An orgasm is a climax a person may experience during sex. It can be described as muscular contractions or tension release, accompanied by increased breathing and heartbeat. That said, there are different orgasms, and they may not feel the same for each person.
There’s a lot of talk about Big Os. And for good reason: They can enable you to experience Big Pleasure.
But what is an orgasm, exactly? Are all orgasms the same? And how can you tell where an orgasm is happening in the body? Below, sex educators answer these questions and more.
Trust. With the help of this guide, you can get the Os you deserve, from the fireworks-on-display kind to the calm oh-my-gods.
“There’s not a singular and widely agreed-upon definition of orgasm,” says Caitlin V. Neal, resident sexologist for sexual hygiene and body care company Royal.
“One operating definition of orgasm is that it’s a pleasurable release of sexual tension,” she says.
Also known as a climax or cum, an orgasm is sometimes defined as the fourth stage of a sexual encounter, with stages of anticipation, excitement, and plateau proceeding it. (This is known as the sexual response cycle).
Orgasming is often marked by a series of physical sensations, including:
- involuntary release of muscle tension
- series of muscular contractions
- verbal and auditory emissions of pleasure
- increased heart and breathing rate
But not everybody experiences sex and orgasm the same way.
Many pleasure seekers will say that they experience a variety of different types of orgasms, depending on what part(s) of their bodies are being stimulated.
And most sex educators agree that orgasms come in a variety of different lengths, intensities, and overall quality.
But here’s the thing: No matter how they’re categorized, it’s often difficult to discern what type of orgasm you’re having while you have it.
According to longtime sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Early to Bed, a pleasure-product company in Chicago, Illinois that ships worldwide, that’s because the anatomical structures that can lead to orgasm are often intertwined and hard to distinguish.
“Someone might have an orgasm from stimulating the front wall of the vagina (the G-spot) or have an orgasm from stimulating the external portion of their clitoris, but ultimately these orgasms all come from the same place,” she says. (Did you know that the G-spot is actually the place where the clitoral legs hug the vaginal canal?).
The bottom line: Not every orgasm will feel the same. And touching different erogenous zones can result in different quality orgasms.
If exploring all the different types of sensations the body can bring joy and excite you, you might take pleasure in thinking about the different types of orgasms.
But as a general rule, Deysach warns against being overly specific about the “type” of orgasms you’re having. “Instead, I’d encourage folks to just be excited about any orgasm and type of pleasure.”
At the end of the day, an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm.
But (!) if you’re interested in fully exploring the pleasure-potential of your body in full, you might try stimulating a wider breadth of body parts. Each body part can create a specific orgasmic sensation, though there will be some variation from person to person.
While you’ll find sites reporting that there are anywhere from 12 different types of orgasms to just 1, we’ve decided to narrow in on just 6.
Check out the chart below to understand exactly what six different types of happy endings might feel like.
|Orgasm type||What it can feel like|
|clitoral||You can often feel these orgasms on the surface of the body, like a tingly feeling along your skin, and in your brain.|
|vaginal||These orgasms are deeper in the body and are usually accompanied by pulsations of the vaginal canal walls. When the G-spot — a specific spot about 2 inches inside the front vaginal wall — is stimulated, it can result in ejaculation.|
|anal||During anal orgasm, the muscle contractions you feel will primarily be in the anal canal and around the anal sphincter. (And not inside the vagina).|
|combo or blended||When the vagina and the clitoris are stimulated at the same time, it tends to result in a more explosive orgasm. Sometimes these combo orgasms are accompanied by full-body trembles and tremors.|
|erogenous||Stimulating lesser-known erogenous parts of the body (ears, nipples, neck, elbows, knees, etc.) can cause a pleasurable release when kissed and played with. Some people describe the orgasm that follows as being more full-body, compared to other kinds of orgasms.|
|convulsing||Convulsing orgasms are orgasms that result in the pelvic floor muscles convulsing over and over and over again really quickly. These orgasms usually happen after a long buildup. Neal suggests doing this by edging yourself (meaning getting yourself close to orgasm without going over) repeatedly.|
Bringing yourself to orgasm is a bit like making cookies.
Just like you’ll need slightly different ingredients for different types of cookies, you’ll need slightly different tools and touches for different kinds of orgasms.
Below, are tips on how to explore different types of orgasms.
Remember that experimenting and reaching orgasm doesn’t require a partner. Pleasure isn’t dependent and neither are you — the better you know your rhythm with fingers and toys, the faster you can teach a partner how you tango.
The clitoris is a nerve-rich hot spot.
The external portion of the clitoris peeks out from the tiptop of the vulva and is often covered by a hood.
One of the best ways to stimulate the external portion of the clitoris is by gently rubbing with the fingers, palm, or tongue in a back and forth or circular motion.
The internal portion of the clitoris can’t be seen, but can be stimulated through internal vaginal or anal pressure.
Steps to have a clitoral orgasm
- Once the vulva begins to get wet — or after you add lube because not all vaginas get wet on their own — apply faster and harder pressure in a repetitive motion.
- Top off this motion with heavy pressure as the orgasm begins to intensify the feeling. Back down a little if the clit is too sensitive.
- If this is enough to get you off, that’s awesome! But no worries if it doesn’t, since this is not the be-all and end-all.
Let’s get this out of the way: Vaginal orgasms can be really pleasurable for people who can have them.
But the cultural belief that vaginal orgasms are better than any other kind of orgasm is absolute BS! There isn’t an orgasm hierarchy.
Steps to have a vaginal orgasm
- When you’re aroused and lubricated enough for penetration, try inserting a finger, penis, or wand toy into your vaginal canal.
- Angle the object or body part doing the penetrating toward the belly button, and make a “come hither” motion. This can stimulate the G-spot, and feels good for some people.
- Explore using different pressures along this hot-spot until you find a pressure that feels good.
- Repeat motions that feel good so that the feelings will build up.
Anal orgasms are something that anyone can have, however, what causes the orgasm is different between people with penises and folks with vulvae.
For people with penises, anal penetration can stimulate the prostate, which is a nerve-dense erogenous zone that’s analogous to the G-spot.
For folks with vaginas, anal penetration can stimulate the clitoral legs, as well as the A-spot or G-spot.
Steps to have an anal orgasm
- Start by rubbing the outside of the anal opening with a finger or tongue, while also stimulating the front genitals.
- Next, get the anal canal accustomed to being penetrated with lube and a finger. Key word here: Lube. Butts don’t naturally produce lubricant and the tissues in the anal canal are very delicate, which means the area is very prone to microtears when there’s inadequate lubrication.
- Experiment with tapping, circling, and pressing against the wall.
To achieve a combo orgasm, combine clitoral and vaginal stimulation simultaneously, either in parallel or opposite rhythms — whatever feels best for you or your partner.
Combining clitoral stimulation with vaginal stimulation is also the most common way to help someone squirt.
Pro tip: Wait until the receiver is thoroughly aroused before adding in penetrative play.
Erogenous zone orgasms are achieved exclusively through a lot of experimentation.
You may be able to orgasm from kisses on your neck, teeth on your nipples, or fingers on the inside of your elbows.
The best way to find your erogenous zones is to use a feather or another light external object and take note of where you feel the most pleasure.
If lips and fingers alone don’t cut it, you might try incorporating sensation toys like a Wartenberg wheel, a feather teaser, or a tassel.
“An orgasm is caused by the buildup of tension in the nerve cells,” explains Neal. When that tension releases, you can experience an orgasm.
“You can think of an orgasm as being caused by an immense amount of pleasure in the nerve endings reaching a point of overwhelm,” she says.
Curious about the differences between the orgasms a vagina owner can have and a penis owner can have?
Less than you might guess, according to Neal. “All orgasms are similar, and all orgasms are slightly different,” she says.
Typically, the orgasms vagina havers experience are longer lasting (approximately 20 to 35 seconds) than the orgasm a penis owner has (usually under 15 seconds).
Neal adds that it’s important to remember that ejaculation and orgasm are different.
“Male orgasm and male ejaculation are two different biological processes that need not happen concurrently,” she says. “Many penis owners are able to reach orgasm without ejaculating, and report these orgasms as being similar to the orgasms a vagina owner has.”
Communication? More like cumunication!
In any kind of sexual play, communication is key. Not only does communicating enable you to ask for ongoing consent (required by law!), but telling a partner what you want, how, and where is the best way to ensure maximum pleasure.
Remember, a sexual partner isn’t a mind reader, even though you might want them to be.
Your move: talk, talk, and then talk some more.
The above orgasm explanations are great starting points, but sex doesn’t have a manual. That’s why exploring in the moment and learning what your body loves (and doesn’t love) is absolutely key.
And remember: Not all sex requires an orgasm, and orgasms don’t mean the sex is great.
Bodies are different. Pleasure is different. Orgasms are different. And the path it takes to get there is all about experimenting, communicating, and trying again. Allow yourself to soak in the sensations of the pleasure process just as much, or even more than, the finale.
Hannah Rimm is a writer, photographer, and generally creative person in New York City. She writes primarily about mental and sexual health, and her writing and photography has appeared in Allure, HelloFlo, and Autostraddle. You can find her work atHannahRimm.com or follow her onInstagram.