Orgasms: Everything you ever wanted to know about the female orgasm

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Sexpert Sarah Hedley reveals everything you ever wanted to know about orgasms but were too afraid to ask

How do we have orgasms?

For many women an orgasm is something they can only dream of, while for others it's something that rarely happens when they're with their partner.

If you fall into either of these categories, then don't worry, you're not alone. Research has shown that
  • 1 in 10 women never orgasm at all
  • 4 out of 10 women reach their first orgasm through masturbation.
  • Climaxing with a partner during penetrative sex is actually more difficult than TV, films and many books would have you believe and it requires techniques that often need to be learned.

But never fear, goodtoknow is here to help. Read on for expert advice and tips on how to put the 'ooooh' into your orgasm...

What happens when we orgasm?

The orgasm is split up into four phases that both men and women experience.

Basically, you will feel the results of two changes in your body during an orgasm - your muscles will tighten up and blood will flow to your breasts and genital area.

The Excitement Phase

As you become aroused, your vagina begins to lubricate and lengthen, and your cervix (the neck of the womb) begins to move up. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase and a reddish rash often referred to as a 'sex flush' may start to appear across your chest and other parts of your body. Your muscles will also start to tense up.

The Plateau Phase

Your heart rate and blood pressure are starting to increase rapidly. Your clitoris and labia will fill with blood and grow darker in colour and become firmer, as the breasts swell and the nipples harden. The womb now rises further in the pelvis and the far end of the vagina 'tents' to form a hollow space.

The Orgasmic Phase

As you reach the high point of the orgasm, your entire genital area is filled with blood and your orgasm begins. Your body basically 'lets go' and allows all this blood to return to the rest of your body and releases all the tension in your muscles.

Your vaginal walls contract at approximately 0.8-second intervals and then peter out as the climax subsides. Your orgasm will typically last much longer than his and multiple orgasms are not uncommon.

The Resolution Phase

Your body will return to normal as blood flows away from your genital area. Your clitoris will feel extremely sensitive, because it has gone from one extreme to another. Unlike men, women are able to experience another orgasm immediately.

What does an orgasm feel like?

Women describe orgasm in a variety of ways, depending on how they interpret the sensation, how sensitive they are and what sort of stimulation they're using.

One woman admitted that, after losing her virginity, her climaxes felt like little panic attacks. Then later she grew to enjoy the feeling as she become more comfortable with sex and less guilty about whether it was something she, 'as a nice girl', should be doing.

Other women may, at times, feel their orgasm all over the body, reverberating through their skin, while some may feel a more contained pulsing sensation between their labia.

Battery- or mains-powered vibrations tend to give a more immediate orgasm with stronger contractions, but that doesn't mean a woman will prefer the sensation to a slower build-up and a milder orgasm with her man.

How to reach orgasm

Although many women can easily climax during intercourse, the easiest way of having an orgasm is the DIY method using a vibrator.

A famous sex educator called Betty Dodson earned herself the nickname of 'The Grandmother of Masturbation' in the 20th century, as she worked her way around America helping women to become orgasmic.

Plug it in

Hundreds of women attended Betty's masturbation workshops and had their first orgasms at the hands of this amazing woman. She used something called the Hitachi Magic Wand, a mains-charged massager and probably the most powerful vibrator you will ever feel between your legs.

It's so powerful that you might want to place a folded towel over yourself before applying it. Once you're accustomed to the vibes, roll the head of the massager up and down over your clitoris, labia and vaginal opening, breathing deeply and focusing on enjoying the sensations.

Rampant rabbit

Alternatively, any basic Rabbit-style vibrator used with lube will provide milder, yet still substantial vibrations, as well as a feeling of fullness - something many women say aids their orgasm.

The shafts of these toys also contain rotating balls designed to massage the G-spot, which is an internal erogenous zone, embedded two inches up inside the front vaginal wall and is said to make your orgasm stronger and deeper.

With a Rabbit-style vibrator, the 'ears' attached to the base are designed to stimulate the clitoris, although you can turn the toy around so the fronds buzz against your perineum (the erogenous zone between your anus and vaginal opening). For the woman who's never had an orgasm, experimenting on other parts of the body is a great way to discover hidden orgasm triggers.

Water fun

Powerful water streams from either a Jacuzzi jet or a showerhead are also known to have been responsible for an orgasm or two. Water cascading over the clitoris can feel a lot like oral sex, and being immersed in a tub provides a relaxing environment in which to fantasise.

Try to image the jets of water are actually the tip of Brad Pitt's tongue working away on you and you'll transport yourself into the headspace necessary for orgasm.

Want some more? Try our 8 steps to orgasm heaven

Best sex positions to help you orgasm

No matter how many versions of the Kama Sutra are printed, there are only really three types of sex position.

The ones that works best for you during sex will depend on you and your partner's shape and size, and what props you're prepared to use.


1. Rear entry positions are good for...

Sex toy play with your partner. You hold the toy between your legs and look after clitoral stimulation; he takes care of thrusting and benefits from the vibrations travelling through your body.

2. Woman-on-top positions are good for...

Grinding against a man's pubic bone to create clitoral friction. You might prefer to use lubricant to help you glide over his body more easily. If he also attends to your breasts, having two sources of arousal surging through your body at the same time can be heavenly.

3. Missionary positions are good for...

Manually stimulating yourself while your partner perches up on his arms above you. Again, use lube for smoother sensations; you could even use a small bullet vibrator if you prefer - but avoid anything too big. Your man will enjoy watching you pleasure yourself, but will feel intimidated if you bring a really big toy to bed.

If you want to see some variations of these sex positions take a look at our top 40 sex positions.

Sarah's top 3 orgasm tips

1. Think outside of the box

When pleasuring yourself, don't go straight for your clitoris, or whatever body part that takes you to orgasm most quickly. Try to build up to climax and tease yourself. You will find hidden sweet spots along the way.

2. Think like Elvis...

Rock your pelvis. Moving your hips back and forth can help trigger orgasm, so always make sure you're active whether you're making out with your man, or going solo.

3. Clench and release

In its basic form, orgasm is simply the release of muscular tension. Help build muscular tension by clenching and releasing the muscles in your pelvis, thighs, butt and stomach during sex. This will increase the pleasure and intensity of the release when it finally comes.

Sarah Hedley is the author of Sex by Numbers (Piatkus) and the editor of Scarlet Magazine

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Your comments

Kaleb Greenwood

You took an oath & have been faithful with it till the age of 65. Why would you throw away 65 years of faithfulness, & possibly your eternal light for a single experience?? Foolish. The years of your best potential sexual experiences have long past you anyways sister. You wouldn't be biting into an enhanced chocolate bar. You'd be biting into a seemingly delicious piece of fruit, only to chew a mouthful of worms & rotten fruit. That's why Christ said to never take an oath. Because you will forever be bound to something you may find that you do not agree with. Next time, let your yes be yes. And let your no be no. Otherwise you risk becoming foolish.


im 24.....the problem is i had sex since i had 19 years old but not once time i come or havind an orgasm when having sex i have a boyfriend since 2 years we are trying to see what happened no results. but when he tres to suck me after 10 mns or over i come and i had an orgasm. why? iI'd like to know why i cannot come during the sex?

Mothusi Aubrey Rankgomo

I want to get back with my girlfriend but i am not sure that she will take me back since the end of our relationship i have been in a lot of pain and confusion as i did not know what went wrong in the relationship. i wish to know but there are sometimes that i do not what to ask her becaus she says is no longer that important anymore. my mkistakes in this relationship is that we did not communicate that much about our own feeling rather we just hid them and kept them inside and i had a crush on her friend which was not a good thing to tell her at the moment. my reaction on telling her was that i felt insecure and also anxious so i did tell her but now i want her back even though she also drove me away from her by her seemingly not to funny jokes besides that i stil do love her what should i do to show her that i still love her and i want her back in my life


Hi, I'm 18 and still live with my dad. My boyfriend moved in a few months ago and we are very sexually active but we have a problem. I can't seem to orgasm. we have tried just about everything and is now getting very frustrating. He says it might because i'm still here in the house that i grew up in and that my dad is only a few feet away so im constantly thinking about if he can hear me. We've tried foreplay and oral and with toys but still nothing. please can you help?


Here's a video on Sexperience that gives you the lowdown about an orgasm It explains what an orgasm feels like and gives more information about that mysterious G-spot.

David Shade

The statistics you show are sad because ALL healthy women can have orgasms during sex. The problem is with the men. I know because I was once one of those men, and my wife left me for a 'bad-boy'. That set me on my own path of research, and now 15 years later I teach men and couples all over the world how to have mind-blowing orgasms. It has to come from the place of respect, love, and admiration for women, and from the mindset that 'her pleasure is my pleasure'. It's what I call the beliefs of a Masterful Lover. And it's important to let women know that what the doctors are telling them... that it's their fault... is a bunch of crap! It's just a ploy to sell unnecessary medical procedures. Sincerely, David Shade

Sticky vicky

I have never had sex in my life and i was just wonderng what it felt like i truley think i will never discover what sex is like for i am a 65 yer old nun and a virgin its hard to say but yes i am a virgin, Is having an orgasm like eating a bar of cochlotae u dont no what its like until u have tasted it. u get tempeted but when u get it it is better than u thought please i want to know before i die which is sometime sooon and dont tell father mc gly=nn but hes great i think he gave me an orgasm one it was tingly

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