How Well Do You Know Your Orgasm?
There’s a lot to know about orgasms, and we’ve covered a good amount here at BTBz: For example, we’ve broken down the orgasm gap, as well as the physiological differences between men and women when it comes to achieving an orgasm. And we’re not the only ones talking about them: Researchers have even tried to identify “orgasmic regions” such as the mythical G spot (which, by the way, is a complete myth). Despite the buzz surrounding orgasms — as well as the focus by so many people to “get there” — there are still many misconceptions and unanswered questions about a completely natural bodily function. We are here to provide answers!
How many orgasms can you have?
You can have more than one orgasm in a single sexual encounter, although it’s easier for women to accomplish than men. In the book Orgasms, Lou Paget breaks down three ways someone might have more than one orgasm. These are called:
1. Compound singles, in which there’s a distinct beginning and end to each orgasm. “Each orgasm is distinct and separated by a partial return to the resolution phase,” Paget explains.
2. Sequential multiples, which function kind of like aftershocks from the same experience. Or as Paget says, “Orgasms occur two to ten minutes apart with minimal reduction of arousal between them.”
3. Serial multiples, which feel like one continuous experience of pleasure. “Numerous orgasms are separated by mere seconds or minutes at most with no diminishment of arousal,” Paget notes. “Some women have this as one long orgasm with spasms of varying intensity.”
Men can train themselves to experience multiple orgasms in one session through ejaculation control. This requires a tantric lens as well as focus, patience, and time to achieve. Because contrary to popular belief, men don’t need to ejaculate to achieve orgasm.
What's going on inside my body when I have an orgasm?
There is a whole lot we could cover here but for a very quick overview… If you’ve ever had an orgasm, you may have noticed sensitivity changes accompanied by a “head rush” sensation as you reach the peak (1). There’s a good reason for this: Heightened arousal causes your body to send more blood flow than usual to the lips, earlobes, nipples, and — you guessed it — your brain. This makes the external areas more receptive to touch and stimulation, while your brain experiences a boost in oxygen levels, Emily Nagoski explains in Come As You Are. The result is the euphoric sensation you experience when you orgasm.
Are there different types of orgasms?
There’s a bit of contention surrounding the notion of “orgasm types.” Some theorists believe that there are merely different ways of achieving orgasm, as opposed to unique types of orgasm. Others point out that different forms of stimulation contribute to unique sensations. However you choose to look at it, it can be interesting to explore the possibilities. Here are several ways that people with female sex organs can experience orgasms, as specifically outlined in by Lou Paget in her book Orgasms.
Female identifying orgasms
Clitoral: The most common type of orgasm, and unfortunately one of the most elusive, for a few key reasons. A lot of people learn sexual techniques from porn — which can teach them techniques that rarely work in real life.
“Flicking tongue scenes in porn rarely lead to orgasm,” Paget explains. “If the films showed what really works, they wouldn’t have a shot.”
Researchers, and by extension, the rest of society, have also long lacked an accurate understanding of the clitoris. Many people take it for what we can visually see, but many experts explain that what is visible is just the tip of the iceberg. It wasn’t until 1998 that Australian urologist Helen O’Connell discovered that “the clitoris is actually ten times larger than had been previously reported (2).”
Vaginal: A much lower percentage of people experience this type of orgasm, which is purely from penetration of the vaginal canal, than those who orgasm from clitoral stimulation. Researchers go back and forth here, but it is estimated that around 10-15% of women have vaginal orgasms. So if your partner expects you to get off on penetrative sex alone, it’s not your fault if you can’t!
Nipple/Breast: This one might feel like a myth, simply because partners often mishandle people’s breasts, especially if you’re a cisgender woman having sex with a cisgender man. To achieve the sensation, it's best to handle this area with sensitivity and build as you go. Just like with the clitoris, starting off with rougher grabbing motions can actually stop an orgasm from happening to begin with. Sucking, licking, and pinching are good alternative ways to stimulate.
4. Mouth: Mouth orgasms are more common than you might think. In one study, an estimated 20% of people have reported having experienced one. Mouth activity can focus on anything from the lips to the roof of the mouth to the tongue (2). One method touted by Paget is stimulation of the frenulum, or the “line” of skin from the gum to the lip above your front teeth: “As he sucks on her upper lips, she sucks his lower lip and visualizes the subtle channels that run from the frenulum,” she suggests, adding that people who want to explore this kind of stimulation should focus on going back and forth along this area.
5. Anus: Anal penetration can stimulate the clitoral legs for people with vaginas, causing a pleasurable sensation and resulting in orgasm.
6. Urethra: The so-called “U-spot orgasm” has grown in cultural popularity. Stimulating the urethra and the area directly above it can produce orgasm. However, some argue that the U-spot orgasm is just a clitoral orgasm in disguise, given that the urethra and clitoris are so close to each other in a person’s anatomy.
7. While rare, these are orgasms produced from the mind without physical stimulation — and Lady Gaga has said she has experienced a fantasy orgasm. If you are interested in trying this yourself, Layla Martin created a video in which she says movement of energy can create an orgasm without stimulating the body.
Female sex organs aren’t the only ones with surprise pleasure zones. There are also several ways that people with male sex organs can experience orgasm:
Penis: The most well-known type of male orgasm, achieved by the stimulation of the nerves along the shaft. Typically, this occurs when someone ejaculates, but this isn’t always the case.
Prostate/Anus: You can stimulate a person’s prostate and anus by penetration as well as other forms of stimulation, such as licking. You’ll most frequently see pop culture and media associate this kind of orgasm with same-sex male relationships, but it’s important to note that heterosexual men can experience these orgasms as well.
Nipples: This is rare for people who don’t have breasts — though people of all genders have nipples — and definitely less common than those who do, but not impossible. Try stimulating the pectoral area, and gently stroking or pulling at the nipples the same way you would a female nipple. Remember: Too much too soon can kill the buzz for good.
Vibrators: Should I use a vibrator to orgasm?The answer to this is: Do whatever feels right. But if you are on the fence and need to be convinced, here are some facts:
- About half of women in the U.S. use a vibrator
- Women who use a vibrator are more likely to report arousal, desire, and orgasm than those who don’t.
- Men can certainly use them as well. Vibrating toys can be great for the anus (make sure it has a base) , nipples, or any other erogenous zone you are interested in trying!
Should I feel bad for using a vibrator if I'm in a committed relationship?Your orgasm belongs to you. And remember: Using a vibrator is not mutually exclusive from being sexual with your partner. Including toys in intercourse is a great way to keep things new and exciting!
Sexual Assault: Is it still sexual assault if I have an orgasm?The answer is a resounding yes. Your body can use an orgasm as a defense mechanism to mask the trauma of an ongoing event. This does not at all invalidate the experience and the pain it causes you.
Orgasm Strength: What does it mean if my orgasm isn't "strong"?Orgasms naturally tend to vary in strength. If you aren’t having the “mind-blowing” orgasm that you hoped for, there are a number of potential reasons. You might be feeling an extra surge of anxiety, depression, and/or stress in your life, and that can bleed over into your sex experience. In other words, if you aren’t “feeling it” sexually, your body isn’t going to respond as strongly. Look into your life and the areas that might be stressing you out. Mind-body health is all interconnected with our sex lives.
Hopefully, our answers have addressed some common confusions and misconceptions surrounding the orgasm, whatever your sex organs. But if you only remember one thing from this article, it should be that your orgasm belongs to you. Take the time to explore your own and get to know yourself better!