The sensations and physiology of sexual climax, or orgasm, are remarkably similar between men and women. It’s impossible, of course, for any person to understand what an orgasm (or any other sensory experience for that matter) actually feels like for another person—regardless of gender. But a lot of research shows that, objectively, the sexual responses of men and women are very similar.
I think it’s likely, therefore, that men and women experience the same range of intensities and degrees of pleasure during orgasm. Several studies confirm this. In one, college students described their orgasms in writing. Researchers compared the descriptions using a standard psychological rating scale, and there were no distinguishable differences between men’s and women’s descriptions.
Both males and females tended to describe orgasm with words such as “waves of pleasure in my body,” corresponding to the rhythmic muscle contractions that occur during orgasm. In another study, 70 expert judges could not reliably differentiate between the reports of orgasms by men and women.
This makes a lot of sense, since the male and female sex organs are built from the same anatomical “parts.” In fact, for the first two months of fetal development you can’t tell a boy from a girl by looking at the genitals. It’s only when a fetal boy’s body gets flooded with testosterone that his penis begins to form (from clitoral tissue), his testicles develop (from tissues destined for the labia and ovaries), and internal organs such as the prostate and seminal vesicles form. It’s not wrong to say that a penis is really just a clitoris on steroids.
This is why men and women respond, physically, in very similar ways to sexual stimulation. The arteries feeding the penis and clitoris relax and open up. (The same thing, to a lesser extent, in a woman’s breasts.) This causes the spongy tissue of both the penis and clitoris to swell, which increases sensitivity to further stimulation.
In men, the testicles tighten and draw closer to the body as sexual excitement builds. The prostate, seminal vesicles, and vas deferens begin to contract rhythmically. Then a “valve” leading to the bladder closes so that semen can’t be forced “backwards.”
These contractions and the buildup of seminal fluids in the upper part of the urethra produce a feeling that orgasm is inevitable. This feeling lasts between 2-3 seconds and then the entire sexual machinery, including the muscles in the penis and around the anus, contracts in unison in intervals a little faster than one a second (0.8 seconds, to be exact).
Two or three of these contractions propel the bulk of the semen from the penis during ejaculation. After that, contractions may continue less forcibly and on a more irregular rhythm for another 2-4 cycles.
The rhythms of muscle contractions in the female genitalia during orgasm have exactly the same pattern and timing. The major difference between the sexes is that, following ejaculation, men experience a latency period in which further erection and orgasm are not possible, whereas women can immediately begin “ramping up” to another orgasm. As the famous sex researcher Dr. William Masters once remarked, “The female has an infinitely greater capacity for sexual response than a man ever dreamed of.”
More on Orgasms:
- ‘I love my girlfriend, but I can’t give her an orgasm during sex!’
- ‘I’ve been able to orgasm in past relationships, but haven’t been able to experience this with my current boyfriend. What can I do to fix this?’
- ‘My fiancée treats me like one of her students – now I’m having trouble reaching orgasm during sex.’
- ‘How can I orgasm during sex with my boyfriend without using a vibrator?’
- ‘Is it normal for my girlfriend never to have had an orgasm?’