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For the most part, I consider myself lucky in bed. But my complaint, should I take one up with Aphrodite, is that my orgasms tend to be a bit finicky: I could only achieve them in one very specific position, and not every time. I wanted to start taking some alternative routes to O-town.
For other women, reaching orgasm during sex at all can be a real struggle. And the numbers back this up: According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, when having sex with a familiar partner, just 62.9 percent of women orgasm compared to 85.1 percent of men. That difference equals a whole lot of disappointment in the bedroom.
I myself have wanted to improve the frequency and variety of my orgasms. So, my interest was piqued when I heard that a medical spa in Denver—Revitalize Laser Care—became the first in the country to offer a new sound-wave treatment designed to better women’s sexual pleasure. Using FDA-approved technology, the treatment, called Cliovana, essentially wakes up parts of the clitoris that are not traditionally associated with pleasure, according to Dr. Briana Oster, M.D., a physician at Revitalize Laser Care. This procedure isn’t for aesthetics, like the labiaplasty; it was created specifically to give women more orgasms—and better ones at that.
In what felt like my own personal Kinsey experiment, I set out to see if this new, non-invasive treatment could bolster my sex life. Read on to find out.
What’s the process?
The $2,000 Cliovana treatment is administered in four sessions, spread a few days apart and each lasting about 15 minutes. My first session lasted a little longer because I filled out a form that asked questions about my sexual health, how frequently I orgasmed, and how happy I was with my sex life.
In the treatment room—which feels like a more comfortable Ob-Gyn office—Oster showed me a diagram of the clitoris. “It’s not just one, teeny tiny mythical spot,” she explains. Yes, there’s the pea-sized top that we most commonly associate with the clitoris, but the organ also stretches down like a wishbone. (Recognizing the misnomers surrounding the anatomy of the clitoris, a French researcher recently created a 3D model).
At the beginning of the treatment, Oster spreads a water-based gel across the clitoral region and labia that helps make the treatment more comfortable by reducing friction, and helps evenly distribute the sound waves. A hand-held device then performs a gentle cupping on the most recognized, and most sensitive, top part of the clitoris, helping to stimulate blood flow and prep the area for the forthcoming sound waves. With the suction applied, I felt a gentle thumping that was mildly arousing. Next up, Oster uses another hand-held device, that, frankly, resembles a vibrator, to administer pulsations throughout the clitoral crus, which are what form the clitoris’ V-shape. (It’s worth noting: The treatment involves zero lasers.)
These pulses are working to regenerate vascular and nerve cells in the clitoris, she explains. They aren’t painful, but rather feel like a firm tapping. Toward the end of each treatment, Oster handed me a different hand-held sound wave device to administer the final, and even gentler, pulsations in private in case I became aroused. (I didn’t!)
“What it does,” Oster says, “is give you better blood flow, better sensitivity in the nerve endings, making it easier to orgasm.”
Doctors have actually been using sound waves to treat erectile dysfunction for years. While there are a glut of ED clinics for men, there hadn’t been much treatment-wise to improve women’s orgasms. One exception: The O-Shot that became buzz-worthy a few years back, which uses the patients’ drawn blood to stimulate clitoral rejuvenation and involves an injection near the clitoris and inside the vagina. (No thanks!)
Oster explained to me that I’d probably be more easily stimulated on the days of the Cliovana treatment, but it would take roughly three months to bolster the blood vessels and for the treatment to really start working its magic. Intrigued, I waited.
Barriers to female orgasms
The female orgasm is mighty complex, as proven by a study published last year in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, which reported nearly 37 percent of American women required clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm, compared with 18 percent of women who said that vaginal penetration alone was enough to reach orgasm.
I reached out to Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., LMFT, a certified sex therapist and the director of the Intimacy Institute in Boulder, to better understand some of the hurdles that keep women from reaching orgasm. Of course, several mental and emotional factors can come into play. Associating sex with sin, worrying certain positions accentuate body parts you’re self-conscious about, or not trusting your partner can all derail orgasms. But from a physical standpoint, the nerve endings in women’s clitoral area can vary. Skyler makes a spider metaphor. Some women have nerve endings like daddy long legs, stretching into the vaginal canal and providing sensation. Others are like a clitoral house spider, with short little legs.
“I think everyone has the capacity to orgasm,” she says. “We have different anatomical structures, but we have nerve endings all over our bodies.”
How it changed my sex life
During my first sexual experience after all four sessions of the treatment were completed, I noticed my clitoral region was more sensitive and receptive. I was able to reach orgasm from oral sex and in various positions where I hadn’t been able to in the past. Dr. Oster told me I could expect the treatment to be long-term, but it’s best to come in once a year for just one session to continue realizing the benefits. I also feel as though going through the treatment as an act of self-love and care, compounded by a better understanding of my clitoris, helped as well. In short, I’d say that Cliovana worked, and can help close the orgasm gap—one treatment at a time.