What Exactly Is An Orgasm Anyway?

“At the moment of orgasm you grow wings, defy gravity and your soul slips quietly across the universe like a shooting star.” ― Chloe Thurlow

There has been a burst (excuse the pun) in new research recently. We are finally realizing our lack of knowledge and delving into the wonderful mystery that is the female orgasm.orgasm

But what exactly is an orgasm, scientifically?

You see, the thing is, we don’t really know yet. So far, what scientists can agree on is that it is a reflex that shoots out from the spinal cord when there is a good combination of physical stimulation and an appropriate mental state in an acceptable context1Hall J. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 13th ed. Elsevier; 2016..

That was a mouthful. I’ll break it down a little further.

Part one: Physical touch

In order to reach orgasm, or experience pleasure in general, women require different things. The first part women need is physical touch, or stimulation. This touch may include light stroking of the nipples; rhythmic rubbing or licking of the clitoral area; hitting the G-spot; or a combination of it all. Obviously there is a whole lot more you can do as well, but I’ll just use that as an example for now.

Part two: Mental state

The second part that is crucial to women, is being in a good mental state where you are ready for sex. This means that you aren’t lying there worried about what your body looks like, or whether you smell or taste okay. You aren’t worried about what chores still need to be done or how stressed you are at work. You are present, you are in your body, and you are enjoying yourself and your partner.

Part three: Context

The third part is usually left out of the equation. Context. Did you just have a big fight with your partner? You’re likely not going to want to have sex. Did a family member just get into a big car accident? Again, you’re likely not going to want to have sex right then. Context matters. You’re going to want to feel close to your partner, feel safe and secure, in order to want to have sex with them. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but I won’t cover that here for now.

This three-part combination works together until you reach a state of maximum intensity and that reflex we talked about shoots through your body, making you feel all sorts of wonderful.

So what happens to your body when you orgasm?

All of the muscles surrounding the vulva, clitoris, vagina and anus start to rhythmically contract and relax. Your heart starts to beat faster and your blood pressure increases. You start to breathe a little faster, your skin flushes and you may or may not involuntarily let out a few sounds2Courtois F., Charvier K., Vézina J.G., et al: Assessing and conceptualising orgasm after a spinal cord injury. BJU Int. 2011; 108: pp. 1624-1633. All of this may last from just a few seconds to a few minutes.

What about the brain?

When you reach orgasm, an instant rush of intense pleasure sweeps through you. It can sometimes be so intense that it may create a level of altered consciousness! Feelings of well-being flow through you as the brain quietens down (more specifically, the amygdala) and reduces feelings of anxiety3Bianchi-Demicheli F, Ortigue S. Toward an understanding of the cerebral substrates of women’s orgasm. Neuropsychologia. 2007;45(12):2645–59..

Did you know?

Orgasms also cause the brain to release a hormone, called oxytocin, which creates a feeling of bonding with your sexual partner. For those who may find it interesting, it is also hypothesised that this same oxytocin causes rhythmic contractions of the uterus which may assist in the transportation of sperm for fertilisation , increasing fertility.4Sam Mesiano and Ervin E. Jones, The Female Reproductive System, Medical Physiology, Chapter 55, 1108-1128. As if you needed an excuse…

Orgasms are incredibly important for your health and well-being, the benefits are seemingly endless. Let’s start making them a priority, you deserve it.

Much love,




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Dr Megan Martin

Medical Doctor with an Interest in Sexual Health. Aspiring Sexual Health Physician and Sexologist with a Specific Interest in Women’s Sexual Well-being

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