Healthy Living

What Exactly Is an Orgasm?

An orgasm is the peak of sexual excitement in both men and women.

Orgasms: Facts, types, causes, and misconceptions

An orgasm is the peak of sexual excitement in both men and women. It is often stimulated by genital pleasure and followed by an ejaculation in men. Sometimes, orgasm is called climaxing or coming. The heart beats faster and breathing gets heavier and quicker when you have an orgasm.

In women, orgasms are accompanied by genital muscle contractions. If women are continuously stimulated, they may be able to have more than one orgasm shortly after the first.

Women also have glands called the Skene’s glands, which are located around the urethral opening. The clitoris is part of the tissue that surrounds these glands. For this reason, these glands may be involved during sexual activities, particularly in lubrication and sexual stimulation. When women have an orgasm or intense sexual excitement, some may ejaculate clear fluid from these glands.

When men are sexually stimulated, their pelvic muscles contract and cause the release of semen from their penis at sexual climax or orgasm (ejaculation). After ejaculation, they cannot have another orgasm for a while. 

The Sexual Response Cycle

The human body has a sexual response cycle that occurs in four different stages. These stages are:

  • Excitement: This is the arousal stage or being turned on. In this stage, women’s nipples become erect, breast and vaginal walls begin to swell, the skin may become flushed, vaginal lubrication starts and men’s testicles begin to swell and secrete lubrication. 
  • Plateau: This stage is characterized by increased muscle tension along with repetitive and pleasurable motion. 
  • Orgasm: This is the burst of accumulated sexual pleasure. In this stage, a person’s heart rate and blood pressure are at its peak along with involuntary muscle contractions and release of sexual tension. In women, there will be rhythmic contractions in the vaginal muscles and uterus, while men have these contractions in the base of their penis and eject semen. 
  • Resolution: This stage is the refractory or recovery period after an orgasm. In this stage, the brain releases bonding chemicals and enables the body to return to its normal level of functioning, in which the penis and testicles go back to their normal size. The recovery phase often lasts for a few minutes up to a few hours. 

Although these stages are mostly accurate, orgasms still vary among men and women because bodies are different. In addition, not all sexual activities end with explosive resolution and not all orgasms indicate great sexual satisfaction. 

Types of Orgasm

According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, there are two types of orgasms in females:

  • Clitoral Orgasm: In young and immature females
  • Vaginal Orgasm: In females with healthy sexual responses

On the other hand, American sex educator named Betty Dodson says that there are at least nine forms of orgasms, which include:

  • Multiple Orgasms: This is a series of orgasms that may be experienced by women during sexual intercourse. They can occur within 1-2 minutes after the initial climax.
  • Combination or Blended orgasms: These are different orgasmic experiences combined together.
  • Tension Orgasm: This is a common form of orgasm caused by direct stimulation. It usually occurs when the body’s muscles are tense.
  • Pressure Orgasm: This type of orgasm is more common in children and occurs due to an indirect stimulation of applied pressure.
  • Relaxation Orgasm: This form of orgasm comes from deep relaxation during sexual activities.  

Other forms of orgasms have also been described and they include:

  • G-Spot Orgasm: This type of orgasm is experienced due to a specific stimulation of an erotic region during penetrative sexual intercourse.
  • Fantasy Orgasm: This type of orgasm is mainly achieved due to mental stimulation.

Causes

Orgasms usually occur following a continuous erogenous zone stimulation in both males and females. These zones include the genitals, nipples, anus, and perineum.

In physiology, there are two fundamental responses when it comes to continual stimulation: vasocongestion and myotonia.

  • Vasocongestion: This means swelling of body tissues due to an increased flow of blood. It causes the erection of penis in males and erection of clitoris in females.
  • Myotonia: This is the involuntary or voluntary contraction of muscles in the body.

Orgasmic Disorders

Disorders that are associated with orgasms in males and females often lead to frustration, distress, and feelings of shame.

Orgasmic disorders in females usually involve an absence or delayed orgasm after adequate sexual stimulation. Anorgasmia is the absence of orgasms or inability to achieve an orgasm. This disorder can occur in women due to gynecological problems and psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety, including the use of certain medications. Anorgasmia can generally occur but can also be limited to specific situations.

When it comes to male orgasmic disorders, there is an absence or recurrent and persistent delay of orgasms despite ample sexual stimulation. Another term used for male orgasmic disorder is inhibited male orgasm. The disorder may occur after periods of regular sexual functioning and can become a lifelong condition.

It can also occur due to physical conditions, such as anxiety and other psychological causes, the use of certain medications, particularly antidepressants, and heart disease. Male orgasmic disorders can generally occur but can also be limited to specific situations. 

Premature Ejaculation

Male orgasms are closely associated with ejaculation. One of the most common sexual complaints in men is premature ejaculation, in which men ejaculate or achieve an orgasm the moment of penetration or within a minute of penetration.

A combination of psychological and biological factors plays a role in premature ejaculation. These factors include anxiety and guilt, including nerve damage and changes in hormone levels. 

According to studies, sexual dysfunction, which includes orgasmic disorders, affects sexually active people of all ages. However, it is more commonly observed in older adults who are more than 40 years old. If you have difficulties that are related to sexual dysfunction, know that you are not alone and that there are suitable treatment options available for your condition. 

Understanding the changes in your body throughout the sexual response cycle can help strengthen your connection with your partner and improve both of your sexual experiences. 

References

Sexual Response Cycle. Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9119-sexual-response-cycle

Sexual Dysfunction & Disorders. Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9121-sexual-dysfunction

Orgasmic dysfunction in women: MedlinePlus Medical EncyclopediaMedlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001953.htm

Laumann EO, et al. Int J Impot Res. (2005). Sexual problems among women and men aged 40-80 y: prevalence and correlates identified in the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors

Key Takeaways

  • An orgasm is the peak of sexual excitement in both men and women.
  • An orgasm is usually stimulated by genital pleasure and followed by an ejaculation in men.
  • The heart beats faster and breathing gets heavier and quicker when you have an orgasm.