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A Doula’s Perspective: My Academic Study of the Female Orgasm

Leigah Locke | September 3, 2021

I wrote my master’s thesis on women’s orgasm stories as a way to both get through a required research track and in an attempt to follow my intuition that was leading me down a path that in all honesty, I wasn’t totally comfortable with. As I mentally and emotionally began preparing my very circular, organic, Feminine-based personality for the upcoming semester of linear, logic, Masculine-based coursework, I noticed a deep pull towards understanding, investigating, feeling, embodying, and speaking about sexuality, specifically orgasm. Why do you want to entertain these conversations? Sex and the female body are quite taboo in mainstream dialogue. You’re a first-grade teacher, you can’t go down this road. What does orgasm have to do with holistic health or your teaching career? What will they say? Who’s going to want to collaborate with you? Can you even say the word orgasm without stuttering? How are you going to tell your dad? Girl, you’re absolutely crazy and this idea is ridiculous. 

Somehow, however, I managed to push those thoughts to the side as I raised my hand in the first class and shared that I was interested in women’s sexual health (yes, I tried not to say women’s orgasm) with 11 white, 10-years-my senior colleagues looking back at me. Agreeably, my teacher helped me narrow until the words women’s orgasm came out of my mouth.  As I tried not to choke on my own spit, I was also trying to understand how my hand got in the air in the first place. Before I knew it, I was sharing all of my wildest visions, dreams, emotions, and heartache about my own sexuality and current skin issue burning away in some of the most tender parts of the body – my inner thighs, vulva, and labia. Little did I know this was one of the most liberating and healing paths I would take.

The following year and a half were the most challenging months of my life (and I have endured some life).  I pushed both my physical and mental limits repeatedly, stretched myself in ways I didn’t know were possible, cried more than I ever had, came to deeply despise everything academic, white, and patriarchal, and met parts of myself that were dying to be met. I also found a new version of my voice, discovered the shadows of my heart and soul, and unearthed the root cause of my own autoimmune condition. I found God in myself and loved her fiercely (hey Ntozake Shange). 

The following is an academically cheeky summary of the top 13 things I learned from studying women’s orgasm stories: 

  1. The more often you say the word orgasm in public spaces, the more comfortable you get saying it!
  2. The discussion of women’s orgasms is still highly suppressed and seen as scandalous, inappropriate, harmful, dirty, problematic (to name a few) – our research topic was discussed and almost disapproved of by the Institutional Review Board at the university I attended.
  3. This makes for a great conversation starter (or ender) at any function!
  4. Women have been wrongly labeled as sexually dysfunctional if they do not follow the physiologically based linear model of orgasm (which is based on the male sexual response cycle).
  5. The original publication of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) classified women’s sexual dysfunctions such as frigidity, melancholia, dyspareunia, nymphomania, and homosexuality as a personality disorder!
  6. We now know that there is a need for a more holistic approach to researching women’s orgasms by using circular models of sexual response that include the mind, body, and spirit connection (thank you, feminist researchers).
  7. The powers that be are fraught with fear and demonization of the Feminine and do not encourage talking about the body openly and freely. 
  8. The body holds wisdom, by sharing the truth about our lives, we can unlock some of that wisdom.
  9. The women we interviewed were initially unsure how to answer the research question: what is your orgasm story, but by the end of the interview, each one had reached a place inside themselves they had never gone before (and they were so grateful for the opportunity to share).
  10. The four themes that emerged from the study were lack of education; shame; connection to self, partner or, a higher power; and transformation. 
  11. What we learned in the conclusion of the study was that women’s orgasm (and their own meaning-making of it) needs a space in holistic health; we need to expand on and demystify women’s orgasm; eliminate the taboo around sexuality; create spaces to share and listen to stories; and provide education about the body and it’s multidimensional factors!
  12. I discovered layers of trauma, pain, and wounds deep within my own body by not only studying women’s orgasm, but also listening to the stories of our participants, and sharing my own orgasm story as well. 
  13. Hot Tip: do not wear leggings to the library for eight hours if you have a skin rash in your groin. Periodt. 

This writing is my own personal experience and rendition of our research and is in no way meant to substitute the actual research study. And, in case you were wondering, I have since healed the skin issue in my root and sacral chakra regions. I couldn’t have planned this unfolding if I had tried and I am so grateful for courageously answering the call from the Divine. It was after presenting this research that I booked a spot in Mama Glow’s Level 1 Immersive Doula Training. How metaphoric: after orgasm comes birth.


Leigah Locke is in service to Embodied Truth and the Divine Feminine by exploring the relationship between our inherent power and our bodies. Holistic health, movement, birth-work, and maternal & self-care advocacy are how she shares her medicine. Leigah offers birth and postpartum doula support and embodiment classes in addition to co-creating Axiom Health, a holistic health practice, with her husband. Leigah humbly holds space for creation.

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