This page aims to answer the
following questions: What is an orgasm? How
do different people experience their
orgasms? How do you know you've had one?
What is an orgasm?
In everyday speech people talk about the orgasm
as "coming" or "climax".
It is a
physiological response, a
reflexive release of sexual tension.
follows on from two preceding phases of sex
- the initial excitement phase, and a
plateau phase during which people are highly
aroused, but haven't gone into orgasm yet.
Having an orgasm is often portrayed as the
main goal of having sex, however there is a
lot more to sex then just coming as quickly
Men and women's bodies react differently
during an orgasm, but there are also
similarities. Lets start with the
One bodily aspect of an
orgasm is the release of built-up muscle
tension. This tension may be located
mostly in the muscles in the pelvic floor
and vagina for women and in the muscles of
floor, prostate and urethra for men, but it
can also involve release of muscle tension
all over the body.
Some people experience
their orgasms as very localized in their
pelvis, whereas for other people it is a
orgasm experience. Additionally, an
orgasm involves a reduction of control in
your voluntary muscles, i.e. a sensation of
letting go of the muscles you normally use
to move your body. Some people experience the carpopedal reflex, which is a
muscle spasm in the foot, where the big toe is
held straight and the other toes bend
back while the foot arches. Also, the
muscles around your anus may contract.
An orgasm also often involves pleasurable
sensations or even euphoria. This is due to a
sudden release of neurotransmitters in the
brain, which give us an experience of
happiness. An orgasm typically lasts less
than 1 minute. After an orgasm the body
goes into a refractory period, during which
another orgasm is not possible.
Sexual tension which results in an orgasm
can be built up in different ways. This can
be through foreplay or genital intercourse,
but sexual tension can also be build up
through masturbation, oral or anal sex, or
even just through sexual fantasy. The quality
of your orgasm isn't related to how the
energy is built up, although often people
experience orgasms through masturbation as
the most intense ones. However, if one style
of sex turns you on more, you may experience
the resulting orgasms as stronger. The
intensity of your orgasm often depends on
how long you've been in sexual play. The longer your excitement
and plateau phase, the longer your body has
to fill your sexual organs and your pelvis
with blood and produce sexual fluids: this
all increases the intensity of your orgasm.
Also, it's important that your pubococcygeal and pelvic floor muscles are
in good shape as this will also contribute
to the quality of your orgasms. You can
train those muscles with the
Orgasms in women
During the excitement and plateau phase the
tissues in and around the vagina and the
G-spot enlarge and thicken in women due
to increased blood flow to the area. This is
a bit like a man's penis becoming erect.
This results in the so-called the orgasmic
platform, a swelling and thickening of the
sexual tissues, which then hold the penis
more tightly during intercourse.
The muscles which contract during orgasm are around the
uterus, resulting in uterine contractions,
and in the pelvic floor, as well as the
pubococcygeal muscles and other muscles in
the pelvic area. Female orgasms tend to
consist of 3 to 15 rhythmic muscle
Traditional sexologists divide
orgasms into clitoral ones, which get
triggered - not surprisingly - by the clitoris, and vaginal ones,
which may be triggered by the G-spot and may
involve uterine contractions. Some female
writers, such as Deborah Sundahl, subdivide
the latter into G-spot orgasm and uterine
orgasms. However, women can experience a
mixed type or blended orgasm, as well as
some women only having one type of orgasm.
The refractory period is a lot shorter in
women then it is in men, which means some
women can have multiple orgasms, i.e. a
string of orgasms, which occur very close
together, one after the other. Some women
also ejaculate a clear fluid during orgasm.
This phenomenon is called
Fewer than 1 in 3 women can reach a climax
from intercourse alone, which means that the
vast majority of women need other
stimulation (foreplay, manual or oral
stimulation, caressing, and so on) to come.
Orgasm in men
For men orgasm and ejaculation are often
seen as the same, but actually they are
different physiological responses.
They do not
necessarily need to occur together.
men, as is the case for women, sexual
tension is built up in the pelvis during the
excitement and plateau phases of sexual
arousal, resulting in increased muscle
tension and the swelling of sexual tissues
through engorgement with blood - most
obviously in the penis.
In men the
(a duct which leads
the testicles to the prostate), the prostate
itself, and the seminal vesicles (glands
which produce some of the fluid for semen)
contract, which forces semen into a holding
area in the urethra (to
read more on male sexual anatomy click here).
This is experienced by the man as the "point
of no return", when an orgasm becomes
inevitable. After this point the prostate
and urethra contract and the man has an
orgasm - and most likely an ejaculation at
the same time.
Additional contractions occur in the rectal
sphincter and the neck of the bladder.
A man may make rapid, involuntary
pelvic thrusts just before orgasm,
and he may instinctively hold on tightly to a
The refractory period in men is
always present - and it stops more orgasms
happening until a certain time has
elapsed. What that time may be depends
on age and how often a man has sex.
(There is a
inhibited orgasm, which
basically means that a man cannot reach
orgasm and ejaculate during sexual
intercourse. If you're one of
the many men who experience this condition, it's probably worth
having a look at some more information and
engaging in a process of self-help therapy
different people experience orgasm?
Different people have different experiences
There is no single right way to
have your orgasm, in fact it is perfectly OK not to experience one at
Your orgasm will very much be
influenced by things like how relaxed you
are, your relationship
with your partner, your level of arousal and
how much stimulation you had before you
came. Of course, your orgasm also depends on who you
are as a person and your history - such as
previous sexual experiences.
To reach orgasm you have to let go to some extent
and let your body take over, which is very
difficult for some people. Having
an orgasm is actually a learned response and
often people get better at it with age, as
they get to know their sexual responses
better. What's more, culture and gender
roles affect your orgasm: for example, if sexuality
was deemed taboo in your family when you were
a child, this may still influence your
sexual experience today. To develop your
own sense of sexual freedom read up on
psychology such as the
ego state model.
Your orgasm will
also reflect to some extent how you live
within your body. To reach orgasm you need to be
able to focus on your physical sensations
and to let them take up your full attention.
You also need to feel relaxed and at ease with
your body - at least to some extent. Looking after your
body and cherishing it is important for the
quality of your sex life! To improve the
condition of your pelvic floor muscles
consider doing the
There are plenty
of other things which can affect your
orgasms, including medication,
illness and illegal drugs. Bernie Zilbergeld
gives a long list of medications
which can adversely affect male sexuality in
his book, The New Male Sexuality (Bantam
Unfortunately, I am not aware of a similar
list for women.
So how do people
experience their orgasms? They really can
range from intense physical and emotional
events over the whole body to much more subtle releases of tension.
But because an orgasm is made up of so many
components - release of muscle tension,
emotional feelings, sensations in various
parts of your body, perhaps ejaculation -
it's actually normal for people to have
different orgasmic experiences at different
times. For example, some people will
experience an emotional release without much
muscle contraction while others may
experience physical sensations without much
your orgasm feels like, enjoy it, develop it
and cherish it! It is yours the way it is,
even if it's different to what you think
other people are experiencing.
How do you know
you've had an orgasm?
For men that
question is fairly easy to answer. Normally,
a man ejaculates when he comes, unless he's trained
himself not to do so (which takes quite a bit of
effort). So men tend to know when they've
had an orgasm, even if the sensations are
not so strong.
a harder time here. Their sexual parts are
much more hidden, and sexual norms
for them are, even now, much more restrictive.
For a lot of women this means they haven't
had the sexual experimentation that men have
- after all, their penis is clearly on view
and fun to play with from day one!
All in all, while some
women have strong physical and emotional
of an orgasm, others have a much more subtle
experience. But even if your sensations are
more subtle, and you're not sure whether
you're having an orgasm or not, an orgasm
will generally produce some
contractions in your vaginal muscles or
your pelvis. So if you're still not sure if
you're having an
orgasm, here's how you can tell: masturbate
until you think you're coming, then put your
finger inside your vagina and continue as usual. You should experience the
muscles of the outer third of your
To develop your
orgasmic response practice the
exercises, maybe do a bit of exploration
psychological issues, or get guidance
through books like Female Ejaculation and
the G-spot, by Deborah Sundahl, published by Hunter
House Publishers , 2003.
(ed.) (1995) The Complete Dictionary of
Sexology. Continuum Press
Sundahl, D. (2003)
Female ejaculation and the G-spot, Hunter
(1999) The New Male Sexuality. Bantam Press
by Anna 29.04.07