Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Orgasms

(But were afraid to Google)

by
An illustration of a party popper emoji with confetti against a pink background
(Illustration: Joel Louzado)

Orgasms. Whether you’re a frequent flier or they’re hard to come by (sorry, that will be my only cum pun, I promise), there are many paths that lead to orgasm for women… but they all depend on one thing: Your clitoris. If you haven’t spent much time thinking about yours, no worries. When you get a chance, investigate. And if you’re intimately acquainted, then *you know*.

So, why is the clitoris so important?

How the female orgasm works

The vagina is a complex part of the body, and so is the clitoris. Did you know it’s not just external but internal? (I didn’t.) It’s not just “the glans (the part that is visible),” says Dr. Jen Gunter, OB-GYN, Goop adversary and author of the upcoming book, The Vagina Bible. “The entire clitoris is a much larger structure that is intimate with the urethra and close to the vaginal walls.” When your body is sexually stimulated, your muscles clench up, your skin may feel flushed and your breathing and heart rate increase. This builds to a climax that erupts—a.k.a. the orgasm—as the muscles of your vagina, clitoris and anus contract and spasm. And don’t forget your brain! During orgasm, women get a flood of dopamine (a pleasure neurotransmitter tied to the “reward centre” of our brain) as well as oxytocin (the so-called “love hormone” that promotes closeness and intimacy). The release and relaxation you feel after an orgasm is as much chemical as it is physical.

Are there different types of orgasms?

No, according to Gunter. “There are not different types of female orgasm, there are different ways to achieve orgasm,” she says. And the clitoris is key. “Studies suggest that clitoral stimulation is the required step… so whether you achieve clitoral stimulation via masturbation, vaginal penetration or anal sex, it is all resulting in some kind of clitoral stimulation either directly or indirectly.”

What about the G-spot?

Ah, the G-spot. More mysterious than the clitoris and much harder to find, historically. But what is it, exactly? And where, again? “The G-spot is a misnomer. [It] is not a specific gland or discrete structure, it is part of the clitoris that we can’t see [and] is very intimate with the urethra,” Gunter says. “For many women, this can be stimulated vaginally by pressing upwards. But depending on engorgement and exact positioning of the tissue (remember, we are all built different), pressure or stimulation will be very good for some women and less stimulating for others.”

What can hinder orgasms?

While there are some common denominators that can make it harder for a woman to orgasm—“Medications can impact orgasm; antidepressants and opioids are common ones. Depression can also have an impact on sexual functioning,” Gunter explains—it’s a really personal cocktail, that depends on personality, chemistry and physical make-up. The one thing to remember is, it’s so much more than penis + vagina = orgasm. “Belief that orgasm has to come from penile penetration or inadequate foreplay are big reasons for lack of orgasm for many heterosexual women,” says Gunter.“Many women also need a vibrator to orgasm, and that is just fine.” Remember, the journey is just as important as the final destination. And there’s no “right” way to get there!

How can you orgasm easier?

Figure out what you like—explore your body through masturbation, vibrators, pornography and sex toys. (It’s your orgasm, so you should know how to get there on your own.) And when you’re with a partner, be vocal. They should want to know what you like and you should feel empowered to tell them. “Some women may be able to achieve enough clitoral stimulation/engorgement through vaginal penetration or anal play to achieve orgasm and others may not. It doesn’t matter how you achieved the orgasm, what matters is, Did you have an orgasm that worked for you, and was the experience pleasurable?” Embroider that on a cute little cross-stitch, please!

So, what’s the one thing people should understand about orgasms?

As Gunter says, “Sex should be fun. The goal is pleasure. It is like a party. Doesn’t matter if you took a limo, bus or walked to the party. Did you have fun?”

Related:

What Does a “Normal” Vagina Look Like, Anyway?
These Are the Best Sex Toys on the Market in 2019
How *Not* to Slide Into Someone’s DMs

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