The Science Bit. Concentrate*

On Thursday morning, I wake up to find that Herbert has already gone to work. Checking my phone, I find that I have a text:

2 minutes 51 seconds, sent at 00.53 the night before.

Ha! I text back, I reckon I can easily beat that.

Does that count as flirting? comes the reply.

Yes, I type, although possibly I am mistaking competitivity for arousal.

This is all the fault of Mary Roach’s Bonk, which I reviewed on Thursday. Bonk is a fascinating book about the science of sex, and it made me wonder if we couldn’t attempt a sexual experiment ourselves. I suggest this to Herbert.

‘I’m not measuring my knob so that you can post it on your blog,’ he says. ‘Not unless you’re willing to measure the capacity of your vagina, too.’

Although I am diverted by this possibility (in particular, how would one achieve it? My vote goes to a condom, a funnel and a jug of water), that is not what I had in mind.

‘No,’ I say, ‘I’ve already had an idea. I thought we could time our orgasms.’

‘Why?’ says H, not unreasonably.

‘Well, we’re obviously both much slower to orgasm when we’re working together. I want to find out what the difference really is. I even have a hypothesis.’

‘Which is?’

‘I reckon I’ll be as quick as you when I’m masturbating alone…’ (H: ‘I doubt that very much) ‘…but much slower than you when we’re working together.’


Cut forward to Thursday evening. Herbert’s 2 minutes 51 seconds is in the bag. I place a stopwatch next to the bed and tell Herbert not to think about it.

‘I’m not sure that’s going to be possible,’ he says.

‘Aha!’ I say, ‘The Hawthorne Effect! The experimental results are affected by the presence of the observer!’

‘Hm,’ says Herbert, which I take to mean, ‘that didn’t help.’

Of course, the problem with this particular experiment is that both of us are invested in the results coming out a certain way. Herbert does not want to look like he’s a premature ejaculator. I, on the other hand, would prefer to not come off as the sort of woman who requires hours of torturous ministrations in order to come.

‘We have to just go for it,’ I say to H. ‘As fast as possible. Agreed?’

‘Fine,’ says H.

The initiative, therefore, is very much mine to take. I’m convinced that I climax much faster if I’m taking an active role in sex, rather than lying back and waiting for an orgasm to occur. I start the stopwatch, place it on the bedside table, and then, mentally counting the seconds that have already elapsed, leap on top of Hebert and begin rubbing myself enthusiastically against his manly bits.

I don’t think we’re usually this vigorous. Soon, I am sweating and panting with the exertion. Herbert groans and holds onto my breasts as if they’re life-floats, and I regret putting the stopwatch so far away. He’s bound to come first, and then I’ll lose my stride dismounting and fetching it. I gasp this to Herbert.

‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘after I’ve come, I’ll start counting.’

I very much doubt the scientific validity of this approach, but then I do find that my orgasm is a cumulative affair, and I fear having to start again from scratch if I get distracted in this way. I bounce on, trying to ignore the nagging thought that I’m doing all the hard work here. Actually, though, I’m really enjoying the franticness of it all. It’s as if there’s no space for arousal-destroying thoughts to creep in.

And then, quite suddenly, I feel the genesis of an orgasm way down in my belly. Sensing victory, I bear down on it, and then draw up my pelvic floor muscles until it erupts in me – a small orgasm, but a definite one nonetheless. Now I’m the one who starts counting. How long is it seemly to wait before I check the stopwatch?

‘Do you want to go on top?’ I say casually to H, and while we change positions, I reach over and check the watch. 16 minutes 40 seconds. I reckon at least half a minute has passed, so I’m calling that a 16 minute orgasm. A whole minute after Tim Ferris would have given up the ghost, but none too shaming.

Herbert, however is still going. It’s not for the want of trying. We shift from Missionary to Doggy, and then he suggests I finish him off by hand.

Wow, I think, that’s surely the most unreliable of methods. But I enthusiastically grab hold, and after that it doesn’t take long for H to shudder into orgasm. This time, the stopwatch is in my (other) hand.

‘20 minutes 4 seconds,’ I say. And then, although I don’t mean to, ‘I can’t believe I beat you! I’m so chuffed.’

‘Yup,’ says H, ‘and I feel like a sexual marathon man. It’s a win-win.’


This morning, I wait until I hear the toaster click on downstairs and then dive onto the bed with my stopwatch. After a fair amount of effortful masturbation and heavy breathing (I love Abby Lee’s term ‘bully wank’ for these moments), I manage a reasonable, if grudging, orgasm.

1 minute 56 seconds. I run downstairs, dressing gown flapping open.

‘Oh my god,’ I say, ‘I beat you on both counts.’

Hebert looks me up and down for a few moments in a mixture of awe and resentment.

‘That’s nothing,’ he says, ‘You should see how fast I am when I use the Flip Hole.’


So, if I was to write up a research paper on this (a really rubbish one with completely invalid, non-representative data that would get crucified at the peer review stage), what would I conclude? Well, the female orgasm is not necessarily as elusive as we’re led to believe, particularly if, like me, you’ve, er, practised a lot.

Moreover, I think we’ve demonstrated that sex a deux is a highly inefficient way of achieving an orgasm. It’s a hit and miss affair, and observation seems to inhibit orgasmicity (is that a word?). In the light of my findings, I foresee a whole new movement towards streamlining sexual pleasure. Cutting out the middle man leaves you free to fit more orgasms into your day, or to take up a useful hobby like gardening. Maybe I’ll pitch my ideas to Tim Ferriss.

Or does that possibly miss the point?

*Is that reference actually completely obscure? Was I the only one who found it memorably amusing to be patronised by Jennifer Anniston?

, , , , , ,

8 Responses to The Science Bit. Concentrate*

  1. Rhiannon 11/02/2011 at 12:53 #

    I think it’s no wonder that “normal” sex is sometimes not the best way to achieve orgasm when we’ve all been “prescribed” this “normal” sex. How many people never admit what really turns them on — or worse, never quite find out? I discover new things all the time but then that’s probably because I’m looking for them :P

    Timing yourself though. Bahaha. The things you do in the name of science, hehe.

    • Betty Herbert 11/02/2011 at 14:43 #

      If GCSE science was that fun, I might have paid more attention. Probably not, though.

  2. Beccy 11/02/2011 at 14:28 #

    as the editor of an academic journal, I’m more than willing to put your findings out for peer review…;)

    • Betty Herbert 11/02/2011 at 14:42 #

      I’m hoping to create a large data set from this…so far people seem unwilling to contribute their stats though. Can’t think why.

  3. Palerthanwhite 11/02/2011 at 16:43 #

    If it means DH will get laid, I’m sure he’ll be up for an experiment… Though I reckon I’ll beat him too when going solo.

  4. Quiet Riot Girl 13/02/2011 at 10:49 #

    I like S and M not that I am getting much action at the mo- because it doesn’t focus necessarily on ‘orgasm’ or ‘sex’ and especially not ‘penetration’. even the words used a ‘scene’ or ‘play’ are different from vanilla sex.

    I have had very good scenes with no orgasm and some actual almost what you might call relationships where the man’s orgasm was irrelevant it was all about me!

    This would sound ‘unhealthy’ if I presented it to a ‘vanilla’ sex therapist and all the sex therapy/sex ed material I read ignores how power dynamic sex can change what sex is altogether.

    • Betty Herbert 14/02/2011 at 11:23 #

      Funnily enough, I was going to write about that very thing today…when I finally get my arse into year and stop googling Marvin Gaye…

Leave a Reply