Welcome to the week before finals, when stress and caffeine levels are running higher than ever all over campus. Nothing relieves stress better than a good old-fashioned toe-curling orgasm. But not everyone reaches that awesome climax during sex with a partner. According to the Kinsey Institute, 75 percent of men and only 29 percent of women climax with a partner. The female orgasm has been regarded as a mysterious entity for years. Unlike the male orgasm, the female orgasm has no reproductive purpose, and it can be harder to spot (unless you’re one of those lucky ladies who ejaculates during orgasm — more on that later). Although sex hardly requires an orgasm to be successful, there’s certainly no harm in unraveling the veiled mystery of the female orgasm.

Defining the Female Orgasm

During arousal, our bodies prepare for climax by flooding the vagina, clitoris and vulva with blood, therefore increasing sensitivity. Muscles tense and the vagina begins to lubricate itself i.e. she “gets wet.” As you begin to reach the edge of orgasm, blood continues to flow into the pelvic area, breathing speeds up, heart rate increases, nipples harden and the lower part of the vagina narrows while the upper part expands to allow space for a penis, fingers, sex toy or cucumber. Tension builds and then finally explodes in orgasm.

Brown University reports that it takes women an average 10-20 minutes to reach orgasm with a partner (they climax much faster when ridin’ solo, a little less than four minutes). Of course, women may take much longer or shorter than these averages. When the moment finally arrives, the uterus, vagina and anus contract together at 0.8-second intervals. For some women, this includes an ejaculation of fluid from the urethra at climax. No two orgasms are the same, but many experience changes in breathing, warmth, sweating, body vibrations, altered consciousness or an urge to moan. Endorphins (happy neurotransmitters) are released, causing us to feel happy, warm or sleepy. In addition, the hypothalamus unleashes extra oxytocin, nicknamed the “cuddle hormone” for its ability to promote bonding and affection. It may also be linked to our ability to trust, a conclusion drawn from recent studies at the University of Zurich.

The most obvious routes to achieve orgasm for female-bodied people, the clitoris and the vagina, are not the only parts of the body that lead to orgasm. Women can achieve climax through fondling the breasts, doing abdominal exercises (a “coregasm”) or using sexual imagery without touch. Researchers have even found a nerve pathway outside the spinal cord that may lead a woman to orgasm through transmitting sensations directly to the brain.

Ive never had an orgasm. Is there something wrong with me?

If you’ve never had an orgasm, do not fret. According to Brown University, about one of three women have trouble reaching orgasm with a partner, and 10 percent have trouble reaching orgasm in general. Although there are physical issues that may prevent orgasm, the most common cause is either human error (your partner does not stimulate you correctly) or psyche. Fear, guilt, distraction, anxiety, loss of control, excessive pressure to orgasm — these can all prevent women from letting go and focusing on sexual stimuli.You can best discover how to orgasm by learning about your body through masturbation. There is no right or wrong way to do it! Experiment with different levels and rhythms of touching and pressure in different places. Use fingers or a vibrator. Try stimulating the clitoris (that sensitive little nub at the top of the vulva), the vagina and the G-Spot (after arousal, this can be found by inserting fingers into the vagina while a woman is on her back and making a “come-hither” motion).

The pressure to orgasm with a partner can hinder actual orgasms greatly. Try to relax and communicate with your partner when things feel good. Partners who expect simultaneous, explosive orgasms may be disappointed, so enter with no expectation other than to please one another. Explore the biggest sex organ — the skin — and focus on sensations rather than thoughts.

How is the female orgasm different from the male orgasm?

For years people have thought that female orgasms are physically more intense than male orgasms. However, the physical process is quite similar. All genders experience contractions at the same intervals (0.8 seconds). Women may experience more contractions than men with an average of six to 10 (men average four to six). Ejaculation occurs more commonly in men, but ejaculation is not required to achieve male orgasm. Occasionally, men might have an orgasm without jizzing or ejaculate without having an orgasm.

Of course, the biggest difference between men and women when it comes to sex is the presence of a refractory period. Men have a refractory period, which means that after they have an orgasm, they must wait anywhere from minutes to days to achieve orgasm again. Women, however, have no refractory period, and can orgasm as many times as they damn well please.

If your partner fails to stimulate you in the proper way to orgasm, the best way to fix this is not by faking an orgasm. Correct them gently by moving their hand or even showing them yourself what works. Oral sex can often help a gal get off. For partners that want orgasm to occur during penetration, performing cunnilingus immediately before can increase the likelihood of an orgasm during intercourse. And finally, be sure to communicate about what feels good — it really is the best way to great sex.

Are there specific topics you have questions about or are just interested in? Do you have a question about your own sex life or relationships that you would like me to answer (anonymously or not)? Email me at[email protected]!