orgasms101_inside1.jpgThere’s a saying that goes, "If you have to ask what an orgasm is, chances are you haven’t had one...yet." While here may be truth in that saying, a real orgasm isn’t like love, where you just know it. From the knowing to the having, we gathered expert opinions to give us the lowdown on what goes on down there when your toes curl and your back arches.

First, let’s get to the scientific explanation of why your toes curl and your back arches.

Debby Herbenick, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute and author of Because It Feels Good explains, “During arousal, the heart rate can double, blood rushes to the genitals, muscles tighten, and chemicals and hormones such as oxytocin flood the body.” 

An orgasm, on the average, lasts for only 20 seconds, and that goes for both men and women. But Herbenick says, “Studies have shown orgasms can reduce stress, improve sleep, decrease the risk of prostate cancer and endometriosis, and bring pain relief.” How’s that for long-term benefits?


Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, not all women can reach orgasm, and a large part of it is due to emotional rather than biological reasons.

“The inability of some women to have orgasms with their partners is often a function of not feeling sufficient love and trust. This is an emotional problem and no amount of sexual gymnastics will solve it,” says Dr. Margarita Holmes, a clinical psychologist and renowned sex therapist.

According to Dr. Holmes, “The solution is to create the sort of relationship within which you can feel the necessary sense of comfort which will allow you to relax and enjoy sex fully.”


Jeremy Baer, a psychotherapist-in-training and the husband of Dr. Holmes, cites a study by Masters and Johnsons that describes performance anxiety as “the fear that what you want to happen won’t.”

“You are so wrapped up in that fear, hoping your body responds the way it’s 'supposed to' that you end up watching your body, willing it to perform 'as it should' instead of enjoying your lovemaking,” says Baer.  

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(Photo from Sex and Other Drugs courtesy of  20th Century Fox)

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orgasms101_inside2.jpgTHINGS YOU’LL NEED

Baer points to additional research that shows that most women require two things to be able to have an orgasm: 

1. A relationship which fosters trust and safety, and
2. Sufficient foreplay

"Studies show that most women need at least 20 minutes of foreplay before they are ready for penetration. These studies were of women who read Cosmopolitan whom one can presume to be more sophisticated and modern. What more therefore for women who are less so?" states Baer.


But the good news is, reaching an orgasm can be achieved through practice (how’s that for research?) and, well, getting to know your body--what it likes and what stimuli it best responds to.

"Frequency of lovemaking, more enjoyment of sex and orgasms are closely correlated," says Dr. Holmes, who offers three methods which can help a woman achieve orgasm:

1. Woman on top.

This has two significant benefits. It aligns the woman's vagina so that there is contact between the penis and clitoris, and in addition it gives the woman control over the lovemaking so that she can adjust her position as she desires.

2. CAT (clitoral alignment technique)

Here, the man lies missionary-style on top of the woman and moves forward and backward, thus maximizing the friction on the clitoris.

3. Tao of Love and Sex

This technique is the least easy to explain and the most difficult to master. In essence, it requires the man to avoid ejaculation, thus enabling him to continue to make love for extended periods.

Baer explains further by adding, “It is especially helpful as men get older and no longer enjoy the short refractory period of their youth.” The refractory period is the time between last ejaculation and next erection and is a matter of seconds or minutes for young men, gradually lengthening with age and often reaching several days for men over 75.

So even if you don’t get it right the first time, there’s always a good excuse to practice, practice, practice until you get it right. And when you get it right, you’ll know it from the tingling of your scalp all the way down to the curling of your toes.

Read these other articles for more intimacy tips:

(Photo by terminallychll via Flickr Creative Commons)

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