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What Does an Orgasm Feel Like and Other FAQs

An orgasm can be described as one of the most powerful sensations your body experiences. In fact, in French, it’s known as le petit mort, or “the little death.” If you're wondering, "What does an orgasm feel like for a woman?" read on.

Most female orgasms are achieved through stimulation of the clitoris, the most sensitive erogenous in the female body and the primary anatomical source of female sexual pleasure. The clitoris consists of many parts. The glans is the visible part that’s located just above the urethral opening at the front junction of the labia minora (inner lips). The glans contains lots of nerves — more than any other area of the body. The clitoris also has internal components — the body and two legs. 

When enough stimulation of the clitoral glans or anterior vaginal wall happens, the nerve endings all fire at once, sending messages to your brain. Several parts of your brain light up during orgasm, including the cerebral cortex and limbic areas of the brain. Orgasm is associated with elevated levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and vasopressin — hormones that make you feel good.

What does an orgasm feel like for women? Sensations of touch and movement during sexual activity contribute to the sensory input to your brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for secreting oxytocin, the "love hormone” that gives feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. The thalamus integrates the input from the different areas of the brain and processes it all together.

When stimulated, either psychologically or physically, or both, the blood vessels in the genitals will dilate, and more blood is delivered to the vagina, vulva, and clitoris. The increased blood flow will cause the vulva to swell and release fluid, lubricating the vagina. The top of the vagina will expand as well.

Heart rate and blood pressure also increase, and the nipples may become erect. The areola may look darker as well. This increased blood flow may cause the face, neck, and chest to appear flushed. 

Orgasm affects other parts of your body, too. If an orgasm occurs during penetrative sexual intercourse, the muscular walls of the vagina squeeze the penis, encouraging the partner to ejaculate. The cervix dilates and opens, which can help sperm move into the uterus and uterine tubes.

While the male orgasm is primarily related to ejaculation, female orgasm is traditionally thought to take many forms. The blending of different sensations and the activation of the pleasure centers of the brain are different for each woman. That’s why the question "What does it feel like to have an orgasm?" may get different answers from different women.

This is the most common type of female orgasm achieved through stimulation of the clitoral glans. A clitoral orgasm can be sharp and intense, usually is short-lasting, and can feel like a bursting sensation for some people.

This type of orgasm involves the elusive G-spot, a sensitive area inside the vagina, about halfway up along the front wall. Not all women experience vaginal orgasm, although it may be possible for all women. Vaginal orgasms typically happen during intercourse and may last longer and feel more like a whole-body climax rather than localized at the clitoris. They’re not as intense as clitoral orgasms, generally.

Some people may experience a vaginal and clitoral orgasm simultaneously, with the intensity of clitoral orgasm accompanying the deeper, more immersive pleasure of a vaginal orgasm. 

This type of orgasm happens during exercise and is akin to a “runner’s high.” It may occur with stimulation of your clitoris and vaginal opening through your workout clothes, as well as the naturally occurring release of endorphins from working out. It’s described as less intense than orgasms that occur from sex but still a similar sensation.

Sex can be pleasurable for both partners, even if one or both doesn't orgasm. The feelings of closeness and intimacy unique to sexual activity can help bring you closer to your partner and create an emotional bond. Even though for many people, it’s the ultimate goal of sex, you don’t have to have an orgasm to enjoy sexual activity — it just makes the act more pleasurable.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that 60–80 percent of women don't climax during sex, and 10 percent may not experience orgasm at all, either alone or with a partner. The female body is designed to achieve orgasm, so if you don’t orgasm when you feel you should, you may need to practice on your own, touching different parts of your body and trying alternative forms of stimulation so that you can direct your partner toward things that you like. 

What does an orgasm feel like for a girl? In general, orgasms are a sharp, sudden burst of pleasure after a lead-up of building stimulation and pleasurable feelings. The female orgasm has four stages:

  • Excitement — the build-up of erotic tension usually achieved through foreplay
  • Plateau — concentration of pleasurable feelings and an increase in tension
  • Orgasm — the “bursting” feeling and release of the sexual tension, combined with the release of several different hormones
  • Resolution — the “afterglow” and ebbing of sexual feelings, combined with the release of melatonin

In general, orgasm is the ultimate feeling of pleasure, a climax of enjoyable sensations.

While ejaculation is typically for male orgasms, some female orgasms also cause “ejaculation.” Obviously, the female body doesn’t release semen, but a “squirting” orgasm can provide a different, but still pleasurable, culmination of sexual play.

Squirting happens through repeated stimulation of the G-spot area inside the vagina. The Skene glands, located near the urethra opening, produce fluid that is ejaculated from the urethra. Because the fluid doesn't come from the bladder, it isn’t urine, but because it comes from the urethra, it is urine-adjacent.

Some women say squirting feels like the release after holding your urine for a long time and then finally being able to go. For others, it’s a physical sensation that accompanies the hormonal release as part of a vaginal orgasm. Some women may not realize that they're squirting. The female orgasm can cause the vagina to produce more lubrication, so the extra wetness may feel like that.

The intensity of orgasms can vary, and for many women, there’s a strong mental component that goes along with the physical sensations. That being said, there are a few strategies you can employ to make the stimulating feelings more intense and control the sensations in your vagina.

For example, Kegel exercises can strengthen the walls of the vagina and the pelvic floor, which can increase sensation in the vagina during sex. To perform these exercises, think of the muscles you use when you’re holding in your urine. Squeeze internally, then release. Repeat this several times in a row, and try to do it for several minutes each day.

You can also practice a technique called "edging", which involves stimulating yourself (or having a partner stimulate you) close to the point of orgasm, then stopping or slowing down. Repeatedly coming close to the point of orgasm can make the actual orgasm that much stronger.

Most people consider climax to be the best part of a sexual encounter, but sex is still enjoyable without an orgasm. If you wish to orgasm more readily, or if you desire different types of orgasms, enjoy some time alone to see what you like, and have an open and honest conversation with your partner about trying different kinds of stimulation. Good communication can be one of the best ways to improve your sex life.

https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-orgasm

https://www.sexhealthmatters.org/sex-health-blog/what-happens-during-orgasm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087698/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894744/

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-is-an-orgasm/

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