Validated Scales to Measure Orgasm Experience in Women
The experience of female orgasm is still somewhat poorly understood and described in medical literature. While several studies have examined orgasm occurrence, frequency, and/or dysfunction in women, few have explored the physical and psychological sensations associated with the experience.
In order to gain a better understanding of the orgasm experience for women, a recent study evaluated two different self-report measures on female orgasm: the Orgasm Rating Scale (ORS) and the Bodily Sensations of Orgasm Scale (BSOS). These scales were used to assess both solitary and partnered orgasm experiences.
A total of 637 women between the ages of 18 to 82 years participated in this study. They were recruited online via popular social media sites as well as by posters hung in public locations in a major Canadian city. To participate in the study, the women had to be at least 18 years of age, fluent in English, and have experienced an orgasm before, whether alone or with a partner.
When applicable, the women were asked to complete the two self-report measures for both solitary and partnered orgasm experiences. In the end, not all of the women responded to the questions for both contexts. Regarding solitary orgasm, 252 pre-menopausal, 139 peri-menopausal, and 190 post-menopausal women reported on their experience. As for partnered orgasm, 229 pre-menopausal, 136 peri-menopausal, and 194 post-menopausal women participated.
The two measures that were tested in this study were:
Orgasm Rating Scale
A 28-item self-report measure that assesses orgasm on cognitive-affective and sensory levels. This measurement tool utilizes a 6-point Likert scale ranging from does not describe it at all (0) to describes it perfectly (5) to allow the women to describe different aspects of their most recent orgasm experience. The sensory aspects include perceptions of physical sensations such as “throbbing” and “general spasms.” The cognitive-affective aspects describe emotions and feelings related to orgasm such as “relaxing” and “satisfying.”
Bodily Sensations of Orgasm Scale
The BSOS is a self-report measure that evaluates the bodily sensations associated with orgasm. It includes 22 items that are scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from not at all (0) to extremely (4). Examples of the physical sensations are “heart beating,” “genital pulsation,” and “sweating.”
Upon analyzing the participants’ responses to the ORS and BSOS for both solitary and partnered orgasm experiences, the researchers identified preferred factor solutions that most of the women used to describe their orgasms.
For the ORS, the following 10 preferred factors were identified: pleasurable satisfaction, ecstasy, emotional intimacy, relaxation, building sensations, flooding sensations, flushing sensations, shooting sensations, throbbing sensations, and general spasms.
On the other hand, for the BSOS, three preferred factors were identified: extragenital sensations, genital sensations and spasms, and nociceptive sensations and sweating responses.
Discussion & Conclusion
In the end, the authors supported the use of both the ORS and the BSOS for assessing women’s solitary and partnered orgasm experiences. They also advocated for using both measures at the same time in a clinical setting to provide a more complete view of the female orgasm experience.
The authors believe that these findings may lay the groundwork for future research and concluded, “Orgasm can be compared across different contexts of experience. With valid measurement options, it is anticipated that we will learn more about women’s orgasm experiences and ultimately be able to provide more effective clinical services for women who experience difficulties with orgasm or find the experience lacking in satisfaction.”
- Webb, A.E., Reissing, E.D., & Huta, V. (2022). Orgasm Rating Scale and Bodily Sensations of Orgasm Scale: Validation for Use With Pre, Peri, and Post-Menopausal Women. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 19(7), 1156-1172. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.03.621