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If you’ve ever left a sex sesh — be it partnered or solo — confused about whether you or your vulva-owning partner reached the O-Zone, this guide is for you.

Below, sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, PhD, with The Sex Toy Collective, and sex educator Sarah Sloane, who’s been coaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 2001, explain what an orgasm for a vulva owner feels like.

Plus, how to go on a solo trip or buy your vulva-owning boo a first-class ticket to the Big O.

Every single orgasm feels different.

But Melancon says, “Generally speaking, an orgasm feels like a buildup of pleasure followed by a sense of release.”

While there’s some discussion about whether a clitoral orgasm is truly different from a G-spot orgasm or an anal orgasm, she says:

“Typically, orgasms achieved through genital stimulation will be experienced primarily genitally, while orgasms achieved through nipple stimulation, breathing techniques, or other erogenous zones will feel more full body.”

Answer this: Did you experience pleasure?

If you answered no, well, hate to break it to you fam, but it likely wasn’t an orgasm. (That said, there are such things as bad or painful orgasms.)

If you answered yes? Well, who the heck cares if it “officially” qualifies as orgasm or not!

You experienced pleasure. And that (not an orgasm) is the goal of any sexual experience.

That said, it makes sense that you want to know what’s going on with your own bod.

Melancon says that if you experienced any of the below, you likely had an orgasm:

  • You felt your pelvic floor muscles contract.
  • You felt a giant release.
  • You feel like you “completed” something.
  • Your body is suddenly extra sensitive.
  • Your muscles spasmed.
  • You feel physically hot.

You bet your cute, climax-seeking self there is!

Masturbate

The recipe that brings every vulva owner to orgasm is different.

To figure out what you need to orgasm, Sloane says, “You need to spend some time getting to know your own body, touching it, listening to it, and exploring it.”

Her tip? Go slow. “Vulva owners take about 45 minutes to get fully aroused, so take your time,” she says.

“Touch yourself over your clothes, then remove them layer by layer,” she says.

“When you move to your genitals, use lube and work from the outside in. Explore your pubic mound, inner and outer labia, explore between your labia, and touch your perineum,” Sloane says.

Then, when you feel compelled to, touch (or touch right around) your clitoral hood or clit.

Fun fact: About 36 percent of vulva owners require clitoral stimulation to climax! And another 36 percent said that, while not needed, clit stimulation improves their O.

“You might even use a mirror so you can see exactly what touches feel so good,” Sloane says.

Seeing will also allow you to replicate it again later or tell a partner how and where to touch you.

Buy a buzzy buddy

“Vibrators work really, really well for a lot of vulva owners,” Sloane says.

Great vibrators for vulva owners you can buy online include:

Prioritize stress-reduction practices

Stress = libido and orgasm killer.

That’s why Melancon recommends revamping your self-care and stress-reduction practices if you’re having a hard time finishing.

In addition to masturbation, you might find it helpful to try:

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of answering this Q, we encourage you to reflect on why you want to help your partner orgasm.

Is it because it’ll make you feel like a better partner? Because it’ll make you feel like you’re “good in bed”?

If the reason you want to make your partner come is more about you than them, it’s time to do some serious reevaluation!

If, however, you want to help your partner reach orgasm because you believe that they’re worthy of pleasure and want to help provide that, the below steps can help.

Watch them masturbate

“One of the best ways to learn how your partner likes to get off is to watch how they get themselves off,” Sloane says.

Maybe you typically touch right on their clit but they come from having their clitoral hood touched. Or maybe they tap their clit instead of rub it, as you’ve been doing. Watch and learn!

You might even masturbate right alongside them. Trust, mutual masturbation is H-O-T.

Communicate with them

“If you want to help your partner orgasm, you need to be communicating with them before, during, and after sex about what feels good,” Sloane says.

In short, ask them what they like — and what they like a little less!

In the moment, try using demos. Sloane says the line “Which sensation do you like best: this [demonstration 1] or this [demonstration 2]?” works great.

Incorporate toys

“Sex toys are just able to move in a way that the human body isn’t,” Sloane says. “And some vulva owners need the intensity or consistency or technique that only a toy can provide.”

That’s why she recommends, if your partner is game, introducing a vibrator.

“For partnered play, finger vibrators and vibrating cock rings are a way to introduce vibration without sacrificing connection,” she says.

In the market to buy one? Check out:

Ask them. It’s that simple.

Don’t try to figure out whether your partner came by puzzling together the sounds or gestures that they did or didn’t make!

As Sloane says, “There’s no one look to an orgasm.” So trying to guess whether or not they came is a pretty fruitless quest.

Instead, you might say or ask:

  • “I’d love to understand what that experience was like for you!”
  • “That felt really intense for me and it looked really intense for you. What did that feel like for you, exactly?”
  • “I’ve never used my fingers and mouth on your body at the same time before. What did that feel like?”

Sloane adds that these questions are a great thing to ask every time you have sex.

Not necessarily because you want to know if they came, but because “creating a culture in your relationship where you talk about the sex you just had gives you both opportunities to share what felt amazing, what felt OK, what you want to try again, and even divulge what you’d like to try in the future.”

Postcoital pillow talk for the win.

Nope. And really, you shouldn’t be trying to “tell” if someone is having a real orgasm.

“When we try to decipher whether our partner’s orgasm was real or fake, or their pleasure was, without asking them, we inadvertently create a culture of distrust in our relationship,” Sloane says.

The only way to tell is to let them tell you.

Here are some ways to start that conversation:

  • “I want you to experience as much pleasure as you deserve. Are there certain things you especially like in bed we can start doing more of?”
  • “Are there any toys you use when you masturbate or that you think could be fun to try that you might want to bring into the bedroom with me?”
  • “I read that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse can feel really good for vulva owners. I think it would be really hot to watch you touch yourself, or use a vibrator on yourself, during sex. Is that something you might want to try?”

You’ll notice that none of these convo prompts are accusatory or focused on the orgasm. Instead, they show your partner that you care about their pleasure!

There’s a huge difference between worrying your partner isn’t satisfied and knowing your partner isn’t satisfied.

After all, self-doubt is a sneaky son of a gun!

The only way to know if your partner is satisfied is to ask. Melancon recommends the following steps:

  1. Wait until you aren’t in the bedroom.
  2. Start with a positive or a compliment.
  3. Share something about how you’re feeling about your sex life.
  4. Reiterate the positive.
  5. Invite your partner to share how they’re feeling.

This might look like:

“I love having sex with you, and especially love hearing you moan. I’ve been feeling like you’ve been more in your head during sex than usual. I really love having sex with you and want to make sure you’re satisfied too. Is there anything we can try to make the sex better for you?”

Everybody’s body, orgasm, and route to orgasm is different. So, whether you’re trying to bring yourself to climax or help a partner climax, enjoy the journey.

It sounds cheesy, but while orgasms can feel great, pleasure (not orgasm!) is the goal of sex.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.