Think of this scenario: You're having sex with your partner, and you're having a great time. It feels great, too. Then, after their undeniable climax, as evidenced by grunts and heavy breathing, they fall onto the pillow, blissed out. Because they are a generous lover, they turn to you with stars in their eyes and ask, "Did you finish, too?" And honestly, if you're unfamiliar with what an orgasm feels like, you might wonder if you even did. What are the climax signs for a woman or person with a vagina?
If you're one of the lucky people for whom the Hollywood depictions of orgasms are a reality, maybe this isn't even a question. Maybe your partner already knows that you came because your genuine yelps of ecstasy have generated more than one noise complaint in the past. If things didn't last as long as you would've liked, or if you are a very normal human woman who requires more clitoral stimulation than your partner was able to give you, maybe the answer is a big fat "no." Or maybe you’re the one pleasing a partner with a vagina and looking for signs she came. How can one tell if they're actually having an orgasm?
While orgasms are both very delightful and very confusing, Elite Daily consulted some experts for some telltale signs that, yes, you are, in fact, having an orgasm.
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Is It Hard To Tell If You're Having An Orgasm?
Orgasms are not as black and white as movies and pop culture would have us believe. Even if you've had an orgasm before, alone or with a partner, you might wonder whether that was a warm tingle or the real deal. What does an orgasm feel like? Let’s just say it’s not always as unmistakable as you might think.
"If you aren't sure, that doesn't mean that you aren't having an orgasm," says licensed counselor and certified sex therapist Sarah Watson. "Orgasms generally don't look like what the media portrays them to be. Remember everyone is different. Learn your body, explore your vulva and your individual sensations."
You are not alone if you’re unsure whether you’ve had an orgasm or struggling with how to get there. Research suggests that around 10% to 15% of women have never had an orgasm, and up to half aren’t happy with how often they reach orgasm. This accounts for what is known as the orgasm gap — the unfortunate reality that people with vaginas have fewer orgasms than people with penises, due to patriarchal norms and misconceptions about the female body. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The more you know, the more in control of your body you’ll feel.
If you're still questioning whether you've had a case of the chills or an actual big O, don't worry. It's just because we don't discuss the nuances of the female orgasm enough. Psychotherapist LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D, author of Smart Relationships and founder of www.lovevictory.com, believes that "when in doubt, read about female orgasmic response to learn about the wide range of reactions". Basically, if you are not sure if you're coming or not, it can be helpful to read up on it... kind of like you're doing now.
How Can I Help Myself Orgasm?
The female orgasm is often longer and can be more intense than the male orgasm, if less reliable. It’s also important to note that orgasm isn’t always the end goal! Popular culture makes a big deal about “getting off,” but the reality is that sex should be fun. If that includes an orgasm, cool, but if not, no sweat.
Climaxing is not going to be some earth-shattering event every single time, but when you know, you know.There will be a climax and release, either small or large. Just trust yourself. You shouldn't feel pressured to orgasm every time. (Honestly, putting pressure on yourself will just make the whole experience less spontaneous and pleasurable.) If you're honest with yourself and your partner about climaxing, then you can start to learn more about what it takes for your body to actually get there. If you want to, anyway.
What Are Physical Signs Of An Orgasm?
Not all female orgasms are created equally. Some women react to particular physical stimulation, while others desire a sense of mutual respect and love in addition to the actual sensations.
"Physical signs of orgasm for women generally include some type of heightened tension and a release," says Watson. These areas of involuntary muscle tightening are often in the jaw and face, as well as the toes.
Heavy or "ragged" breathing is another sign that your body is approaching orgasm, and it calms down after climax. You'll usually know if you've had an orgasm after it has happened. The release in the body will usually make you feel warm and relaxed, with Dr. Wish referring to it as "a sense of floating."
She also went on to say that, sometimes, orgasms can be so intense that you might lose your sense of reality for a moment. According to Dr. Wish, "if your eyes have been shut, when you open them, you [may be] surprised where you are!" Talk about goals, right?
If none of this sounds familiar to you, don't worry. There are many ways to work toward a spectacular orgasm. Take baby steps as you figure out what's best for you. You can try experimenting with a sex toy on your own, or switch to a new sex position with a partner. Sometimes, masturbation is the best way to experiment and find out what feels best to your body. Then you can take that knowledge to partnered sex and tell the other person exactly what turns you on. Oh, and P.S. — 74% of Americans have used masturbation as a form of self-care, so you’re basically treating yourself just as you deserve. Plan a solo date night and have some fun.
"Sometimes, learning about your body takes time," says Dr. Wish. "It takes time for your partner to learn as well! Tell yourself that there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. And, don't dismiss the importance of feeling satisfied. Mutually satisfying sex is part of the 'emotional glue' in relationships." Whether or not you both reach climax, what matters is that the sex feels enjoyable, both in the moment and after you’re done.
Whether you're having window-shattering orgasms or not, just stick to what feels good. As with anything else in life, have confidence and use patience as you figure out what's best for your body. The rewards will be well worth your time.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Orgasmic dysfunction in women: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001953.htm.
Sarah Watson, licensed counselor and certified sex therapist
LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., psychotherapist, author of Smart Relationships, and founder of www.lovevictory.com
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