Sex Ed

Can You Tell Whether A Woman Is Likely To Orgasm Based On The Shape Of Her Lips?

December 7, 2012 by Justin Lehmiller

Some women have a more difficult time reaching orgasm than others during sexual intercourse. As a result, sexual scientists have begun looking for biological markers associated with a greater likelihood of orgasm in an attempt to better understand the origins of female sexual pleasure. One such marker appears to be the distance between a woman’s clitoris and vaginal opening. Research has found that the closer the clitoris sits to the vaginal opening, the greater the odds a woman will reach orgasm during sex. This makes sense, given that such placement probably allows a greater degree of clitoral stimulation. However, scientists have found some other less obvious markers of female orgasm, and one of those features resides on a woman’s face.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found evidence for a link between the tubercle of a woman’s upper lip and her likelihood of reaching orgasm during penetrative intercourse [1]. A sample of 258 mostly Scottish women completed an Internet survey in which they reported on how prominent the tubercle of their upper lip was and answered questions about their past experience with orgasms. Prominence of the tubercle was assessed by asking women to “look closely in a mirror at the center of your lip. Compared to the part of your top lip next to the center, is the center A) prominently and sharply raised, B) prominently and gradually raised, C) slightly and sharply raised, D) slightly and gradually raised, E) flat, F) slightly lower than flat?” If you didn’t completely understand that question, you’re not alone–but the point is that the tubercle is the very center portion of the upper lip and its shape can vary across persons.

Results revealed that women with the most prominent tubercles (i.e., women who chose option A) had the greatest likelihood of experiencing vaginal orgasms in the past. In addition, tubercle prominence was linked to experiencing more consistency in vaginal orgasms over the past month. That said, tubercle prominence was not associated with achieving orgasm in other ways (e.g., through masturbation, vibrator use, oral sex, etc.).

An important caveat to this is that no matter how prominent a woman’s tubercle was, she was still more likely than not to have had a vaginal orgasm before. Specifically, at least 2/3 of women in each tubercle group reported having had vaginal orgasms. Thus, having a flat tubercle certainly does not mean a necessary lack of ability to orgasm—it just means a somewhat lower likelihood.

So what is the point of all of this? Well, that’s not entirely clear. The authors of the article speculate that it provides evidence of a biological reason for differences in women’s ability to reach orgasm. Specifically, they chalk it up to prenatal hormone exposure and argue that whatever hormones cause the prominent tubercle lead to other biological changes that affect a women’s orgasm potential. However, there are other possible explanations. Perhaps tubercle prominence is confounded with sex drive, perceived attractiveness, or something else that might change female sexual behavior and, therefore, likelihood of orgasm. It’s also possible that this isn’t a reliable finding because the measurement wasn’t very precise. Remember that tubercle prominence was determined by participants and not by scientists and, in my opinion, the instructions provided for determining prominence were not very clear. Thus, I think these results require replication before anyone starts making inferences about a woman’s sex life based upon the shape of her lips.

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[1] Brody, S., & Costa, R. M. (2011). Vaginal orgasm is more prevalent among women with a prominent tubercle of the upper lip. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 2793-2799.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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