Written by Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.Orgasm. Peak. Climax. Cum. Despite all the talk about orgasms, there is a lot of false information about them. Below we clear this up with facts about this fun, although sometimes elusive, experience.*
Orgasms Explained!No matter your gender, your genitals have erectile tissue. When you’re not aroused, the blood flows freely in and out of this tissue, but when you are aroused, the blood goes in but not out. All that blood filling your erectile tissue creates tension that builds up to a very high point. An orgasm is when powerful, rhythmic muscle contractions release that tension. Stating the obvious, having an orgasm feels good! Here is a real life description, as quoted in a widely used human sexuality textbook: It feels like all the tension that has been building and building is released with an explosion. It is the most pleasurable thing in the whole world.
Male Versus Female Orgasms**Perhaps you’re wondering why we didn’t specify if the description above was written by a male or female. It’s because research finds that when males and females write descriptions of their orgasms, expert judges can’t guess the sex of the writer. Both talk about tension building up to a point of intensity, followed by a very pleasurable release of that tension (e.g., “A great release of tensions that have built up that is extremely pleasant and exciting.”). Still, four important things that differ between male and female orgasms are:
- Ejaculation. In males, orgasm is almost always accompanied by ejaculation, or semen spurting out of the penis. Some females experience ejaculation as well, although estimates of just how many vary widely. Female ejaculation is when fluid (which can be as little as a teaspoon or more of a gush/squirt) is expelled from the urethra.
- Refractory Period. After people with penises ejaculate, they have a refractory period, or a period of time during which they cannot have another ejaculation. The refractory period is shorter for younger males (e.g., as short as 15 minutes) than older males (e.g., more than a day). Female bodied individuals don’t have a refractory period. In other words, they can have more than one orgasm during the same sexual act. This is called having “multiple” or “sequential” orgasms.
- The Orgasm Gap: During heterosexual sexual encounters, males orgasm more than females. In one study, 64% of females versus 91% of males said they’d had an orgasm at their most recent sexual encounter. In one survey of college students, 55% of males versus 4% of females said they usually orgasm during first-time hookup sex. There are many reasons for the orgasm gap, but the primary one is that females are not getting enough or not the right kind of clitoral stimulation during heterosexual penetrative sex. That’s why females are more likely to orgasm when pleasuring themselves or when having sex with another female; the focus is on clitoral stimulation, with penetration only included if it enhances one’s arousal. Only about 15% of females can orgasm from penetration alone and the rest need some form of clitoral stimulation. Some females prefer to have their orgasm separate from penetration (e.g., oral sex or manual stimulation before or after intercourse) and some prefer to pair clitoral stimulation and penetration (e.g., with their own or a partner’s hand or a vibrator).
- Time to Orgasm: When pleasuring themselves, both males and females take an average of four minutes to orgasm. Among males, the average amount of time from putting their penis inside a vagina to orgasm is anywhere from 2 – 6 minutes. For females, when having a sexual encounter with a partner, it takes anywhere from 10 – 45 minutes of stimulation to orgasm, with the average being about 20 minutes. In fact, if a partner spends 20 minutes stimulating a partner’s clitoris, 92% will orgasm.