For people having sex, orgasms can be, but not always, a peak point of satisfaction.
Yet like all exciting things, they don’t always come easy. For example have you ever caught yourself mid-sexual encounter, thinking:
- are they enjoying this?
- am I enjoying this?
- will they orgasm (if they don’t does this mean I failed)?
- will I orgasm (if not does this mean I failed)?
These are all examples of the pressures and expectations we have around the mysterious O. Never fear, Dr Amy is here to break down some of the expectations and pressures we have around sexual satisfaction, with or without orgasms.
So, what is an orgasm?
An orgasm is a feeling of intense pleasure that is brought on through sexual stimulation. According to Brown University, “Orgasm is a physical reflex, usually a pleasurable one, when the muscles that were tightened during sexual arousal relax and the body returns to its pre-arousal state.” Sexual activity increases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone and this can increase with orgasm. Basically, for a lot of people it feels really good.
How does an orgasm happen?
Despite what we see in a lot of porn, people with a vagina often need direct stimulation to the clitoris to have an orgasm. Stimulation of the clitoris can be applied directly, internally (through the vagina), and/or through stimulation of the other parts of the vulva. The clitoris is an extremely sensitive bundle of blood vessels and nerves, just like a penis.
An orgasm for people with a penis can happen with or without ejaculation. The penis becomes erect during arousal which then sends signals to the nervous system that results in ejaculation. Semen will then come out of the penis and is normally a cloudy-white fluid (cum). This is called an ejaculatory orgasm. Not everyone ejaculates with orgasm, and even those that do may not ejaculate every time – this is called a dry orgasm.
People can also orgasm through anal stimulation including touching and penetration. Anal orgasms are caused by stimulation of the nerves in and around the anus and also stimulation of the prostate in people who have one.
The feeling of an orgasm can be a unique experience for everyone but many will experience increased heart rate and breathing, body vibrations and warmth.
There is no specific method for creating arousal with your partner/s and it can take some practice, improving over time. Each person will have different desires that will stimulate them. This makes communication essential, not just in gaining consent throughout having sex but also to share what desires you have. Ask your partner what they like and give yourself the opportunity to communicate what you like. You can’t expect your partner to magically know what turns you on, especially if you don’t know yourself. You can find out on your own through masturbation and using sex toys until you are comfortable expressing this to others
Do I have to orgasm during sex?
No. Sex can still be pleasurable without an orgasm. Some people might find it difficult to reach an orgasm despite being sexually aroused. You may have other thoughts on your mind that you can’t stop thinking about and it this in turn can throw off your mood. Remember there is no rule that you have to orgasm every single time you have sex or even ever. Many people experience sexual satisfaction without ever having an orgasm and still enjoy the intimacy and physical sensation of sex.
If you are feeling a bit flat and worried about your libido (sex drive) then you might want to book into your local GP as there may be a medical reason. Or you can see a qualified counsellor, psychologist or sexologist. But remember not everyone wants to have sex and that’s ok. Some people are asexual and aren’t physically attracted to or interested in having sex with anyone. Not being interested in sex is only a problem if it is bothering you,
It’s time to set aside the expectations
It might be time to put away the unrealistic dream of being a sex idol with endless orgasms and never-ending pleasure. Let go of what sex “should” be like and focus on the pleasure you feel in the moment. If you don’t have an orgasm then no big deal. If an orgasm is either too quick or too long (and there is no standard length for this), try to accept this and focus more on your experience. As long as you and your sexual partner/s enjoy how you’re having sex then you’re doing sex “right” for you.
How do I talk to my sexual partner/s about it?
Communication is key! Everyone has different sexual preferences of what feels pleasurable for them. Have a chat with your partner/s about what you like and don’t like. This may sound scary but they will probably be eager to learn what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to direct them to your favourite areas during sex. If you’re feeling that there is a huge emphasis on reaching an orgasm then share this with them. We’ve all heard the saying ‘when you stop trying so hard it happens’. You’re more likely to have an orgasm when you are relaxed and present in the moment. In fact, there is some evidence to say that being ‘mindful’ during sex can help to reach an orgasm. And in the end, if you are enjoying sex with or without an orgasm, then it’s working for you.
Remember if you’re having sex with a new sexual partner it’s a good idea to get a sexual health check. Also if you’re under the age of 30 it’s best to get an STI test at least every 12 months.
– Ask Dr Amy, SHINE SA
Got a question for Dr Amy? You can submit one anonymously here Ask Dr Amy