Does Orgasm Style Reveal Relationship Fears? (Study review)

Does Orgasm Style Reveal Relationship Fears? (Study review)

Costa and Brody (2011) investigated the relationship between attachment styles, specifically anxious and avoidant attachment, and sexual behaviors and satisfaction among women. Their research aimed to explore how these attachment styles correlate with vaginal orgasm consistency and the frequency of other sexual behaviors.

The study found that anxious attachment was linked to less consistency in vaginal orgasms but a higher frequency of vibrator use and anal sex orgasms. Avoidant attachment was associated with a higher frequency of vibrator orgasms.

The study aimed to explore the relationship between attachment styles (anxious and avoidant), orgasm type (vaginal, clitoral, anal, vibrator), and psychological defenses in a sample of sexually active heterosexual women. Here’s how the statistics relate to the study’s findings:

  • The study included 70 sexually active heterosexual women recruited from a Scottish university.
  • 55.7% of women reported having vaginal orgasms. This statistic establishes a baseline for the prevalence of vaginal orgasms in the sample. The study found that women with more secure attachment styles and fewer immature defense mechanisms were more likely to experience consistent vaginal orgasms.
  • 69.1% reported orgasms from clitoral stimulation during intercourse. This high percentage suggests that clitoral stimulation during intercourse is a common way for women to reach orgasm. However, the study found that women who relied more on immature defense mechanisms were more likely to experience orgasms this way, possibly as a means of maintaining emotional distance during sex.
  • 36.8% had orgasms using a vibrator. Over a third of the women in the sample reported achieving orgasm through vibrator use. The study linked more frequent vibrator orgasms to both anxious and avoidant attachment styles, suggesting that women with these attachment patterns might prefer the controlled, less emotionally vulnerable experience of vibrator use.
  • 11.6% experienced orgasms from anal sex. While a smaller percentage, this statistic indicates that some women do experience orgasms through anal stimulation. The study found a correlation between anxious attachment and achieving orgasm through anal sex, proposing that anxiously attached women might engage in this behavior as a way to avoid the emotional intimacy of vaginal intercourse. (more vibrator use statistics here)

Women who reported more difficulty reaching vaginal orgasm (from penetration alone) tended to have an anxious attachment style, marked by fears of abandonment. In contrast, these women had an easier time climaxing from vibrators, anal sex, and solo clitoral stimulation.

Those with an avoidant attachment style, who tend to dodge emotional closeness, also had more vibrator-induced orgasms. However, avoidant women showed only a slight, nonsignificant trend toward fewer vaginal orgasms.

“Better health, better relatedness, greater sexual satisfaction, and less sexual dysfunctions, are associated with greater frequency and consistency of vaginal orgasm…”

Women who report more frequent and consistent vaginal orgasms (orgasms from penetration alone, without additional clitoral stimulation) tend to have better overall health, better relationship quality, more sexual satisfaction, and fewer sexual problems.

“…but unrelated or inversely related to other sexual behaviors including masturbation during PVI.”

In contrast, these positive outcomes do not seem to be associated with other sexual behaviors, like using vibrators, having anal sex, or stimulating the clitoris during intercourse (referred to as “masturbation during PVI” in the quote). In fact, the study suggests that these non-vaginal orgasm behaviors might even be linked to poorer health and relationship outcomes.

The authors argue that their study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that vaginal orgasms specifically, rather than orgasms in general or other sexual activities, are uniquely associated with better physical, psychological, and relationship health for women. They propose that this may be because vaginal orgasms require greater relaxation, trust, and emotional connection with a partner compared to other types of sexual stimulation.

Notably, “immature psychological defense mechanisms” – ways people unconsciously avoid uncomfortable feelings – correlated with both attachment anxiety and avoidance. And those defense mechanisms, in turn, paralleled the orgasm patterns. Women relying more on immature defenses had fewer vaginal orgasms but more climaxes from vibrators, anal sex, and clitoral stimulation during intercourse.

“Immature defenses were related to both anxious and avoidant attachment.”

Immature defense mechanisms are unconscious strategies people use to cope with emotional discomfort or stress. These defenses are considered “immature” because they involve distorting or avoiding reality in some way, rather than dealing with emotions directly and adaptively. The study found that people with anxious or avoidant attachment styles tend to rely more on these immature defenses.

Anxious attachment is characterized by fear of abandonment and intense desires for closeness. Avoidant attachment, on the other hand, involves discomfort with intimacy and a tendency to maintain emotional distance.

“Moreover, it was possible to replicate previous findings that immature defenses are associated with lesser vaginal orgasm consistency, but with greater likelihood of orgasm from clitoral masturbation during PVI [penile-vaginal intercourse], vibrator, and anal sex.”

This part means that the current study confirmed earlier research showing a link between immature defense mechanisms and women’s orgasm experiences. Women who rely more on immature defenses are less likely to have consistent vaginal orgasms (from penetration alone). However, they are more likely to reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation during intercourse, vibrator use, or anal sex.

The authors suggest that vaginal orgasms require greater vulnerability and emotional connection, which may feel threatening to those with anxious or avoidant attachment styles. In contrast, clitoral stimulation, sex toys, and anal sex may allow for more emotional distance or control during sex – which may feel safer but ultimately less fulfilling for insecurely attached individuals.

So what does it all mean? The vaginal orgasm, some theorize, springs from relaxed, secure, intimate connectedness with a partner. But for those prone to relationship insecurities, the emotional vulnerability of this melting surrender may feel threatening.

In contrast, sex toys, anal play, and masturbation may enable detached, controlled pleasure – a less risky proposition for the anxiously attached. “Such substitution has no compensatory effect on the establishment of secure attachment,” the authors caution.

Their advice? Working through those insecurities may be the path to more fulfilling sexual relationships. In the bedroom and beyond, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.


Costa, R. M., & Brody, S. (2011). Anxious and avoidant attachment, vibrator use, anal sex, and impaired vaginal orgasm. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8(10), 2493–2500.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

As a certified sex educator and sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

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