Allow me to get personal here… For a long time, I thought I was broken because I wasn’t having orgasms. With my ex of nine years, I only ever had an orgasm once. It occurred when I was really high on marijuana, which made me question whether the experience was even real. I chose not to focus on the lack of orgasms in my sex life and instead enjoy the journey of the sexual pleasure I was experiencing. After that relationship ended, I made a commitment to myself to try as many new things sexually as possible to try and unlock the orgasm blockage I had. What I quickly learned was that the typical hetero-normative sex scripts I had been following for nearly a decade simply didn’t work for me in terms of achieving orgasm. Fortunately, there were a multitude of less conventional pathways that did. With my mind opened to the range of possibilities available, I have surprised myself with how truly orgasmic I am.
What is an orgasm?
An orgasm refers to the peak, euphoric pleasure a person experiences during sex - also referred to as climax. When this occurs, the pelvic floor muscles in our bodies involuntarily, rapidly and rhythmically contract as a reflex (without conscious direction from your brain). When the body releases the contraction tension, it can sometimes result in muscle spasms, vocal sounds, and other body movements. Orgasm can feel different to every person. Some describe it as a big full-body sensation, and others as small, genital-focused. Both people with penises’ and vulvas alike describe orgasm as providing a residual feeling of well-being and relief. The time to reach an orgasm varies significantly from person to person. Various research studies have been done on the length of time it takes to orgasm. General numbers range from 5 to 10 minutes for penis-owners and 15 to 20 minutes for vulva-owners.
What are the benefits of experiencing an orgasm?
The brain is SO activated by orgasm. An orgasm floods our brain with oxygen, which is important to healthy brain function and can increase our cognitive capacity. It also creates a cascade of nourishing neurochemicals and neurohormones that bathe our nervous system to keep our bodies, brain and emotions regulated and in sync. One hormone that gets released when we orgasm is prolactin. Prolactin tells our bodies that we are satisfied, putting us in a zen-like state. Thus, having an orgasm before going to bed can help you have a deeper sleep. Endorphins are also released when we orgasm which can alleviate aches and pains (migraines, period cramps, etc.) and also suppress cortisol, the hormone which makes our blood pressure rise and contributes to stress. Orgasm also produces other happy hormones that combat stress, such as dopamine and oxytocin.
What is the difference between orgasm and ejaculation for penis-owners?
Ejaculation is the pulsing contraction of the pelvic/penile muscles to expel semen. The expulsion may be semen shooting out, dribbling out, and anything in between. Penis-owners will usually ejaculate when they reach an orgasm, but orgasm and ejaculation do not always happen simultaneously. For some penis-owners, they feel an orgasm right before they ejaculate while others begin to ejaculate and then feel the orgasm. It is possible for penis-owners to learn how to separate ejaculation from an orgasm, what is referred to as semen retention, for the purpose of experiencing multiple orgasms. Better ejaculatory control can be learned through edging techniques, stopping oneself before ejaculation, and through strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
Apart from penile-stimulation, can penis-owners experience other kinds of orgasms?
Yes! Another common orgasm for penis-owners is prostate orgasm through anal stimulation. The prostate gland is part of the reproductive system in penis-owners. It is located between the rectum and the base of the penis. The primary function of the prostate gland is to produce the fluid contained in semen, which allows the sperm to be transported from the testicals through the penis. It contains an enormous number of nerve endings, many connected to other sexual organs. Because it rarely receives stimulation, it’s very sensitive and responds quickly when massaged. Many penis-owners who’ve achieved ogasm through prostate massage describe the experience as stronger and more satisfying than a penile orgasm.
What kinds of orgasms can vulva-owners experience?
Counter to the cultural messaging perpetuated by most media, it’s important to know that vaginal orgasms are not that common for vulva-owners. In fact, research has shown that less than a third of women are able to orgasm from penile penetration alone. The following are some of the more common ways vulva-owners reach orgasm:
- Clitoral orgasm: An orgasm achieved through stimulating either the internal or external part of the clitoris. Most people refer to the clitoris glans, the very tip and only external part of the clitoral structure, as the clitoris. However, this is not the full clitoris and for some vulva-owners, stimulating the glans clitoris may not be the best pathway to orgasm. Moving sexual stimulation to other areas of the clitoris structure, such as the internal roots, may help acheive orgasm.
- G-spot orgasm: The G-spot is a mass of spongy tissue located 1 to 3 inches from the front inside wall of the vagina. You can find it by inserting fingers inside the vaginal canal and pressing with a “come hither” motion. Firm pressure in this area is reported to produce strong orgasms for some and sometimes ejaculation (squirting). Many sex toys are desgined specifically to hit the G-spot.
- Blended orgasms: This is when the G-spot and the clitoris glans are stimulated at the same time. To achieve this type of orgasm, you can try using rabbit-style vibrators, dual function sex toys (external and internal stimulation), or use of dual stimulation using hands, sex toys, oral sex, a penis or some combination thereof.
- Cervical orgasm: A cervical orgasm occurs from deep vaginal penetration when the cervix and surrounding nerves are pressed or rubbed against (4 to 6 inches back). When a vulva-owner is highly aroused, the back part of their vagina that surrounds their cervix can tent (vaginal tenting), lengthening and widening in shape which creates more space for stimulation that many people highly enjoy.
This blog has covered a non-exhaustive list of all the ways people can orgasm. No matter what genitalia you have, there are countless other ways to experience orgasm… full body orgasms, nipple orgasms, and even orgasms from simple skin touch as proven from studies on the experiences of paraplegics. In general, factors that can increase your chances of experiencing an orgasm are things like being attracted to your sexual partner(s), exercise and healthy diet, consuming erotica, or anything else that turns you on. Factors that will negatively impact your chances of orgasming are being annoyed or frustrated with your sexual partner(s), smoking (as it restricts blow flow), stress and anxiety, mental health issues, poor sleep habits, and anything else that inhibits your arousal. I hope this information helps you better navigate your pleasure so that you can experience more orgasmic joy in your lives!