The definition of an orgasm is rather nebulous. In less sexy terms, it’s stages of increased heart rate, genital muscle contractions, and increased fluid. Medically, it’s described as “rhythmic stimulation of body parts with high concentration of sensory receptors.”
But we think the best way to describe it is a release of tension, like letting out a really satisfying sigh.
The size and intensity of one orgasm might be completely different from the next, depending how you happen to be feeling that day and what part(s) of your body is being stimulated.
After all, we can’t really expect a vaginal orgasm to look or feel the same as a nipple one, right?
Get comfy as we dive into the facts on how orgasms feel and happen, because there’s so much to explore outside of what we were(n’t) taught in school or on network TV.
This is all about stimulating the glans clitoris, which visibly sits as a pea-size bundle of nerves at the tippy top of the vulva.
Think of the clitoral orgasm as that friend you can call at 3 a.m. when you lose your house key. That’s because the clitoris literally exists to give pleasure.
In a 2017 study of 1,055 women, 36.6 percent reported that they needed clitoral stimulation to come. And another 36 percent said it significantly enhanced their pleasure.
That’s a whopping 72.6 percent of participants who basically agree: Clits are the tits.
There’s a lot more than what’s under the hood
The clitoris is actually much more expansive than the famous glans. It’s shaped like a four-pronged wishbone, with part of it extending internally along the vulva, from the glands to the bulb (and potentially even deeper, depending on the person).
Because of this reach, it’s likely responsible for a whole lot of the sexual pleasure we experience.
It feels like… While the clitoral orgasm is often described as “localized” or felt on the outer layer of the skin, the end result is often much more holistic. Honestly, clitoral orgasms can range from little spasms to full-on body quakes.
How to get one
- Start by using two fingers to gently brush your inner lips. This can be a top-to-bottom motion or in small circles around the clit.
- Try pressing and gently pulling up on the skin right above your pubic area with your other hand. This has the effect of lightly flattening all the skin on the vulva, which can increase sensitivity.
- Make sure to play around with speed and pressure to find your sweet spot. This is one of those things where one-size-fits-all instructions simply won’t cut it.
Also, vibrators! They’re a real thing and many people swear by them.
The legend of the G-spot started with German doctor Ernst Gräfenberg before it was made popular by sex researcher Beverly Whipple in 1981. It’s said to be located on the front wall of the vagina. The G-spot orgasm is notoriously elusive and has to be achieved through penetration.
Two recent large studies seem to question the very existence of the G-spot. One study found that only 18 percent of women could orgasm from vaginal penetration alone, and another couldn’t pin down its definitive location.
That being said, some people pursue G-spot action as their modus operandi.
It feels like… G-spot orgasms are often described as deep, full-body experiences. Sensations may actually just be coming from in the house (aka the other side of your internal clitoral nerve network). But whatever you call it, word of mouth says looking for your G-spot might be more than worth it.
How to get one
1. Try inserting two fingers and doing the “come hither” motion. This can be a little awkward for solo play, so using a dildo or an insertable toy might be preferable.
2. If your partner is using a flesh or toy penis to find the spot, both vagina-on-top and missionary positions are known G-spot locators.
Pro tip: Use plenty of lube and don’t be afraid to give the clit some love at the same time!
What’s up with squirting?
Some people squirt fluid from their Bartholin’s glands (two pea-size glands found to the left and right of the opening of the vagina, which is connected to the G-spot) when they’re touched in the right way, often through internal stimulation.
This can anything from a dramatic, fountain-like display to a more subtle release of liquid. As for what the liquid is made of, recent findings show it’s a cocktail of watered-down urine with a dash of female ejaculate.
Plenty of people with vaginas never squirt. But if you’re curious, give it a shot!
The cervix is probably most famous for passing babies into the world, but it’s also getting a lot of buzz as a pleasure zone these days. If you’re already a fan of deep penetrative sex, the cervical orgasm could be up your alley, so to speak.
It feels like… A Vice writer describes it as “It was like I’d discovered a new door in a house I’d lived in for a long, long time. It felt like some part of my vaginal canal expanded, unfurling to its full potential.”
How to get one
The cervix is the Mariana Trench of your vagina. Stimulating it takes some strategy. One surefire way is to invest in a dildo. Most dildos are larger than the average penis, so they can reach more easily. But you can also get there with penetrative sex.
Doggy style is generally a good position for depth. If you’re up for some exercise, have your partner lie on their back or secure a dildo with a suction in the right position and squat straight down.
Should it hurt?
Maybe a little, but if you’re yelping or feeling any sort of sharp pain, ease up. It’s more intense than other sexual sensations, but pain shouldn’t be the dominant experience.
Yes, nipple orgasms are a thing! Nipples contain hundreds of nerve endings and, for some people, having them touched is a serious turn-on.
It feels like… Well, intense, for one thing. We’re heard the word “fireworks” used more than once to describe nipple orgasms. Even though stimulation happens on the nipple, you may feel sensation all over your body.
How to get one
- Next time you’re masturbating, start by rubbing and lightly squeezing your nipples. Be patient and allow yourself to surrender to the sensation.
- If you’re with a partner, suggest they use their mouth. You’d be surprised how much this can add to your pleasure!
Anal orgasms are more achievable than you might think. If you’re skeptical, hear us out, because this taboo is also what makes an orgasm that much more intense and exciting.
There are really two main types of anal orgasms, those that include prostate stimulation and those that don’t. Side note: Only people who have a penis or had one at birth have a prostate. Prostate orgasms often end in ejaculation but not always.
It feels like… a surprising combination of familiarity and brand-new delight. The anus is full of nerve endings, so pressing on it can feel great the way stimulating other erogenous zones feels great: hard to explain but you know you want more!
As for the prostate, once it’s stimulated, it becomes clear that a whole new deep pleasure zone has been activated. It’s often described as explosive.
How to get one
The prostate is located a couple of inches inside the rectum, so you’ll stimulate it using penetration. It may take some poking around to find what you’re looking for!
The non-prostate anal orgasm can be got through teasing and touching the outer skin of the butthole. Try layering it with other types of stimulation to enhance the whole experience.
Rules for buttplay
- Use lube.
- Go slow.
- Never insert anything without a flared base, as the anal sphincter has a suction-like pull, which may cause items to get stuck.
A penile orgasm can be either ejaculatory or non-ejaculatory. That’s right, our old friend semen doesn’t have to show up to the party for it to be a memorable night. That’s because, though they often come as a pair, ejaculation and orgasm are actually independent events.
Even though literally every sitcom ever made would have you believe sex is done when and only when the penis ejaculates (followed by the person immediately falling asleep, to the dismay of their partner), that’s not what happens in real life.
Sex doesn’t have to end after a person ejaculates and, on the flip side, people can orgasm without ejaculating.
It feels like… satisfying a hunger in your loins. The feeling can range from one large explosion to a drawn-out series of fireworks, popping and crackling throughout your body.
How to get one
If you’re playing with a partner, consult this handy guide! It’s all about finding the best sex position for maximizing what your mama gave you. Yes, we’re talking about penis shape.
And keep in mind these general tips for pleasuring a penis:
- Don’t worry about how “hard” or “soft” it is. This isn’t actually a measure of pleasure.
- Use lube. This way, you’ll be able to slide your hand(s) over the penis without causing any roughness or pain.
- Be mindful of the firmness of your grip. Hold it like you mean it, but avoid using your strength to squeeze.
- Lastly, you’ll want to play around with the speed and pressure till you find that sweet spot.
- If you’re with a partner, don’t be afraid to ask them how it feels!
“Blended orgasm” is a fancy term for something you may already know a lot about. It refers to the delightful phenomenon of having two types of orgasms — such as clitoral and vaginal — at the same time.
It feels like… power! The blended orgasm is really a simple math equation: The power of one orgasm plus the power of a second orgasm equals the strength of two orgasms. Trust us when we say that the blended orgasm is thigh-quivering territory.
How to get one
Take the road most traveled and go with this common combo: Stimulate your clitoris and vagina at the same time, which can be done all sorts of ways.
If you’re with a partner, try having them use their mouth externally while they insert either their fingers or a toy. If you’re solo, try using the “come hither” motion with your fingers while using a vibrator on your clitoris.
All the rest
One of the things we love about sexual pleasure is just how individualized it is. What works for one may be inconceivable to another, because our bodies, nerves, and minds process pleasure in our own unique ways.
With that in mind, we should mention that the human body has lots of erogenous zones not mentioned above. And yes, some people can orgasm from having these areas touched.
Orgasms are often a part of sex, but they are by no means the holy grail. We’d all be better off letting go of that pesky orgasm-as-goal mentality. (Easier said than done, we know!)
Of course, practically speaking, there are times when you might want to know if your partner as reached their peak. (It’s not always obvious, folks!) If you want to ask your partner if they’ve come, try phrasing it in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they need to come.
The orgasm gap
Sexual pleasure is yet another way men and women experience life differently. A 2009 study found that 91 percent of men orgasmed the last time they had sex, compared to just 64 percent of women.
Because the truth is, not everyone comes. And that’s totally OK.
You don’t have to experience regular orgasms, or any orgasms, to have a healthy, fulfilling sex life. Sometimes it requires a bit of experimenting or exploring things you didn’t think you would enjoy (yep, predictability can eventually become an orgasm killer).
Our final word on the subject is simple: Explore, explore, explore! Our bodies don’t come with instruction manuals, so it’s up to us to figure out how we like to be touched.
Ginger Wojcik is an assistant editor at Greatist. Follow more of her work on Medium or on Twitter.