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11 Jan 2022 (Last updated 31 Jan 2024)

A guide to the female orgasm

Sexual Journey 15 min read
Expert Dr Jessherin Sidhu
the artist rabbit vibrator by smile makers

Sex is so much more than reaching orgasm. Solo or partnered, it is about sensuality, intimacy, exploration, and joy. Even so, an orgasm is an intense bodily climax of sexual excitement that can’t be ignored. It doesn’t have to happen all the time, but when it does, it is... well there’s no wonder we are all curious how to get more.

This pinnacle of pleasure is even more intriguing for us women and vulva owners; not only are there many myths to decipher from facts due to a lack of research until recently; but also, said research has unveiled just how powerful the female orgasm can be. Bit deep? Well, just like penetration, it doesn’t need to be! Turns out the pleasure gap is a thing - and it’s been holding us back for way too long. We want to understand our orgasmic potential, and the impact it has on our life and wellbeing.

This is our female orgasm 101; from how they feel and different types, to the benefits and myths, here’s everything you need to know about orgasms.

What is an orgasm?

As mentioned, an orgasm is a climax of sexual pleasure - a physiological reaction often reached through stimulation, that results in oh-so feel-good sensations. As every person is different, the intensity and duration of an orgasm differs.

This cornerstone of female pleasure is often seen as the happy ending to sexual experiences; however it is actually the third stage of a four stage sexual response cycle. These physiological changes include excitement, plateau, orgasm, then resolution. Orgasm is the most climactic phase, but also usually the shortest. And, most importantly, doesn’t have to occur for the cycle to finish.

an infographic of the female orgasm response cycle

What does a female orgasm feel like?

For people with vulvas, an orgasm involves a series of rhythmic vaginal muscle contractions. This involuntary reaction can be felt in other parts of the pleasure anatomy too such as the perianal region, as pelvic floor muscles tense too. These contractions may be accompanied by redness of the chest or neck, sweating, rapid heartbeat or breathing, and sometimes even smiles (wink wink)... Endorphins are also released which often give us a rush of good feelings.

But unlike what we may see in the movies and porn, female orgasms are not necessarily an explosion of sensations that make us quake, cry or lose consciousness. These pleasure spasms vary in intensity, and the way we express them does too. We deserve to acknowledge our pleasure for the sensual experience it is, and not feel a performative expectation.

The benefits of orgasm for women and vulva owners.

We mean, do we have all day? The before and after orgasm effect known to give us that post-climax glow makes for flushed lips and cheeks, inviting body language and smiles - after all, there’s a reason we’re called Smile Makers. Orgasms can make us feel so good, but unlike the climax, the benefits last much longer.

Alongside endorphins, other happy hormones are released that can have a significant impact on our wellbeing. Dopamine and oxytocin elevate your mood, while prolactin can help encourage better sleep. This orgasmic concoction can also contribute to a boost in your immune system and reduce stress. Muscle contractions caused by climax also help strengthen the pelvic floor, which plays an important part in supporting the bladder, bowel, and uterus. And for those that menstruate, these contractions can alleviate period pain. Phew!

Female orgasm: myths and facts.

Traditionally we’ve had very few places to turn for answers to questions about female pleasure; mostly because science has had a complicated relationship with female sexuality in the past - in that it was pretty non-existent. In studies and development around health and sexual wellbeing, the male body was seen as the blueprint, and the female body as lacking in pleasure potential (even the founder of psychoanalysis had most people believing that a clitoral orgasm signified a ‘sexual and psychological immaturity). This threads down to the sex education received, which is heavily reproductive-centric.

This absence of hard female orgasm facts fostered a climate of speculation and curiosity, a pop-cultural fascination of orgasm misinformation and myths. Think taglines of women’s magazines on how to have the best orgasms ever! British scientist, Petra Boynton, has been known to say that this fetishizing of zones has led women and people with vulvas to feel "dysfunctional.”

So, there’s a lot to unlearn - and learn.

Breakthroughs such as urologist Helen O’Connell’s mapping of the internal clitoris in the nineties (!) is finally becoming common knowledge. So, we spoke to a sexologist and gynecologist to understand what other facts on female sexual experiences science has (eventually) uncovered so far, and to call out all the orgasm myths!

The female orgasm comes every time.

False! Neither the female nor male body climax every time during sexual pleasure. Be it masturbation or partner play, intercourse or outercourse; orgasm is not an end itself. We often say that it’s about the journey not the destination, but perhaps we should go one-step further - call ourselves out as pleasure connoisseurs, and challenge this - there shouldn’t be a destination? If we make an orgasmic peak pitstop, amazing - but sex goes way beyond just the climax. Often, the more we focus on having an orgasm, the less pleasure we get from the entire experience. We disconnect from the present moment, keeping us from being conscious of our sensations and enjoying the relaxation that comes with letting go (with or without the O!).

It always feels like an explosion of sensations.

False! The female orgasm is not necessarily an explosion of sensations that makes us quake, cry, or lose control. Sure, this kind of wave of intense pleasure can happen - but it doesn’t happen every time. Orgasm intensity can vary, a pleasure spectrum of powerful to minimal. It’s even possible that the physiological reactions occur - those uncontrolled vaginal contractions for people with vulvas or ejaculation for those with penises - without finding it pleasurable at all. So, be easy on the orgasm expectations; we can still reap the benefits, and good sensations without fireworks every time we climax.

It’s better to climax together.

Maybe. Climaxing at the same time as a partner is often seen as an intense experience that creates intimacy - but it is very rare. Think about it. Coming together requires an utmost of sexual communication, and a capacity for each partner to modulate their excitement. Resolutely seeking to climax in sync can bring more frustration than satisfaction. Sex is meant to be playful, not a challenge. But, if by chance you get to experience it, it’s definitely the icing on the cake for partner sex.

The female orgasm just happens.

False. An orgasm is an effort. Most vulva owners need on average a minimum of twenty minutes to reach a threshold of excitement conducive to orgasm. Outercourse, and clitoral stimulation, is very important. In addition, the more we discover our sexual selves, the easier our access to orgasm will be. Thus, by knowing what feels good for us, we can then guide our partners, and increase the possibility of orgasming during partner sex - and, closing the pleasure gap!

Having said this, some people do experience spontaneous orgasms. Something that sexologists put down to, again, being hyper-present and open to stimulation and pleasure. There’s a theme here!

Orgasms are easy to fake.

They are, but it shouldn’t mean we have to. Simulating orgasms not only takes away from our pleasure at that very moment, but also longer term. Misleading our partners to think that we’re experiencing good sensations, when we’re not, can distort communication. If they get a positive reaction to something we’re not enjoying so much, or to moves that then supposedly bring us to (fake) orgasm, they will tend to reproduce the same stimulation again and again - believing it works for us. Thus, making it harder to discuss what we really find pleasurable. Our mantra? Don’t fake orgasms.

Types of female orgasms & how to have them.

Okay, so we don’t really believe in putting orgasms in a box (unless we’re talking about our vibrators in packaging). Rather than talking about types, let’s talk about the variety of orgasms. This helps us break down the idea that orgasms are a list to tick off, but instead a broad spectrum of climaxes. Here’s some of the orgasm experiences we can have, and to be honest, if there’s one key takeaway it’s that all the tingles mingle together.

A clit orgasm.

We are all for big clit orgasm energy here! No, we don’t mean the size (all clitorises are different), but the power. The pleasure impacts the clitoris plays in female sexual experience is huge, with most vulva owners needing clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. But it goes beyond the obvious - and has a greater effect on vaginal orgasm than is obvious.

Let’s talk about form. Often mistaken for only the external nub that protrudes from the vulva (the glans), the clitoris is a much larger organ that mainly exists internally and can be up to 10 centimeters long. It contains 10,000 nerve endings and interacts with around 15,000 more in the pelvic region. Structurally, the clitoris is a wishbone shaped organ that wraps around the vagina walls. This has led to the question, if the clitoris is in such close contact with the vagina, can those really be classified as separate orgasms anyway? We told you orgasms are intermingled!

What the specialists say about the clit orgasm.

Gynecologist Dr Jess explains that the clitoris interacts internally with the vagina during penetration because of its band-like shape. Direct and indirect stimulation of the clitoris is a thing, it’s just about where you target!

What a clitoral orgasm feels like.

When aroused, an increase in blood flow makes the entire clitoris engorge. Yep, that’s right. Just like a penis, the clitoris gets erect! From the outside, the glans become hard and puffier; from the inside, the vaginal canal can feel tighter. The build-up to a clit orgasm can feel like a need to release, and the sensation tingly.

How to have a clitoris orgasm.

Though we can have them externally and internally, the real magic of clit orgasms is that we don’t need penetration to reach climax. Arguably one of most comfortable ways to find pleasure (did we just make orgasms a comfort over style thing? Yes - yes, we did), stimulation of the clitoral glans is a go-to masturbation technique.

  • Build arousal through strokes and gentle touches.
  • Use lubrication, it makes touch smoother and elevates sensations.
  • Play with friction and pressure to match the sensitivity of your clitoris.
  • Use fingers or a vibrator to create circular or back-and-forth motions.

A clit technique to try.

Orbiting: continuous, circular motions around the clit. To rocket you into orgasm, use the glans and clitoral hood as a compass for drawing tight circles, go around them with long ovals, or repeat infinity signs.

A G-spot orgasm.

If female sexuality ever had a defining pop-culture moment, then it would be the labeling of the G-spot. This mysterious and controversial thing joined the list of ‘body parts’ so often fetishized in the media that we don’t even notice it happening. Cosmo, we’re looking at you.

The truth is, the G-spot is not actually proven to be real. It is not a body part. It is not a structure. It’s not a sexual organ. Thus, it should never be on a pleasure anatomy diagram. Instead, we should treat it like any other erogenous zone. An area that can feel good to be touched, orgasmically so. A G-spot, nay G-zone orgasm, can be experienced through pressure on the front wall of the vagina (the one facing towards the belly), that, wait for it… comes in contact with the internal structure of the clitoris.

What the specialists say about the G-spot orgasm.

Neuroscientist Nicole Prause (we, too, are obsessed with the abundance of sexual wellness career paths out there!) rightly says

"You can’t standardize a vagina - there is no consistency {...} as to where exactly we experience pleasure" (Prause, 2020).

A solid reminder that if you don’t get climatic satisfaction from the G-zone, your pleasure is probably just found somewhere else!

What a G-spot orgasm feels like.

This orgasm pedestal that the G-Spot has been placed upon may also be down to how it can feel! As the clitoris can be indirectly stimulated, it creates a combination of explosive sensations. These blended orgasms have been described as mind-blowing and can often be associated with female squirting too. There is very little scientific evidence to prove that squirting indicates an orgasm, nor the intensity of pleasure. Contrary to popular belief, researchers suggest a very diluted urine liquid squirts out to relieve bladder tension built up during sexual stimulation. So, it makes sense that we may experience this reaction more when stimulation is closer to the bladder and explains that ‘oh, I need to pee’ feeling as we get more excited! Squirting is not the same as female ejaculation.

How to have a G-spot orgasm.

Unlike clitoral orgasms, a G-Spot orgasm does require penetration. This internal stimulation isn’t about depth (it very rarely is), but sustained pressure in a certain area. Often described as a come-hither motion, we can insert our fingers with the palm of the hand facing up to gently feel the anterior wall of the vagina; the one closest to our belly button! This can be a great way to get to know inner selves and see what penetrative stimulation is all about.

  • Use lube, it reduces penetrative friction and just feels good!
  • Find your angle. If you’re trying out G-zone stimulation with a partner that has a penis, or a toy that resembles a penis, it might be hard to get the right angle. Flexible, slightly angled tools are the best way to hit the spot eg fingers or vibrators.
  • Forget thrusting. Instead press against the area to find preferred pressure.
  • Get in the rhythm. Repetitive and persistent moves build up arousal.

A G-spot technique to try.

Massaging: Press against the area rhythmically, with intention. Allow yourself to relax into penetration, taking time to see what it feels like to you. Caress with a throbbing pulsation, a back-and-forth stroke, or maybe a gyration.

A vaginal orgasm.

Ah, the vagina. Let’s put the fun back in an organ that is often construed as functional. Forgive us, but there is so much more to this canal than just reproduction matters (boo, bad sex ed). A completely unsexy way to start talking about vaginal orgasms? Well, somebody has to do it! And we’re all thinking it. Penetration isn’t for everybody, all the time. But for some of us, internal stimulation can be really fulfilling - 30% of us can reach orgasm with it alone.

So, we know about the clitoris’ big role in internal sensations, and the G-spot; what else could there be? This tunnel of pleasure has 90% of its nerve endings in the first third. Aforementioned clit and G-spot orgasms aside, why is nobody talking about the just-inside orgasm? Because that could be a thing for some of us. Shallow penetration, a dip more than a dive, could be what makes an orgasmic splash.

Of course, deeper vaginal stimulation can reach erogenous zones further down; tucked up between the front of the cervix and above the bladder is the anterior fornix, and then the cervix itself. These deep spots are tied to the A-spot and C-spot orgasms respectively. Though it is kind of cool knowing there are so many places that may feel pleasure in our vaginas, an ABC of orgasm names should be forgettable. What matters are our own spots! More so, to get to the erogenous depths, the rest of the vagina is stimulated… so orgasms that occur during deeper vaginal stimulation are most probably indirect. And, most probably have something to do with the greatest pleasure organ of humanity - the clitoris. It. Always. Comes. Back. To. The. Clit.

What the specialists say about the vaginal orgasm.

Our sexologists and gynecologists agree that for some, deep vaginal penetration feels more pleasurable and possibly orgasmic, while for others not at all. Examining up to twenty different vulva-owners a day, Dr Jess has heard that for many women deep penetration is very painful and is experienced as banging against their cervix. Pain during penetrative sex is normal but not something we should settle for! Try different types of stimulation instead.

What a vaginal orgasm feels like.

The energy of vaginal orgasms feels deeper in the body, and more filling. When penetrated, we can experience sensations around whatever is in us - dildo, penis, vibe, finger etc - therefore we may be more aware of the vaginal pulsations occurring. Remember the walls of the vagina swell on arousal, creating a tighter feeling so on climax the contractions can feel more intense.

How to have vaginal orgasm.

Our one prime tip for penetration is not to rush. Not only is it important to prepare our bodies (mentally and physically), but it’s also how we get the most orgasmic impact. It’s worth trying deeper internal stimulation during solo sex, as it allows us to understand our penetrative boundaries and see if there can be pleasure where we have previously experienced pain.

  • Start off externally with some clitoral stimulation.
  • Use a water-based lubricant - yep, we will say it every time because lube is great.
  • Take it slowly. Start with lots of attention on the vaginal entrance before trying different depths.
  • Breathe deep, too! We often forget the simplest things during sex, and our bodies and orgasms will thank us for the extra oxygen.

A vaginal technique to try.

Staying deep: Rather than an in-and-out thrusting motion, hold a vibrator in place for constant stimulation. Use your legs to keep it in place and lay back. Practice breathing in for four, and out for eight to really get in touch with your body.

The climax to orgasms.

So, there we have it, a better understanding of exactly what an orgasm is. Like most things in sex, it’s all about playing and seeing what feels good. Eliminate the pressure to have fun - or orgasm - and you’re more likely to have fun! The discovery is about YOU; solo female orgasms are much more likely than partnered female orgasms. Trying new ways of self-stimulation so you can work out what gets you there, if your body is feeling it, will assist with climaxing with a partner. Instead of wondering how to orgasm faster with a partner, we can ask ourselves if we’re receiving the right stimulation to set us on the orgasmic path. Enter, Smile Makers’ vibrators.

Oh, and remember an orgasm climax is not an ending - just the highest peak of pleasure, you do you - literally and metaphorically speaking!

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