What Happens During a Female Orgasm?

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Why are orgasms so fascinating? 

For some, orgasms are elusive and mysterious. While others may feel that having an orgasm is easy and not a big deal. 


Orgasms are unique to each person.


Orgasms can be an important topic in a relationship and a frequently discussed subject at parties. Orgasms can also be held inside like a cherished secret. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of what an orgasm is and how it should feel. 


What really happens during a female orgasm?

Let’s begin with how an orgasm is defined. 




A climax of sexual excitement, characterized by feelings of pleasure centered in the genitals and (in men) experienced as an accompaniment to ejaculation.


    According to research by Masters and Johnson, the first phase of an orgasm is desire, in which muscles tense, your heart races, skin flushes, and nipples become hard. 


    The next phase is arousal. During arousal, blood flow increases within the genital region, causing this part of the body to become more sensitive to stimulation. 


    Phase three is the climax portion of the sexual response cycle in which your orgasm makes its appearance, bringing with it involuntary muscle contractions and the blissful release of sexual tension. 


    Resolution is the final phase, which many refer to as afterglow. There is a feeling of contentment, relaxation, happiness, and our bodies slowly return to a normal level of functioning. 


    Sexual Response Cycle:


    Phase 1 – Desire

    Phase 2 – Arousal

    Phase 3 – Climax

    Phase 4 – Resolution


    Basically, there are changes throughout the entire body—orgasms are a head-to-toe experience. 


    Some researchers believe there may be up to 12 different types of female orgasms that women can enjoy, with the clitoral orgasm being the most common type. 


    How can you experience better orgasms?  

    Author J.D. Salinger once wrote that “a woman’s body is like a violin; it takes a terrific musician to play it right”. 


    Sometimes all it takes is learning more about your body and its responses. Exploration can be key.


    #1 - Women can experience orgasms through stimulation of nipples, erogenous areas, and other parts of the body. So, the first step is to take time to explore your body and what areas respond pleasurably. 


    Possible Exploration Zones:

    • Clitoris
    • Vagina
    • Anal opening
    • Nipples
    • Neck
    • Ears
    • Crook of elbow


    #2 – Next, consider adding pleasure products to your sexual activities. While manual stimulation can be quite wonderful, sex toys, and vibrators in particular, are a great way to explore more pleasure options with sensations like vibration, pulsation, air pulse, suction, as well as products that heat up. 


    As women age, their hormone levels drop, which may lessen sensations. Sex toys can provide stimulation that may help with arousal. 


    Sex toys can also take the pressure off partners by helping to increase the chances of experiencing an orgasm. It’s estimated that almost a quarter of American women have difficulty reaching orgasm. Increasing clitoral stimulation using a vibrator has been found to help. 


    #3 - Regularly exercising Kegel muscles may also help increase orgasmic satisfaction. Research has found that eight weeks of daily pelvic muscle exercise increases sexual self-efficacy for women. 


    #4 - Engaging your brain may also help. Fantasizing, reading romance novels, or enjoying an erotic movie can arouse the brain, which is the body’s largest sexual organ. 


    Can orgasms make you do crazy things?

    Case studies have found orgasms can bring forth some interesting involuntary behaviors during climax, including laughter, crying, sneezing, and panic attacks. 


    Perhaps the most common thing orgasms do is to release hormones that make us crave more orgasms.


    Research has also found that not all orgasms are expected. Nonsexual orgasms have been found to be triggered by yoga and exercise, childbirth and breastfeeding, getting a tattoo, listening to certain types of music or hearing a particular sound. This study also found that it’s possible for some people to bring themselves to orgasm with their thoughts alone. 


    Researchers have also found some women experience altered states of consciousness during orgasm described as Expanded Sexual Response (ESR). Some study participants even claimed to have experienced the sensation of flying during climax. 


    Orgasmolepsy is the term for a feeling of weakness that occurs during an orgasm. Normally, orgasmolepsy affects people with narcolepsy, but has been found to be experienced by 22% of people with sleep disorders. 


    Seemingly closely related to orgasmolepsy, some women have reported fainting during orgasm. This may explain why the French refer to orgasm as 'le petit mort', which translates to ‘the little death’.


    Explore, explore, explore… 

    No matter what personal pleasure technique works for you, I encourage you to keep exploring new pleasure options, techniques and toys, and make orgasms a part of your overall health routine. 


    Do orgasms fascinate you? Have you ever experienced a nonsexual orgasm? Please send me your questions and comments. I’m always here to help you.

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    Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.