I haven’t been paying enough attention to my clitoris. That’s the first thought that floated into my brain as Briana Oster, M.D., a former pediatrician who now works at Revitalize Laser Care’s Denver office, talked me through a diagram of the female sexual organ as I prepared for a non-invasive med spa treatment that promised to improve my orgasms through the use of sound waves. “We’ve been focused on the top part”—the small, external bulb at the top of the vulva—she explained, pointing to an illustration. “But there’s a lot more going on.” Which brought me to my second disconcerting revelation: Have I been having sex all wrong?
Thankfully, I haven’t, you’ll be happy to know, but there’s always room for improvement. Enter Cliovana, a painless, noninvasive treatment which aims to increase arousal levels, orgasm frequency, and orgasm intensity, by stimulating the clitoris via sound waves. I had to know: Was this the future of better orgasms?
Biohacking Your Orgasm
As shocking as it may sound, the full clitoral anatomy wasn’t really known until the 1990s, and we’re still learning about it: It wasn’t until 2009 that the first 3-D image of a clitoris was created. Why’s that important? Because what many of us have long thought of as the clitoris—that external almond-sized nib Oster was talking about—is just the tip, as a fellow writer put it, of the clitoral iceberg. In fact, the clitoris extends much further, surrounding the vulva on either side like a wishbone. Meaning there are a whole bunch more nerve endings that can be aroused to stimulate orgasm than we previously thought.
Lucky for me, orgasming isn’t a routine problem, unless I’m stressed, which, I’ll admit, has been a near-constant state recently. Many women are having a different experience: A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2014 found that just 62.9 percent of women experienced an orgasm with a familiar partner, compared to 85.1 percent of men. Researchers have dubbed this the “orgasm gap.”
At 31 years old, however, I have noticed a reduction in lubrication and that it takes longer to get aroused than it once did. When I heard that Revitalize Denver would be the first clinic in the country to offer Cliovana—I decided to give it a try. If it worked, it’d be a fun, and hopefully stimulating, early wedding present for myself and my fiancé.
At my first appointment, I settled onto the exam table, pants- and underwear-less, with a paper sheet covering my bare lower half. (A pre-appointment email recommended I “trim [my] pubic hair to facilitate better results.”) Dr. Oster had already walked me through the basics: Cliovana uses sound waves to promote the creation of new blood vessels and increase nerve sensitivity—in other words, make your whole clitoris more responsive. Patients receive the $2,000 treatment four times over a two-week period, with each appointment lasting about 10 minutes. (Full disclosure: Revitalize offered me the procedure free of charge.)
Unlike FDA-approved medications or the O-Shot, Cliovana is performed externally, and it’s solely designed to enhance female sexual satisfaction. (While the sound wave device Cliovana uses is FDA-approved, the procedure itself is what’s known as “off-label.”) “We don’t treat a condition,” said Keri Hall, Cliovana’s executive vice president of business development. “It’s for any woman who wants improved sexual satisfaction, orgasm intensity, frequency, and increased arousal levels and lubrication. It’s for any woman who feels as though she’s not completely satisfied.”
The sound wave technology behind Cliovana is relatively well-supported by science for a variety of other uses. It’s been used by urologists to break up kidney stones since the 1970s and more recently, the energy has been directed toward the penis as a potential aid for men dealing with erectile dysfunction. (So far, the clinical trials are promising.) But Cliovana is the first time this sound wave technology has been applied to women’s sexual organs. That may explain why I felt a bit like a lab rat as Oster placed a bell-shaped plastic cup over my clitoral hood, aka the part we all know about; for about three minutes, a gentle tapping ensued, meant to bring blood flow to the surface and prep the area for treatment. It was an odd sensation, but not painful or uncomfortable.