How to reach orgasm

August 6, 2010, 10:54 am Amy Sutherland womenshealth

Knowing how your brain and body join forces to bring you to the brink can help make your orgasm even more powerful. Are you ready? Prepare for blast-off!

Better Sex

Photography Adam Levey

Love an orgasm? Who doesn't?! But the simple pleasure of an orgasm can be as elusive as it is amazing. We share some tips on how to climax each and every time.

Orgasms feel amazing. That’s a fact, though no superlative seems to do them justice. The mystery often lies in figuring out exactly how to trigger one.

These bliss-inducing muscle contractions can explode spontaneously during one sexual encounter, but at other times they require a super-specific setting (soft music, dimmed lights), body position (half pike with a twist), and technique (clockwise clitoral stimulation, please) to set them off.

Even then, hitting the heights of pleasure is no guarantee.

Why it's difficult to orgasm

Many women aren’t built to peak easily during intercourse, says Dr Kim Wallen, a professor of psychology at Emory University, US.

“We’re finding that how a woman’s genitals form – specifically, the distance between the clitoris and vagina – is a big factor in her ability to orgasm during sex,” he says.

For a lot of women, achieving orgasm starts with becoming more familiar with their bodies through masturbation.

“Learning what feels good will demystify the orgasm, making it more attainable,” explains Dr Tina Tessina, author of Money, Sex,and Kids. "Let your body lead, and then later, share your newfound knowledge with him.”

Sex researchers may be getting closer to figuring out the perfect peaking storm. In the past few years, scientists have made some important discoveries about what goes on inside your body and brain before, during and after an orgasm.

So, what happens to your anatomy from arousal to afterglow, and how can you use that info to intensify your satisfaction? Read on...

Preparation for orgasm is key

Foreplay, as you might suspect, is crucial.

During the groping, kissing and caressing, your nervous system fires feel-good messages through the nerves that weave their way through your pelvis to your brain.

This early stage is where a lot of women get tripped up because they can’t silence the voices in their heads (“When was the last time I had a bikini wax?” “Am I prepared for that 8am meeting?”) to focus on sensations.

To stop your mind from wandering out of the bedroom, Dr Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First, suggests zeroing in on one of your senses.

Focus on the smell of his skin, the feeling of his hands on your body or how he tastes while you’re kissing.

Dr Debby Herbenick, author of Because It Feels Good often advises fantasising.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, but studies show that lapsing into a sexual fantasy can help a woman become and stay aroused,” she says. “Switching to a sexual mindset makes you more physically responsive.”

When you’re turned on, your nerves communicate to your brain that it’s time to increase blood flow.

The result: your genitals become engorged and lubricated, your breasts swell and your nipples harden.

The more engorged you are, the more sensitive you become to his touch, causing the nerves to fire back to the brain to pump more blood, creating an increasingly pleasurable loop, says Dr Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers University in the US and co-author of The Orgasm Answer Guide.

The catch: keeping that loop going requires patience – yours and his. While the amount of time it takes to reach peak arousal varies from woman to woman, Dr Kerner says the average female requires 10 to 20 minutes of rhythmic manual or oral pressure.

Women often speed up the process before they’re properly warmed up because they’re worried about taking too long. The truth is, says Dr Kerner, “Seeing a woman aroused boosts [a man’s] testosterone levels, turning him on even more.”

Related: 35 sex positions

The best orgasm enhancers

When you feel that throbbing sensation that tells you it’s time to transition to sex, get into a position that provides clitoral contact.

Dr Herbenick suggests the coital alignment technique: get your partner to lie on top so the base of his penis aligns with your clitoris, then push your pelvis up while he resists the pressure and moves his hips in a circular motion. Or try a position where he can touch your clitoris with his fingers; from behind or cowgirl.

Groundbreaking research by Dr Helen O’Connell, a urological surgeon from the University of Melbourne, found that the clitoris actually extends way back into the pelvis and plays a significant role in both vaginal and G-spot orgasms. (The G-spot is an especially nerve-rich spot on the frontal vaginal wall – although its existence is still hotly disputed.)

Her research suggests every climax is blended.

“Since all orgasms involve the clitoris, G-spot and vagina, scientists don’t really differentiate between types anymore,” Dr Herbenick notes.

Fair enough: an orgasm’s an orgasm, we say.

When you experience an orgasm, an area of your brain called the paraventricular nucleus spills a wave of oxytocin into your bloodstream. As this neurohormone washes through your pelvic muscles, it causes a series of rhythmic contractions every 0.08 seconds. Your heart pumps extra oxygen to the pulsating parts to keep them humming for about 20 seconds.

These contractions will be even stronger if you do your Kegels. Do 10 reps, holding each for 10 seconds, twice a day.

Another easy orgasm enhancer? Breathing.

Holding your breath during climax can reduce the sensation. Instead, take shallow, rapid breaths up to and during your climax.

“Quick breaths reduce blood levels of carbon dioxide, making vaginal contractions more intense,” says Dr Robert Fried, professor of biopsychology at Hunter College, US.

While your body is pumping out waves of tingly goodness, your mind falls into a contented trance. The nucleus accumbens, where the brain produces pleasurable feelings, is activated, says Dr Komisaruk. That’s why you may feel as if you can’t get enough of your partner – even one you’re lukewarm about – during pleasure.

Meanwhile, the brain’s amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which process fear and anxiety, become less active, says Dr Gert Holstege, professor of uroneurology at the University of Groningen, Netherlands.

“Our research found that women need to be in a relaxed, comfortable place in order to climax,” Dr Holstege says. “The brain is built for survival and procreation. When you’re having sex (even if it’s not to procreate), your brain gets the green light to orgasm when no danger or worry is present.”

So, that rules out getting it on in the lion enclosure, then.


Soon after an orgasm, your blood pressure and pulse settle down, and blood retreats slowly from your genitals and nipples – that is, if you don’t decide to go back for more.

“One advantage women have is the ability to achieve multiple orgasms,” Dr Herbenick says. “Blood drains from the penis quickly, but stays longer in the vagina, which keeps a woman aroused.”

Wait until your clitoris is less sensitive and have him stimulate you manually or orally to start building to another peak.

According to Dr Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, once you’ve filled your pleasure quota, you’ll probably fall into cuddle mode, because there’s still leftover oxytocin (the bonding hormone) floating around, making you feel especially attached to the person who brought you all that glory.

So go ahead, cuddle up – you both deserve it.


On the surface it may seem simple, but his climax involves more than just releasing sperm upstream

While it may appear to consist solely of a few grunts, the male orgasm is actually quite a fascinating process.

“When a man is almost at the point of no return, his testicles fill with semen and pressure builds in an enclosed sphincter valve. His testicles pull in toward his pelvis to deliver sperm to the penis,” says sexologist Dr Beverly Whipple.

The area of his brain that registers pleasure fires up and his brain sends for more blood flow to his penis. His pelvic muscles, including those in his penis and anus, contract rhythmically and involuntarily.

A male orgasm typically consists of 10 contractions or so, occurring at intervals of 0.6 seconds and lasting around 20 to 25 seconds.

The first two convulsions are usually the most intense, producing the most semen. Make these contractions even more amazing by pressing lightly on his perineum, the ridge of nerves located between his testicles and anus that is ultra sensitive during arousal.

Or contract your pelvic floor muscles during his orgasm – doing this will create more friction and pleasure, Dr Whipple says.

As his body returns to normal, he enters the resolution phase. His brain mixes up a relaxing cocktail of norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin and prolactin (a sexual-desire-dampening hormone), which may explain why, post-orgasm, he might want to hit the hay instead of taking another roll in it.

The 15-minute orgasm
How to multiply your orgasms
Why morning sex is good for you

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  1. Cameron12:48pm Wednesday 01st December 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    Where's the "role playing" or a little light bondage? I'm not talking "cat-o-nine-tails", but tying your partner up and adding a blindfold can create a bonfire from a non-existent spark. Either put the blindfold on first, then do any manner of naughties - removing the visual stimulus makes the mind twice as sensitive - or mix it up and do the tying up, let your fingers, etc., do the walking, then blindfold - its a wonderful mind f**k before the actual sex happens. Remember Ms. Curtis' striptease in "True Lies"? A lot of women, and men, would feel a little embarrassed to perform said dance in front of their partners...but try it. The worst thing that will happen is a shared laugh.

  2. Paul07:38pm Tuesday 24th August 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    "wow" i never knew so thats what ive been doing wrong !i look forward to the practical application.this is gold

  3. David09:55pm Sunday 15th August 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    just talking about what happens in male and female body choice of partner is yours

  4. Rae08:58pm Sunday 15th August 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    kinda heterosexual in the language really.


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