We can all agree that orgasms are great. Still, I need to put out a disclaimer: We’ve all been sold this bill of goods that good sex – solo or partnered – means having a so-good-your-neighbors-hate-you orgasm.
Sex – whatever it looks like for you – can be a mind-blowingly awesome release of energy. But it doesn’t always have to involve an orgasm to be good. And if you can’t have or don’t want orgasms, that’s OK too. You do whatever feels good to you.
That said, orgasms are a fascinating physical phenomenon. Here are 30 facts you may – or may not – know about them.
Most People Remember Their First Orgasm
According to survey conducted by LELO for National Orgasm Day in April, 59% of the 5,000 respondents fondly remembered their very first O - and even look back and daydream about it.
Most Orgasms Involve the Entire Brain
“Scientists hypothesize that whole-brain blood flow likely co-evolved with other biological processes (like physical exercise) to help keep the brain healthy while also encouraging us to propagate the species,” says Kayt Sukel, author of "This Is Your Brain on Sex."
“I might also add that we think of male and female orgasms as very different, but outside the brain parts used to run the genitals, scientists see a pretty consistent pattern of brain activation.”
Orgasms and Ejaculation Are Independent
“You can have an orgasm without ejaculation (which is what most women do), and you can ejaculate without having an orgasm,” says Xanet Pailet, a sex and intimacy educator, coach and the author of "Living an Orgasmic Life."
“These are two different physiological activities. This is why men can learn to have non-ejaculatory orgasms and men can also ejaculate without getting an erection.”
Orgasms Can Help You Live Longer and Healthier
“Every time a person reaches orgasm, the body releases DHEA,” says Sunny Rodgers, ACS, clinical sexologist and multi-certified sexual health educator. “DHEA is a hormone known to boost the immune system, improve cognition, keep skin healthy and help people look younger, longer. Orgasms also increase estrogen, which is essential for healthy, smooth skin.”
Self-Pleasure Is the Key to Female Orgasm
“When women pleasure themselves, 99% stimulate themselves externally, either alone or coupled with penetration,” says Laurie Mintz, sex therapist, professor at the University of Florida and author of "Becoming Cliterate."
“Many women know how to orgasm when alone, but then when they're with men, they assume that they should orgasm the same way men do – through intercourse. The key for women to become orgasmic with [male] partners is to get the same stimulation as they do when they're alone," Mintz said.
Read: 6 Cool Things Vibrators Can Do to Help You Orgasm
The Clitoris Is Key
If you have a clitoris, chances are it'll need stimulation to get you to orgasm. “Depending on how the question is asked, anywhere from 75% to 85% say they can't orgasm from intercourse alone,” Mintz said. However, when she asks her students (totaling thousands over many years), a question devoid of the word "intercourse" and simply asks, "What is your most reliable route to orgasm?" only 4% say intercourse alone.
Condoms Offer More Than Protection
According to the annual 2019 SKYN Condoms Sex Survey, 37% of condom users report reaching orgasm more than once during sex compared to 30% of non-condom users. So no excuses about not rubbering-up to protect yourselves from STIs and unwanted pregnancy, OK?
Read: 4 Reasons Why Condoms Have Gotten a Bad Rap (and Why They Deserve Better)
Orgasms Aren't All Earth-Shattering
The way people have and feel orgasm varies widely. “Some vulva-owning people have series of shorter, smaller orgasms, leading them to believe they are somehow defective because they don’t have that ‘big O’,” says Gigi Engle, a feminist writer, certified sex coach, and clinical sexologist and educator. “These ‘mini orgasms’ are actually totally normal and there is nothing wrong you if you don’t have groundbreaking, sheet tearing orgasms. Every body is different.”
The Entire Body Can Be Orgasmic
“A woman can experience orgasms from stimulation of their nipples, ears, necks, belly and anus – without any clitoral stimulation,” Pailet said. “This is because an orgasm is a release of sexual energy that has built up in the body as a result of the stimulation of nerve endings (and we have thousands of nerve endings in our body).”
In other words, if a woman is sufficiently aroused, her orgasmic potential is unlimited. “In fact, there are numerous reports of paraplegics who have lost genital sensation, but experience orgasm in other parts of their body, including a thumb.”
Mindfulness May Help
“The most recent brain research indicates that right before orgasm, part of your conscious brain turns off, resembling a meditative-like state,” Mintz said. “This is why learning mindfulness (full absorption in the moment) in daily life and then applying it to sex can help you become orgasmic.”
Multiple Orgasms Are a Thing
The most orgasms recorded in one hour was 134, shares Dr. Jill McDevitt, CalExotics’ resident sexologist. McDevitt is working to beat that record. “My record is over 80 in two hours. Getting there!” she says.
The Typical Threshold of Arousal Between One Orgasm and Another is 30-40 Seconds
“This is the period where you are likely to be able to reach a second orgasm with further stimulation,” says Mackenzie Riel, a sex and relationship expert at TooTimid.com.“Women can also experience the opposite, which is known in technical terms as the ‘refractory period.’ This is a period after an orgasm where the genitals are so hypersensitive from stimulation that it's almost painful or impossible to orgasm again until it passes.”
The Orgasm Gap Is Real
“Women who have sex with men have the least amount of orgasm than any gender sex configuration (M/M, M/F, F/M, F/F),” McDevitt said. “It's a major problem stemming from a bunch of different cultural systemic issues, including the hierarchy of penis-in-vagina sex as the best, poor training around sexual communication, and the socialization of women to be submissive and men dominant.”
Capricorns Are the Zodiac Sign Most Likely to Orgasm More Than Once or Not At All
The annual 2019 SKYN Condoms Sex Survey states that 38% of Capricorns report they usually have multiple orgasms during sex, while 14% have never reached orgasm.
Children Can Orgasm Before Hitting Puberty
This is unpublished, qualitative data, but McDevitt has spent 12 years asking more than 10,000 women in her Female Orgasm 101 class the same question: When did you have your first orgasm? Approximately one-third of respondents say they were pre-pubescent.
Just Because You Have a Penis, Doesn't Mean You Need It to Orgasm
“Male-bodied people can have orgasms by stimulating the prostate, balls or perineum – either together, alone, or some combination of the three,” Engle said. “Male orgasm is culturally centered around the penis, which does a lot of harm to how we define male sexuality, which is varied and has huge pleasure potential outside of simply ‘performing.’”