a few minutes.
- Next, perform half-licks and stop before the clitoral head so that you avoid it and don’t overstimulate her—it should then go back into the hood. You can focus on other regions like the labia, but maintain a rhythm.
- When the head re-emerges, press the tip of your tongue against it for a long moment at the end of a lick.
- Repeat steps two and three for a few minutes.
(Shortform note: Kerner’s assertion that rhythm is necessary to achieve orgasm is fairly unique. As such, many cunnilingus guides don’t discuss the importance of rhythm. However, some experts do emphasize the need to provide a break from direct clitoral stimulation. One guide suggests doing this by using the tip of your tongue to stimulate the “underside of the clitoral shaft” with light licks every 10-15 seconds. While this advice both establishes rhythm and occasionally avoids the head to prevent overstimulation, as Kerner suggests, licking the underside of the shaft would be impossible since it’s covered by tissue. This expert may instead be referring to the frenulum, the point below the shaft and directly beneath the head.)
Step #3: Manual Stimulation
The last step in learning how to sexually arouse a woman is manual stimulation. Once you’ve established a rhythm that increases her arousal and continues to build anticipation, Kerner says you can introduce manual stimulation with your hands and fingers. You should maintain tongue strokes while doing so.
Kerner recommends introducing manual stimulation gradually. Start by tracing her labia with your fingers, gently pinching them, stimulating the front commissure, tapping the frenulum, and teasing her fourchette and vaginal entrance. Then, slowly insert your index finger about two inches into her vagina and hold it still. Your other free hand should go under her buttocks to keep her in place. You can squeeze them together for a more advanced move.
(Shortform note: Kerner’s recommendations about what to do with your hands—tracing, tapping, and squeezing the areas around the vulva and putting a finger inside her vagina while maintaining your tongue strokes—are echoed across numerous cunnilingus guides. However, some additional unique recommendations Kerner doesn’t address. For example, you can gently twist your finger while you slide it in and out of the vaginal entrance. Or, you can pinch her nipples or grasp her hips.)
Once she’s adjusted to your finger, you can curl it up toward her belly button in a “come here” motion and press against the vaginal ceiling with your fingertip—this will stimulate her internal clitoral nerves. Once she’s adjusted, you can insert your middle finger as well. While you do this, you can integrate a more advanced move by pressing your hand to her mons pubis and pushing slightly upward—this will expose the clitoral head and make her more sensitive to your tongue strokes.
(Shortform note: Kerner advises ramping up your partner’s arousal by manually stimulating her internal and external clitoral nerve simultaneously. However, if your partner takes longer than average to get aroused and orgasm, your tongue and fingers might begin to tire at this point. Luckily, sex experts explain that there are sex toys that can fulfill Kerner’s advice without exhausting you further. Some toys are designed to stimulate either the internal or external clitoral nerves, but there are also toys specifically designed to provide rhythmic internal and external clitoral stimulation simultaneously so you can take a break.)
Kerner recommends a few more advanced moves that you may want to consider integrating at this time:
(1) Switch up your tongue strokes. You can integrate horizontal strokes, diagonal strokes, quick, repetitive strokes, gently suck the clitoral head, or press a flat tongue against her so she can move against you.
(Shortform note: Sex experts agree that you should try out different tongue strokes during cunnilingus, but some of their advice slightly differs from Kerner’s. Like Kerner, they recommend side-to-side strokes (horizontal) and sucking the clitoral head. However, they don’t mention Kerner’s advice to perform quick repetitive strokes, diagonal strokes, or to press a flat tongue against her clitoris and let her move against you. On the other hand, they add a few techniques that Kerner doesn’t mention: Pulsate on one spot, and perform clockwise or counterclockwise circles with your tongue.)
(2) Adjust your fingers. You can add a third finger depending on what’s comfortable for her. You can also use your thumb to stimulate the anus or press her perineum.
(Shortform note: Kerner mentions that some women may enjoy anal and perineal stimulation. Experts elaborate that some women actually prefer stimulation in these spots over clitoral stimulation, and can orgasm from this alone. This is called an anal orgasm. If your partner thinks she may prefer anal stimulation or wants to try having an anal orgasm, experts recommend stimulating the anal region with your tongue, fingers, or toys like anal plugs, beads, or vibrators.)
Rhythm and Orgasm: A Breakthrough Topic
Kerner explains that creating a rhythm is necessary to make your partner orgasm because you must strike a balance between action and stillness to build the arousal and anticipation that leads to orgasm. However, Kerner doesn’t provide any scientific evidence that supports this claim. This lack of evidence is probably because the correlation between rhythmic stimulation and orgasm wasn’t explored by scientists until 2016—12 years after She Comes First was published. So Kerner was actually at the forefront of an entirely new field of study.
Researchers from Northwestern University explain that rhythmic activity causes us to enter a trance-like state where the combination of intense focus and repeated motion forms neural pathways (highways for nerve signals) between different parts of the brain. They theorize that rhythm is what causes orgasm because with each repeated activity, neural pathways are extended and nerve signals reach further and further until the orgasmic threshold is reached. However, research in the area is very limited and this theory has yet to be proven.
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- Why traditional sexual practices leave women unsatisfied
- Why men should ensure their female partner orgasms first
- An instruction manual on how to satisfy women and engage in the best sex possible