First Things First …
If you’re wondering what the female orgasm feels like and whether you’ve had one, a good thing to know is that they’re different for everyone.
In her book, Vagina: A New Biography, Naomi Woolf says “Every woman is wired differently. Some women's nerves branch more in the vagina; other women's nerves branch more in the clitoris. Some branch a great deal in the perineum, or at the mouth of the cervix. That accounts for some of the differences in female sexual response.”
The female orgasm has long been an elusive thing. Not just because it can take women longer to reach climax than men, but because we’re still working on the idea that we even have the right to experience pleasure through sex.
Gasp! Yes, onto that …
Dr Janet Hall sex therapist and author of O For Women says, "Over 20% of the sex therapy cases treated at my psychology clinic are women who are not orgasmic."
According to Janet, "Every woman can orgasm." Not just for pleasure (although definitely also that) Janet says "There are some really wonderful benefits of orgasm. As well as being deliciously pleasurable, they're free, fun, boost your immune system, give you a sense of wellbeing, are a great sleeping pill, and can even take away migraines, headaches and even PMS symptoms by releasing pelvic congestion."
In which case, why aren't we all having them daily?
The Clitoral Orgasm
You’ve heard about the clitoris, right? It’s that small bobble that sits at the top of the vulva. Think of it as your own personal Dreamworld: there’s a ride for everyone. For people who identify as transgender the location may differ slightly, but either way, if you’re keen to have an orgasm you’d do well by getting to know this little lady.
What’s interesting about the clitoris is that it has legs, known as crura. The clitoral crura reach from the point of the clitoris and travel internally down the inside of either side of the vulva – like a wishbone. When you’re turned on, the clitoris, including the legs becomes engorged with blood and expands.
But what exactly does an orgasm for a woman feel like? Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a social scientist who specialises in gender and sexuality says clitoral orgasm is often likened to a sneeze. "The notion of a build up – of tension, of pleasure, of anticipation and desperate eagerness to reach a destination – and then a final culmination in a pleasurable sense of relief."
In the build up, the clitoris becomes uber-sensitive and you can feel it like a tickle – it's almost so pleasurable you can't stand it, but want more at the same time.
The Vaginal Orgasm
The female orgasm is as wide and varied as the number of women on the planet, so just because your friends describe it one way, doesn't mean it's not happening for you if you feel it differently. Getting to know your own body and how it responds is key.
Janet explains, "There is considerably more variety in the ways in which women stimulate themselves than there are for men. What an advantage!"
The initial stage of vaginal climax is that you get wet. When you’re sexually stimulated the Bartholin’s glands (on the inside of the vaginal wall) secrete fluid. But, how wet you get will be different for everyone.
Vaginal orgasms are also quite different to clitoral in that they are felt deeper within and take your breath away, in a different way.
Clitoral orgasms are a buzzy, high vibrational experience whereas vaginal orgasms are deeper and lower. One feels like it starts on the outside and travels inwards (clitoral), and the other feels like it begins in the pit of your soul and reverberates outwards (vaginal).
Is it different to the male orgasm?
Diane Riley, co-founder and director of LoveWorks and the Australian School of Tantra works with hundreds of women every year, helping them have healthy and pleasurable sex lives. She says, "I don't know what it's like to have a male orgasm because I'm not a man, but I think the male orgasm is more reliable. For most women it takes a bit longer."
Men tend to reach what Diane calls their 'point of no return' quicker than women. We need more foreplay, and not just foreplay for the sake of it. It needs to reach our inner emotional world in order for us to be able to climax fully.
Male sex can be a case of "once he's inside, it's pump, pump, gone," says Diane. Her life's work is about re-educating women around the idea that sexual climax is theirs to enjoy too.
"Women have been taught to make love to a man’s rhythm," says Diane, "but we can learn to make love to the female rhythm where we integrate and absorb the energy." Lauren and Diane agree that masturbation is key for women who want to achieve orgasm.
"Learning how you like to be touched - where, how hard, in what rhythm," says Lauren, "teaches you about what you like and helps you hone the kinds of techniques that work best for you. Being able to orgasm on your own means you can later teach a partner about how you like to be touched, but also, that you're not reliant on someone else to give you pleasure."
So the key to knowing when you've climaxed is to get to know your own likes and dislikes. "It’s about expanding your sexual and sensual intelligence," says Diane.
She teaches tantric sexuality which includes working with the breath and using mindfulness to create a mind-blowing and lasting sexual experience. "In tantric sexuality you play and caress and then you stop," says Diane. It's about working with your sexual energy so it lasts and becomes rejuvenating rather than depleting.
She suggests using the breath to spread the energy. And more importantly, to make sure you're warmed up before any penetration. "[Part of that is about] feeling safe so you can be more present with the feelings going on in your body. If you’re carrying a lot of shame or guilt or stress then it’s not as easy to access the pleasure."
How to Achieve An Orgasm - a Tantric Step-By-Step
In Tantra, masturbation is referred to as self-pleasuring, which already removes much of the shame that can be associated with this mostly behind-closed-doors act.
When practicing self-pleasure, Diane suggests you still keep the door closed, in fact put a sign on it that says 'Meditation in Progress' and make sure any flatmates, kids, parents or partners are out.
Here's her guide on how to have an orgasm:
#1 Set aside a couple of hours and set up your room as if a VIP was coming to visit. In other words, tidy your bedroom, put some flowers in a vase, light a candle and put clean sheets on the bed.
#2 Put on some music and take a bath. Light some incense if you like.
#3 "Make sure nobody is going to disturb you and you feel safe: the husband is out with the kids, the flatmates are not home."
#4 Gather some oil or feathers and start exploring your own body. Slowly.
#5 Play around with different types of touch, starting at the extremities. "[Touch] one hand, one arm then the other hand, the other arm. Then the face, the breasts, the tummy, then the yoni." Use the feather, your fingers and the oil to create different sensations.
#6 "Play and caress, then stop," says Diane. "Use your breath. Breathe in and spread the energy. Then find another stroke. Go fast, or slow then stop again." Diane says taking your time is vital. Repeat the strokes you like and keep pausing and breathing - kind of like you're teasing yourself.
Climax Without Contact
Nat Newman, 39 says she hadn't had a 'real' orgasm before she turned 30, but now she's found a way to have a vaginal climax without any penetration. She lies in bed and begins by fantasising.
She allows herself to fully indulge in her fantasy and lets the feelings build. "It can last a while; 15 or 30 minutes." Nat senses her heart rate elevate and her breath become short. After a while she concentrates on her fantasy and directs her focus a few centimetres inside her vagina. "There's a particular spot that I concentrate on. In my fantasy, I let that build into a climax. I can feel it so intensely and then bam – contractions, euphoria, whole body electric."
It gets better. "A few well timed pelvic floor squeezes and I can make it last for quite a long time. There's no grinding, no friction, nothing. Just my brain."
"I can feel it so intensely and then bam – contractions, euphoria, whole body electric."
Coming, Ready or Not
No matter what the science says, and irrespective of our personal differences, for most women, once you get to know your own body, reaching orgasm will become easier.
You'll find that when a particular spot is touched, there's a sense of it being 'just right' and the build up of energy becomes real and tangible. It might be subtle or it might be intense.
And whether it's clitoral or vaginal, the female orgasm generally expands through your whole body and becomes the only thing you can focus on.
When you reach climax it's like an explosion that feels as though every cell in your body just got lit up like Sydney New Year's fireworks. What comes after that is a tingling or buzzing sensation that lingers around your vulva and travels down your legs and feels frickin' awesome.
Making any serious decisions in that moment is probably not wise.
And definitely don't do it while you're driving.