The Physiology of Orgasms
Climax, cumming, “the big O” – whatever you call yours, it’s fair to say that most people love having orgasms! But that pleasurable peak is often such a blur, you may not be aware of exactly what is going on in your body when you reach that pivotal point. Whether you tend to reach orgasm through stimulation of the penis, prostate, clitoris, G-spot, another erogenous zone, or some combination thereof, here’s some of what happens physiologically when you get off…
Faster breathing and increased heart rate
Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate all ramp up in response to the sexual tension that builds during the arousal process, and reach a high point during orgasm. While this might sound like it’d make climaxing dangerous for people with heart problems and other related medical issues, sex inducing a heart attack is actually very rare, and sexual activity may even be good aerobic exercise.
Changes in brain activity
Some neurological research has found that during orgasm, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety shut down entirely. Other emotions are tamped down too, at least for a few moments; this “blank mind” effect may be why some people describe their orgasms as being a “little death” of sorts.
Muscles in the pelvic area contract rhythmically during orgasm, dispelling the accumulated tension in that zone and helping to expel semen or (in some cases) causing vaginal ejaculation to occur. These contractions may happen as quickly as once every 0.8 seconds for the duration of the climax. Unlike the voluntary muscle contractions you can do at any time, these involuntary ones often involve muscles we have little-to-no conscious control over in everyday life, such as those of the prostate or the uterus. Naturally, these contractions are usually accompanied by the intensely pleasurable sensation most people associate with orgasm.
Some people experience a period of time post-orgasm during which they can’t immediately come again, because of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and prolactin which inhibit further pleasure and climaxes for a while. It is sometimes thought that only men have a refractory period, and that all women can immediately dive back into sexual stimulation after orgasm, but this isn’t necessarily the case – as with all things sexual, everyone is different and your mileage may vary!
What’s your favorite physiological response to notice in yourself or your partner(s) during orgasm?