What Happens During an Orgasm?

Most of us know that we enjoy having sex; however, few of us really understand the physiological responses that accompany our sexual experiences. Our goal during sex is usually one thing: to achieve an orgasm. We crave that moment of bliss and ecstasy, even though it only lasts a few seconds, often without knowing exactly why it happens or the sexual response cycle that our body endures.

The sexual response cycle refers to the sequence of events that happens to a person’s body when they become sexually aroused and participate in sexual activities. The orgasm is the climax of the cycle, usually lasting only a few seconds. Both men and women go through the four phases of the sexual response cycle: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Oftentimes, men reach the first orgasm during sex, while women may take up to 15 minutes longer.

So What Happens?

During orgasm, the nerves in our genital region send messages to the pleasure center of the brain. The anatomy of the orgasm begins in the buildup, in which your body goes through changes that increase sensitivity and arousal.

Simultaneously, our brain is flooded with information, activating the pleasure center and causing our minds to temporarily lose control. Orgasms cause our brain to release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful chemical in the brain that inspires feelings of intimacy, making you feel deeply connected with your partner. Since men have higher levels of testosterone, they may not be as susceptible to the effects of oxytocin as women, which explains the sometimes different reactions of men and women towards sex.

As sexual excitement in the brain stimulates the blood flow to the genital area, the penis is engorged in men and the clitoris and labia is enlarged and lubricated in women. The central nervous system is at play, directing the messages of pleasure along the pelvic, pudendal, and hypogastric nerve endings in the genital regions in the brain during plateau.

This is then followed up with a series of pelvic, cervical, and anal muscle contractions in increments along with orgasmic sensations and ejaculation. Following this, deep relaxation and resolution occurs as the muscles begin to relax and the heart rate slows back to a resting pace.

The Male Orgasm

Before the male orgasm, seminal fluid first builds up in the urethral bulb. During this phase, men may encounter the sensation that an orgasm is certain to occur. The next step is the actual orgasm itself, in which the semen is ejaculated from the penis and contractions occur in the penis during the orgasmic phase. The released tension that occurs is what makes the orgasm feel so good.

The Female Orgasm

As a female’s body gets ready to orgasm, they will notice a warm, tingling sensation due to increased heart rate and blood pressure that is directed towards the genitals. The clitoris is made up of over 8,000 individual nerve endings, and it swells and enlarges during this climax phase. As the orgasm nears, the clitoris will pull back up under the clitoral hood and the inner labia will begin to swell as the outer lips separate.

When the climax moment finally happens, muscle spasms and contractions will begin, especially in the pelvis. A combination of the uterus, vagina, anus, and pelvic floor will contract, causing waves of pleasure through the abdomen and body. These can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute.

During a female orgasm, the first third of the vaginal walls contract rhythmically. The number and intensity of the contracts depends on each individual orgasm, so it varies between person and circumstance. The muscles of the uterus also contract, but these are barely noticeable.

When women experience an orgasm, the periaqueductal gray (PAG) is activated. The PAG is the part of the brain that controls the flight-or-fight response. There is also decreased activity in the amygdala and hippocampus when an orgasm is reached, both areas which monitor fear and anxiety.

For both males and females, the event of an orgasm increases breathing, pulse rate, and blood pressure. The muscle tension and blood-vessel engorgement reach a peak, and sometimes the orgasm comes with a grasping-type muscular reflex of the hands and feet. While the anatomy for both female and male orgasms can be very different, both have strong effects on the body and mind that maximize the pleasurable experience.


One Response

  1. michi December 11, 2015 Reply

Leave a Reply