What Is An Orgasm?

The ‘Big O’ is what so many people live for when it comes to sexual experiences.
It’s the moment that often marks the end of heterosexual sex, or a need to reposition; the iconic fireworks and uncorking of the champagne bottle.

For many, an orgasm is still an enigma too, like an elusive end goal, which leads us to ask just what is an orgasm anyway?
Why does it matter so much? And what does it mean to live without it?

An orgasm is defined simply as a feeling of intense sexual pleasure felt during sex but the action is much more complex than that.

Biologically there are variations between the male and female body and how they experience a climax. In both cases, the heartbeat will become more rapid leading up to an orgasm and breathing becomes deeper.

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The Female Orgasm

For the female body, an orgasm is accompanied by rapid involuntary contractions of the genital muscles. In some cases, there may be some female ejaculation, known as squirting, though this isn’t required and isn’t a measure of gratification. Female anatomy also enables multiple orgasms for some individuals, though not all.

The Male Orgasm

For the male body, the muscle contractions involved causes sperm to shoot from the person’s shaft, generally known as ejaculation, then there is a recovery phase. Another orgasm is typically unlikely in this stage, as the shaft and testicles shrink back to their regular size after the swelling that comes with sex.

The Mind

Psychologically there’s a whole other story going on. The sexual response cycle classically has four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. During each, a person may go through many different thoughts and emotions and these are typically unique to the individual.

Ultimately there is no wrong way to have an orgasm.

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But Why Do Orgasms Matter?

From a biological standpoint, orgasms serve the benefit of increasing the chances for reproduction. For male anatomy, the orgasm is the moment of ejaculation—where sperm releases from the body—an essential point for reproduction. For female anatomy, it has been suggested that the contractions of an orgasm help the sperm travel further and with more efficiency.

Plus it feels damned good, incentivizing sex and the need to have it again and again and again.

Because of this, orgasms have been given a certain amount of priority in sex, making it this huge cultural ideal (whether you’re having sex to procreate or not).

But, here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be.
Or, at the very least, it’s not the only aspect of sex and should never be treated as ‘the ultimate goal’ and here are a few reasons why.

The Problem With ‘The Big O’

When we frame orgasms as the pinnacle of sexual pleasure then we essentially set ourselves a huge amount of pressure and stress when it comes to trying to reach this peak and, as a result, less of us are reaching it by the day.

Some studies have suggested that up to 80% of women have faked an orgasm (with men coming in at about a third too) and this is a huge problem.
Why? Because it’s essentially fostering a relationship of unwanted pressure, a lack of pleasure, and lies to obscure this fact rather than communication.
I’m sure we can all agree that’s not ideal at all.

The Absence Of Orgasm

So the big question here is ‘Why are so many people having to fake an orgasm, rather than just having one?’

Well, there’s a lot that can be said about that—the first of which is the assumption that someone must have an orgasm to have a really good time, which is false. Sex is so much more than just a moment of physical climax.

Everything that builds up to the experience is valuable, of which an orgasm is one (optional) component.

Our bodies are also very sensitive to stress, and orgasms require relaxation, so feelings of stress, pressure, and inadequacy could all lead to the absence of orgasm, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of self-defeat.
Of course, there are people that need to experience pressure or stress to aid them in orgasming, but this is not typically the case.

Beyond this, there are many reasons as to why someone may not reach orgasm.

Some people may find that they can only orgasm in certain sexual situations.
This means that if a different sex act is on the table when they decide to put their climax to one side to pursue other activities.

Likewise, those with a very specific fetish might find that they need certain conditions to reach orgasm, and they may be willing to forego them in certain situations to explore other sensations or experiences instead.

Then, of course, there are those who cannot orgasm due to physical difficulties. Sexual dysfunction (erectile, anorgasmia or otherwise) is a struggle that many may find themselves encountering in life.

Certain medication can also hinder one’s ability to reach orgasm (anti-depressants, in particular, and some cancer medications).

In these instances, lack of orgasm can be particularly frustrating because of the lack of control; it’s one thing to choose not to orgasm in a sex session, another thing entirely to be deprived of it.

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What To Do?

If you’re struggling with issues then it’s important to talk to a medical professional (or perhaps more than one if your first choice isn’t helpful).

Keep any partners you have informed and talk through any emotional struggles that may emerge.

Consider what orgasms mean for you and what other aspects of sex you might enjoy. Explore new avenues with an open mind and try to find a form of sexual enjoyment that works for you.

The absence of orgasm may seem like a strange concept but, we can assure you, it does not mean the absence of pleasure.

Written by:

Dr. Emmeline Peaches
Follow Emmeline on Twitter


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