Every few weeks, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, will be answering your questions on EMandLO.com. To ask her your own question, click here.
Dear Dr. Vanessa,
Can obesity affect a woman’s ability to orgasm?
— California Queen
The science on this is less clear for women than it is for men. Obese men are more likely than other men to have erectile dysfunction, so they are definitely less likely to have orgasms than other men. This is true whether or not they are suffering from diabetes, heart disease, or other health conditions often associated with obesity and erectile dysfunction. Like other men with erectile dysfunction, obese men may use prescription medication such as Viagra in order to get and maintain an erection.
For women the evidence is less clear. Some studies have shown that obese women are just as capable of a satisfying sex life as other women. On the other hand, some studies have shown that obese women may have somewhat less capacity than other women for lubrication, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction.
Obese or not, there is another difference between women and men regarding orgasm and sexual satisfaction. Women’s attitudes about their bodies play a more important role in sexual satisfaction than men’s attitudes about their bodies. Women tend to be more concerned about their appearance than men. Women are also more likely to be self-conscious about their appearance during sexual activity than men, so they are more likely to be less sexually satisfied than men.
Women and men who are ashamed of their bodies for any reason are at risk for sexual dysfunction, including anorgasmia — lack of orgasm. Self-acceptance is the key to sexual satisfaction for both women and men. At a time in history when the media sets nearly impossible standards for attractiveness and vitality, it is very important for us to accept ourselves and each other for our own distinctive and individual beauty.
We’ll be healthier, happier, and able to take more pleasure in life when we are more self-accepting. Obese women and men can be very sexy, and they can get just as much sexual satisfaction as anyone else. Relationships help, too. Women and men in long-term relationships, obese or not, are likely to be less self-conscious about their bodies and more likely to enjoy them.
So whatever your body type, here’s to enjoying yourself, and best wishes for your good sexual health!
Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America. She generously shares her medical wisdom with EM & LO readers every few weeks.