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Defining the Female Orgasm

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Defining the Female Orgasm

By Jessie Fano

What’s an orgasm, anyway? And how do you know if you had one?

In my experience and my research, I have to say that understanding, appreciating and celebrating the female orgasm sucks up a lot of our energy as a species. A lot of the questions my readers would like to ask a sex therapist have to do with orgasms. In my book, that’s energy well placed because the more I get to know the female orgasm the more impressed I am with its variety, subtlety and mystery — and pleasure! A woman’s orgasm is truly an art and a lifetime adventure. After a lot of “work” (of the enjoyable kind) I can finally say I own sexuality by owning my orgasms’ uniquenesses — a huge step in coming to own my personal sexuality.

But a lot of us aren’t even sure when we have one! Personally, I think this is because they’re often so different and varied that while some seem like a sure thing, others are less clear-cut. And since many of us don’t talk about sex with our friends, or watch a lot of porn (which is of questionable veracity anyway), how would we know what’s normal and what’s not?

What the Sexperts Say

I thought I knew the answer to the question “What’s an orgasm?” until I looked it up. The most common definition is that it’s the most intense — or peak — sexual sensation. I actually don’t agree with that because I’ve had some pretty underwhelming orgasms but other sensations that were not technically orgasmic that I would describe as the peak experience of that particular love-making session. Call me a nit-picker, but I didn’t really like the dictionary approach. (Of course “the dictionary approach” to sex just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun anyway, now does it?)

Lissa related a whole bunch of descriptions women gave her when she asked them to describe an orgasm for her book, What’s Up Down There? She’s got a bunch of good ones (p. 127), but when I looked for one on her list I could relate most to, I couldn’t find it. To every description I thought, “Well, yes, I’ve felt that — but sometimes it’s different.”

So I checked in with a bonafide sexpert, Dr. Sayaka Adachi and here’s what she said about knowing if you’ve had an orgasm or not:

Although many experts say “If you have had it, you would know it,” my experience as an orgasm coach tells me otherwise. Unfortunately for us girls, there is no “evidence” when we come. Many girls think it should be mind blowing, super euphoric, and life changing. Although these orgasms are possible, that’s not the experience for all women. Orgasm is defined as “an involuntary muscle contraction accompanied by pleasure”. So, a good thing to do is when you think you are coming, stick one or two of your fingers in your vagina and see if you can feel the vaginal muscles contracting. If it is, in about 1 contraction per less than 1 second for 3-8 times, you are having an orgasm. Still not sure? When you are building up your pleasure, can you tell that your muscles all over body are tightening? Tighten it a little harder than normal, so when it gets released at orgasm, you can feel the euphoria more. Still no evidence? Don’t worry, you are not alone! About 10% of sexually active women are pre-orgasmic. Get a book such as “Sex for One” or “For Yourself” or “I Heart Female Orgasm” and start practicing. If still not sure, hire an orgasm coach. Just remember that you are NOT broken. You are just learning to ride a bike, that’s all.

I admit it. I had to look up “pre-orgasmic.” Here’s what Google says it means: Not yet having experienced one’s first orgasm.

EDIT:  Dr. Adachi also gave me a great quote from Bevery Whipple, famed namer of the Gspot and sex researcher extraordinaire: “Orgasm is whatever you decide it is.” – HA!

So, see? Not yet! YOU decide. Never give up!

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12:40PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Thanks for the info.

8:16AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

I do agree with you that orgasm takes a lot of mental concentration. You have to keep your mind aligned with your actions and that's when you'll reach the best orgasms :) Thanks for the article!

10:47AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Fantastic article, and very true!

7:52AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Thanks so much for sharing, fantastic article! The only thing I could disagree with, personally, is that when I'm focused on having an orgasm during intercourse/oral sex, I NEVER have one...just recently I realised that my focus on that particular outcome was also causing me anxiety that it WOULDN'T happen, and so it didn't! I've found that just completely not thinking about the actual orgasm at all really intensified my pleasure because my mind had totally shut off and my body was left to do whatever it needed to do...and even then, although I am having some intense pleasure peaks with my partner, I am not having what feels like a normal orgasm to me (as I have given myself enough orgasms, I know exactly what mine feel like!)...however, after these intense pleasure peaks, I am completely limp, satisfied, sensate, and there is not a thought alive in my head :D A new kind of orgasm (for me)? Perhaps!

3:18AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

I have had two of those mind blowing orgasms in my life. I'm trying to "teach" my hubby how to do that, but, I don't know if it's that he "doesn't get it" or if I'm just not explaining it to him right... Anyway, sex has always been pretty much enjoyable for me, and well, I just like to have that intimacy, so maybe it will come about. One thing for sure, he wants to make sure that I'm into it, so he wants me to have fun as well. We've never had a bad session, and I've had the normal type ones, but not the kind that sends you in a tizzy to cloud 9. I'm sure it will happen.

3:04PM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

lol @ sticking my finger inside while experiencing it freaked me out as well...thanx for ur version....glad to know Im having orgasms:)

10:27AM PDT on Jul 19, 2011


4:01PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Such interesting comments! My 2 cents: I think that when a woman can relax and not worry about how she is doing, what others may think, and any time element, she needs to allow her body to respond naturally to all the feelings evoked from touch and thought allowing herself all of the experience to flow, and then when the orgasm happens, wow, its amazing, and a celebration of herself as woman, alive.
If you have never had one, and have no physical issues to prevent them, then you ought to be kind to yourself and relax into just experiencing your body, trying many things. There are instructional videos and books. Don't get uptight, just keep trying without stressing. It will happen, and you will know.

2:44PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011


11:24AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

The explanation Rod Morrill left was just perfect! Only part missing is the "sexual release of screaming of delight" on your body. Just so totally relaxing, soothing. Your whole body feels like its tingling. What a Way to Go.

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