By Kendall McKenzie
Two people asked us:
I know it’s probably different for everyone, but what is a female orgasm like? I am about to begin a sexual relationship with my partner (a first sexual relationship), and I have never masturbated because I personally have never had any interest in it. How/Will I be able to tell if I finish or not?
Hi. My sex is female. I’ve masturbated a lot, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever had an orgasm before. It sounds a little silly to not know, but I’ve been uncertain about it, and when I asked my mother, she said that it would be obvious if I had one or not. But, I’m really not sure and feel bad for not being sure. How can I know for sure if the moments of pleasure I’ve had are orgasms or not?
Orgasms (also known as cumming or coming) are one of those things that are tough to describe, but you certainly shouldn’t feel silly or bad for not being sure if you’ve had one. All stages of sexual excitement feel good, so it can be tough to know if you’ve actually reached your “climax.” It’s totally normal to be confused, especially when you first become sexually active or start masturbating.
Orgasms happen when sexual tension increases until it reaches a peak, and the pressure in your body and genitals is released (which feels pretty stupendous). It’s kinda like a rollercoaster, and the orgasm is that moment when you go over the hill at the top, free fall down, make a funny face, and get a really unflattering souvenir photo taken. Sometimes, it feels like you’re on the Super Giant Colossus Loop-De-Loop 5000, and sometimes it feels like a Ferris wheel — a little less intense.
Orgasms release endorphins (feel-good hormones), so it’s common to get sleepy and/or super blissed-out after having one. This is why some people masturbate to relieve pain, stress, or to help them go to sleep. It’s also normal for your clitoris to feel extremely sensitive (like, uncomfortable-to-touch sensitive) immediately after cumming.
Orgasms aren’t all the same — some are earth-shattering, some barely produce a shiver, and some are in-between. They vary for a number of reasons, including how comfortable you are, how many orgasms you’ve had recently, and how much foreplay went down/sexual tension was built up before. The more orgasms you have, the better you’ll be at knowing what your orgasms typically feel like and what can make them even better.
If you’re curious about orgasms and learning more about your sexuality, consider masturbating, even if you think you don’t have any interest in it. Of course, it’s totally fine and normal if you really don’t want to masturbate, but it is one of the best ways to get to know your body and what will make you cum.
Also, you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself or your partner to have an orgasm. Not everybody can have them during sex or with other people around. Or, sometimes the circumstances just aren’t right (you’re nervous or tired, for example). Some people take a long time to orgasm, and some can orgasm at the drop of a hat. Some people need to have certain parts of their body stimulated in a very specific way or with certain objects (like vibrators) to have an orgasm. It’s different for everyone. Either way, pressure to have an orgasm or to give your partner an orgasm will just stress everyone out and make it even more difficult. Sexy time can be intimate, enjoyable, and fun with or without orgasms, and if you and/or your partner don’t cum, it’s not because you’re not into each other or you’re bad at sex. All that matters is that everyone wants to be there, and they’re feelin’ good. Relax, and remember that pleasure, not explosive orgasms, is the goal.
Kendall at Planned Parenthood
Beyond serving as a go-to source for vital reproductive care, the folks at Planned Parenthood— a team of knowledgeable experts in medicine, sexual health, and law — are passionate, informed advocates for knowing your own body. Planned Parenthood is here to tackle the big issues.