Your Orgasm Is Not as Complicated as You've Been Led to Believe
Despite how it may be portrayed, the female orgasm is not some unattainable mystery that takes years and years to understand. In fact, it's way more similar to the male orgasm than you may think.
"An orgasm is an orgasm, whether male or female, and surprisingly has less to do with genital organs than the brain," says Betsy Greenleaf, DO, a board-certified urogynecologist and advisor for pH-D Feminine Health.
Yet, for some reason, the stigma surrounding female orgasms still exists. And while some people with vaginas do struggle with orgasming (and it absolutely does not have to be the end goal for fulfilling sex) it's not true that a female orgasm is any harder to obtain than a male orgasm.
In fact, this has likely become the narrative to make up for the fact that a lot of heterosexual women unfortunately do not climax from penetrative sex. A 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that "there is a gap between heterosexual men and women in frequency of orgasm during sex." More specifically, 95 percent of men reported that they usually always achieve orgasms during sexual activity, while only 65 percent of straight women reported that they do. (The study did not specify between cis or trans folks.)
While a myriad of factors could explain why this is the case — including whether you're on any sort of medication or birth control and the stimulation you're receiving — ultimately, it's safe to assume people don't know enough about the female orgasm to actually get their partner to orgasm.
For this reason, we spoke with Dr. Greenleaf who answered any question you might have about female orgasms. Read on for all the high-value information on what causes an orgasm, woman climax signs and symptoms, and how many orgasms someone with a vagina can have at one time.
What Is a Female Orgasm?
As Dr. Greenleaf alluded to earlier, a female orgasm is no different than a male orgasm. By definition, an orgasm is "a heightened sense of sexual arousal that climaxes in the release of brain chemicals, dopamine, and endorphins, that create an intense feeling of joy, pleasure, and well-being."
That said, when speaking about the female orgasm specifically, most people refer to it as, "the pulsatile contractions of the pelvic floor," says Dr. Greenleaf. However, there are multiple different types of orgasms someone with a vagina can experience.
For one, there's a clitoral orgasm, which is the most common type of orgasm and occurs from stimulating the clitoris. Then, there's a vaginal orgasm, which refers to the "spasmodic contractions of the vagina during orgasm," says Dr. Greenleaf. And there's also a G-spot orgasm, which is an orgasm that happens after stimulating the G-spot, which is located "about an inch or so inside the vaginal opening on the upper vaginal wall — closest to the belly button," according to Planned Parenthood.
The one way in which a male and female orgasm may differ is the whole ejaculating part. However, Dr. Greenleaf says that people with vaginas can "prostate-like fluid from the urethra with orgasm" too — oftentimes, this is called "squirting."
What Causes an Orgasm?
An orgasm is achieved with a lil' bit of mental stimulation, alongside some physical stimulation. After all, your brain is your most important sex organ, says Dr. Greenleaf. "You can spend all your time stimulating genitals, but nothing will happen unless the brain is stimulated." Though it's subjective and individual for each person, Dr. Greenleaf adds that orgasms can be reached through a variety of sexual activities including physical genital stimulation, reading erotica, watching porn, hearing arousing sounds, or touching even non-genital skin.
As for how long a female orgasm lasts, sex research says anywhere from three seconds to two minutes.
Female Climax Signs and Symptoms
Compared to the signs a male is orgasming, these may look a little different. But Dr. Greenleaf says the following could all be indicators:
- Vaginal contractions
- Pelvic floor contractions
- Tensing of hands, fingers, and toes
- Tensing of face
- Bodily spasms or twitching
- Increased vaginal lubrication
- Squirting of fluid from the urethra
- Verbal moaning or yelling out
That said, while these signs can absolutely indicate that your partner is having an orgasm, the only way to definitively know if your partner is orgasming is by asking them afterward. This opens up the line of communication so that you can discuss how to tell when your partner is close for future reference. In general, it's best not to assume your partner orgasmed, as this could contribute to the orgasm gap. Simply communicate with them and ask them.
What Does an Orgasm Feel Like?
An orgasm is going to feel and look differently depending on the person you ask. Many people, however, find the sensations to be indescribable to put into words. And though I hate to say it, it really is one of those sensations described as "when you know, you know."
If you're looking for more specifics though, Dr. Greenleaf adds that an orgasm can feel like "fireworks of intense pleasure that overcomes your body and mind." Some other people previously told POPSUGAR that it feels "tingling and intense, where the nerves start to get a bit numb but not where you don't feel anything" and "like this heavy vibration going through my vagina, like it's electric and incessant and keeps getting stronger and stronger until 'BOOM' orgasm hits."
Why Do Orgasms Feel Good?
On a physical level, orgasms feel good because they happen in part to the stimulation of an erogenous zone, which is an area of the body that create sexual arousal. (These areas include your neck, inner thighs, genitals, etc.) Dr. Greenleaf adds that on a deeper level, orgasms feel good because of the sudden rush of neurochemicals of pleasure. "In particular, dopamine release creates a sense of euphoria, which is associated with eating yummy food and sexual arousal. Orgasms are the high that many drug users are chasing."
How Many Orgasms Can a Woman Have?
The limit does not exist. It's very possible for people with vaginas to "ride the wave" as The Weeknd says, and experience multiple orgasms back to back, since they don't have refractory periods, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. (A refractory period is the time spent recovering post-orgasm.) That said, you may feel too tired after one orgasms — or many — to try for another.
Dr. Greenleaf also notes "the highest number of orgasms recorded in the literature in one hour was 134."