Why is it that orgasms are like snowflakes – no two seem exactly the same? Kate Orson asks the experts.
Have you ever wondered why some of your orgasms feel completely amazing, and others just seem to fizzle away, almost before they’ve even started? What is exactly happening in the body when we orgasm, and how does our physiology effect what we feel?
Mangala Holland, a feminine sexuality empowerment coach, says it’s not really surprising: ‘’We’re different all the time, we’ve got different moods and emotions. We’ve got different things going on. We are never the same all the way through the day.’’ So it’s no wonder perhaps that every orgasm has its own unique flavour. But what are the factors that make up our orgasms, and what accounts for the differences?
On a physiological level, during sex there is a decrease in activity in the parts of the brain associated with behavioural control, fear, anxiety and judgement. This suggests that being with a partner who you trust can help you let go and embrace those brain changes caused by sex. Body issues and hang ups, or a partner who doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, may all subtly change the quality of our orgasms.
Another reason is perhaps related to the logistics of sexual stimulation. Do your orgasms tend to be better alone or with a partner? If it’s the former, it may be because alone you can give yourself just the right kind of touch to elicit maximum pleasure, but with a partner, your focus on their pleasure means you can’t concentrate on your own needs. If it’s the latter, perhaps a fantastic position with a partner stimulates nerve endings that masturbation might not touch. Different sex toys can give different types of orgasm, for example depending on whether the product vibrates or oscillates.
Sexual pleasure comes partly from the release of oxytocin, nicknamed the love-hormone. A study found that couples who were given oxytocin via a nasal spray experienced more intense orgasms than couples who took a placebo.
The release of oxytocin is interrupted by cortisol, the stress hormone. So minimising stress in your life can help. Eating good food, and reducing caffeine all play their part. Regular exercise and activities such as meditation can help reduce your stress and increase the quality of your orgasms. You can also build up oxytocin naturally through cuddling, massage, and long foreplay sessions. As Holland says: ‘’However much foreplay you’re having, double it.’’
Contrary to popular belief, premature orgasm isn’t just something that happens to people with penises. It can lead to less pleasurable orgasms because there hasn’t been enough time to build up high levels of oxytocin. So if stimulation is too intense, it’s worth backing off to allow pleasure to build up more slowly.
It’s worth experimenting with how different orgasms feel with different pleasure points, as everyone has their own unique experiences about what feels good. How do orgasms differ when the clitoris, g-spot, cervix, are stimulated? Or penis, prostate and testicles? Are there different positions that result in mind-blowing orgasms for you? Also for people who menstruate/ovulate you may find different times of the month create different a quality of orgasm.
A fun way to track this is to keep an orgasm journal. For every orgasm, describe the different techniques and positions used, as well as what was going on in the background – your level of stress, your relationship with your partner, how tired you were, where you were in your menstrual cycle, and so on. And then choose a few words to characterise the orgasm that resulted. It may challenge your description skills to put into words that big ‘O’! Taking time to really pay attention to what’s going on in your body may give you vital insights into your sex life.
Awareness is a key component of how an orgasm feels. If you’re stuck in your thoughts, drifting off on a fantasy, your body might actually be having an amazing orgasm that you are not fully present too. Again, meditation and relaxation can be helpful tools to practise to fully feel into the pleasure. Holland recommends focusing on your breathing to increase sensitivity.
Ironically, aiming for orgasm can actually make it hard to orgasm – all the tension and stress of having a goal in mind can decrease pleasure. Mangala suggests that when ‘going for orgasm’ is taken off the table, we may open up to deeper forms of sexual satisfaction. This isn’t about leaving a partner stressed and frustrated at not coming, but instead, focusing on both partners being open to explore what happens when pleasure is something that happens in the moment rather than a destination to get to.
Holland says: “when both partners are open to exploring what happens when you’re not aiming for peak climax, it can be fun to see what’s possible. Relax into pleasure more. Notice the subtleties and be more present in the body.’’
So have some fun, and stay curious about the ‘why’ of those orgasmic moments. Do what makes you or your partner feel good, and rather than desperately craving that big ‘O’, relax, breathe, and let pleasure surprise you.