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.
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?
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.’”
Sex Toys Make Orgasm Easier
You probably didn't need a study to tell you this, but LELO's orgasm survey revealed that 60% of people found it easier to orgasm with a sex toy. It's no wonder - sex toys are purpose-built for pleasure! Whether you're into prostate play, clitoral stimulation, or are looking for something to add a little oomph to penis-in-vagina sex, there's probably a sex toy for you.
Blondes Might Not Have More Fun
Blondes are reaching orgasm the least frequently of all hair colors with 13% stating they have never reached orgasm during sex, according to the annual 2019 SKYN Condoms Sex Survey.
Nocturnal Orgasms Are a Thing
This is the female equivalent, and more technical term, for a wet dream. “This typically occurs when you're having a sexy dream or having intercourse within a dream and you have an orgasm,” Riel said. “What is interesting is that some of them are brought on by your body's reaction to pleasing visual stimuli and come on automatically, whereas some people have reported masturbating in their sleep without even knowing it.”
There Are Endless Ways to Orgasm
“My partner can have an orgasm without ejaculating and has had innumerable orgasms with all of his clothes on. So have I,” says Ashley Manta, CannaSexual and lube evangelist for Sliquid. “It can be accomplished that way, certainly, but it’s limiting to think that there are only a finite number of ways to get to orgasm. There are endless ways if you’re willing to explore and think outside the box.”
Clitourethrovaginal Is a Real Word
“While many feel clitoral stimulation is at the heart of orgasms, some studies are now linking orgasms to anatomical interactions between the clitoris, urethra and anterior vaginal wall, hence clitourethrovaginal,” Rodgers said. “This theory states that it’s the synergy between all the areas that allows for an orgasm to happen.”
People Dig Doggy-Style
When it comes to the best positions for orgasm, LELO's orgasm survey revealed that nearly one-third of people preferred doggy-style. It's no wonder! This position is a sexy set-up for both partners, and is great for hitting the G-spot.
Orgasms Can Be Energetic
You can experience energy orgasms using a Tantric practice of breath, sound and movement. “Fast, deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, which is part of the brain stem and connects to all of our organs, including our skin, which is the largest organ in the human body,” explains Pailet. “This practice builds up energy through the central channel, which runs perpendicular to the spine and can cause the body to release this energy through a series of body movements, called Kryas, which often look like shaking, or jerking movements.”
You Can Think Your Way to Orgasm
“The brain is the most powerful sex organ, and science has proved that both men and women can orgasm by ‘thinking’ themselves off,'” says Antonia Hall, relationship expert, sexpert and the author of "The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life."
“While relaxed, get in touch with the sexual energy at the base of your spine, encouraging it to move with some deep breaths and Kegels. It can also help to rock your pelvis while thinking about the potent power of your own orgasms.”
Female Orgasm Can Help With Fertility
“When a woman has an orgasm, especially a deep orgasm during penetration, her entire uterus starts contracting,” explains Pailet. If sperm has been deposited close to the cervix, these contractions will help move the sperm up into the uterus. “Studies have shown that sperm retention in the uterus is significantly greater if the woman has an orgasm up to 45 minutes after ejaculation. Also, research has shown that men produce more semen when they are highly aroused after giving their partner an orgasm.”
Orgasms Are Important for Clitoral Health
A clitoris can fuse its hood closed, withdraw up into the body or become less sensitive when it hasn’t been used for an extended period. The medical term for this is clitoral atrophy, or clitoral hood fusion. If not properly stimulated to keep blood flowing, clitoral function can be impacted. Having orgasms can naturally keep a clitoris healthy and functioning properly.
Birth Can Stimulate Orgasm
Ever heard of orgasmic birth? You may be skeptical, but it's real. “Orgasms are pain relievers, and orgasms can happen organically during labor (it's uncommon but does happen),” McDevitt said. “Some people also pleasure themselves, stroke their clitorises, nipples and so on to experience orgasm during labor for pain management.”
Orgasms Can Deepen the Sexual Connection With a Partner
“Having an orgasm with a specific partner can bring on a certain primal effect that naturally draws you to your partner,” says Riel. “Sex is one thing, but being able to reach orgasm on account of your partner's actions is a completely different feeling. Along with this, it will be more likely for you to have an orgasm again with a partner if they're able to give you one in the first place.”
Orgasms Can Help Treat a Hangover
“When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins that make you really happy,” says Riel. “This rush of pleasure is sometimes enough to help ease headaches or stomach cramps from overdoing it the night before. And ... it's a great stress reliever.”
Lots of People Fake for Their Partners' Sake
According to LELO's Orgasm Survey, almost 53% of people admitted to faking it, while 47% said they never did it. Of those who were fakers, 39% said they did it to make their partner feel good, while 25% said they did it to get the sex over with.
The Clitoris Was a Mystery for a Long Time
“Because medical practitioners didn’t know WHAT the clitoris did, it wasn’t included in the 1948 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, a classic medical textbook,” says Rodgers. “The clitoris was added back into Gray’s Anatomy in the 28th Edition, in 1966.”