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rightkindoforgasm_big.jpgOh orgasms, who doesn't love them?  Fast and sudden, slow and languid, shocking and violent.  Any orgasm is a good orgasm, right?  Perhaps not...

I hear so many worried questions about orgasms.  Many people are concerned that their orgasm is the wrong kind of orgasm.  They think it might be too short or they can't have as many orgasms as they want.  I hear orgasms described in all kinds of ways; some are satisfying, some are less satisfying.  But almost everyone is curious about the kinds of orgasms they could be having, or whether their orgasm is satisfying to their partner.  Very rarely do I meet someone who confidently and happily describes their orgasm process.

For whatever reason, female orgasms tend to get a lot of attention.  Women's magazines find new ways each month to rephrase the same story about how much better your orgasms could be. I hear women say that they have had fifteen orgasms in an hour.  I hear women describe peaks of pleasure and release and then go on to tell me that they never orgasm.  Women are always wondering what part of their body should be orgasming.  Are clitoral orgasms really the best?  Maybe a g-spot orgasm would be better.  Should I be trying for a cervical orgasm?  That sounds like the most rare and it is the farthest inside the body, so I bet the sensation is amazing!  Then someone says the words, "whole body orgasm" and we all feel inadequate.

What about men's orgasms?  Maybe it is because I am not a man myself, but I don't hear as much talk about these.  The assumption is that men get one orgasm that happens pretty much the same way every time and that they should be grateful for it.  But then men tell me, often in secretive hushed tones-about orgasm without ejaculation, ejaculation without orgasm, orgasm and retaining erection without that refractory period in-between.  Honestly, I have met some men that seem mystified by their non-standard orgasms and have found very little in the way of explanation for what their bodies are doing.  They worry that they might be the only one in the world that experiences orgasms in the way that they do.

Orgasms are not always the same even for the people who's orgasms follow the "standard" course.  Anyone who has had the same sex partner for an extended period of time can attest to the fact that orgasms received under similar circumstances can feel very different each time.

So what is an orgasm really?

It turns out that there are a variety of opinions on this question.  Even the medical community defines orgasm differently in different contexts.  Most definitions include the involuntary contracting of the muscles of the pelvic floor (the muscles all across your genital region, stretching from the front of the penis/vulva area to the anus).  After this the details get fuzzy.  Some definitions include ejaculation for male orgasm and some do not.  One I found even called orgasm "the culmination of coitus".  All those orgasms you thought you were having from masturbation, oral sex, hand jobs, or that last episode of True Blood must not have been "real" orgasms after all.

Orgasms are not totally physiological.  There are mental and emotional components to orgasms.  Depending on how new age-y you are, your personal definition may include an energetic or spiritual dimension to orgasms.  Perhaps a medical definition is too narrow for our purposes.  So what have other brilliant minds said about orgasms?

Freud certainly had a lot to say on the subject of women's orgasms.  According to the father of modern psychology it was possible for women to have two kinds of orgasms-clitoral and vaginal.  Clitoral orgasms were supposedly achieved first and were the "less mature" of the two orgasms.  Women who were psychologically healthy were supposed to evolve into having vaginal orgasms in response to their husband's thrusting; no clitoral stimulation required.  Oh Sigmund, you had so many brilliant thoughts but I have to say I think this one was about your own issues.  You might want to work through whatever phallic-thrusting-mother's-too-fridgid-to-orgasm anxiety you are having.

Freud's theories are directly contradicted by several studies that benefit from real science.  The vast majority of women report needing clitoral stimulation in order to have an orgasm.  In fact, the majority is so high that many people question whether the Freudian "vaginal orgasm" would even be possible.  See? There we go again.  We love to decide there are only one or two set ways to cum and allow no deviations.

Well, who do we turn to now?  Someone has to have the answer for us, right?  Annie Sprinkle certainly has some theories on the topic and she seems very qualified due to her experience in the field.  "From the age of eighteen to twenty-eight," she tells us, "I had approximately 3,500 sex partners, and experienced sex in a huge variety of ways."  Beat that resume Freud!  In her article, "Seven Types of Female Orgasm", Ms. Sprinkle talks about the many varieties of orgasms she and her friends have experienced.  Some of these include, dream-gasms, microgasms, breath and energy orgasms, and megagasms.  She encourages people to stop limiting themselves as to what they think orgasms should feel like and explore the many possibilities of what our hearts, bodies, and minds can do.

Have you been noticing a lack of discussion about male orgasms again?  I have.  In the process of writing this I began looking for information on different types of male orgasm.   A quick google search turned up a poorly written parody article, psychological diagnoses for sexual problems, and a well written ad for male "erection enhancement" supplements.  This is not to say that there is no good information out there.  Fairly recently I have seen more books written on the concept of male multiple orgasms and male orgasms that do not fit the concept of the "traditional" male arousal pattern.  Certainly with prostate stimulators being all the rage in the sex toy world we see evidence that male pleasure and orgasm is receiving some much deserved attention.

Ok, so there are lots of kinds of orgasms.  But which is going to be the best?

So here comes the part where as a sex educator I say, "It really doesn't matter what kind of orgasms you are having or even if you are orgasming at all.  What matters is that you are satisfied with the sex you are having with your partner."  Cue the after school special music and off we all go, enlightened and happy with a thick coating of sap.  But actually, that is not really the story I want to give you.

Truly, sexual satisfaction and intimacy with partners is not all about the orgasm.  Striving for some kind of mythical orgasm you think you should be having can often bring frustration as you try to fix something that is not broken.  However, this "be happy with what you have" sentiment simplifies what is a very complex issue.  Orgasms are fluid.  Orgasms change over our lifetimes as our bodies and hormone balances change.  Orgasms change with different partners and circumstances.  Sometimes we might miss orgasms we used to have.  Sometimes we might sense that window of possibility to push our bodies into new orgasmic territory.

We need to take into account our natural tendencies as curious creatures that want to push our boundaries-to find higher, better peaks of experience.  The fantasy of having a certain kind of orgasm can be very hot and might be worth striving to experience.  Who am I to say that you shouldn't be a sexual athlete and boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before?

The caveat to all of this is to realize that bodies are unpredictable.  They will not be little orgasm machines mass producing climaxes to your exact specifications.  So strive for new heights, but with the understanding that even the best climbers must have the right weather conditions to reach the summit.  You also can't rely on your orgasm to be the work horse of your entire sexual experience.  Intimacy and arousal are dependent on many factors.  You might have an earth shattering orgasm, but still be left with an overall experience that lacked passion, excitement, or closeness.  Maybe this is a personal bias, but for me a great orgasm is not enough to save an overall lackluster experience.

So give your orgasms some thought.  What do you want them to be?  What kinds of curiosities do you have about them?  What significance do they hold in the whole process of a sexual experience?  I guarantee you that your answers will be more enlightening than any technical definition will ever be.

Annie Sprinkle

Write the Author: Laura Rad

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problems achieving vaginal orgasm?
may i have a tip...heh...tip...

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Kidder Kaper

Kidder has been theorizing and writing about human sexuality since 1993, when he began work on his primary goal: "Teaching the world to be unafraid to enjoy sex."


Laura Rad

Laura Rad has been educating herself and others about sexuality for over seven years. You can find Laura every week chatting with the crew of the Sex is Fun Podcast.


Gay Rick

Gay Rick is an HIV Educator and Co-Host on the Sex is Fun podcast. He is also a certified Hepatitis C Educator.



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John Stark

John writes a blog titled We Sleep Together. He is in his twenties, and has been in an open relationship for six and some years.



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Cooper Beckett's life isn't like other people's. When he's not writing or podcasting at Life on the Swingset, he's living it up with his wife Marilyn as evangelical swingers, spreading the good word that "sharing is caring."


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Beth is an English rose, happily married and happily swinging in the UK and abroad. She has a full-time vanilla career which she loves. Beth counts sex and naturism among her many extra-curricular passions in life.


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