SWM 092 – How do you know if you’ve had an orgasm

How do you know if you've had an orgasm?
Muscle spams / contractions
Breathing changes
Sensation changes
Arousal changes
Physical appearance
Energy changes

Today we’ll be talking about female orgasms and how to tell if you had one.  This is prompted by the following question I received from our anonymous Have A Question page.

If the number of women who reach orgasm from penetrative sex is as low as the surveys that you mention say it is, how would a couple know if the woman is one of those that doesn’t orgasm with penetration? For context, I have been married to my wife for 13 years and we have 5 children…I would say our sex life isn’t dry but we aren’t all that creative. There have been things that I have suggested doing and have tried but she has told me that they make her uncomfortable (things like me using my hands to pleasure her or go down on her). I think there may be something connected to past experiences with masturbation and the guilt that came with that as a teen…but I have taken the position of wanting to serve and honor her so I haven’t pushed it. So, for the past 13 years, we have kind of been doing the same thing once every other week or so. A part of me wonders if the lack of desire on her part is because she hasn’t ever really had an orgasm…but that raises the other question of how are we to know? Kind of a silly question I guess, but something I have been pondering while listening to your podcast. Thanks. 

How would a couple know if the wife is having an orgasm? That question seems to come up fairly frequently, yet I’m not sure I have a post that answers it.

As such, in this post, we’ll go through the typical signs, behaviours and other indicators that a wife has had an orgasm. We’ll be focusing on the wives because – well, I’ve yet to have a husband or wife ask me how to know if he’s had an orgasm. One of the main reasons, I believe, is that in the vast majority of cases, when men orgasm, they ejaculate. That’s a reasonably clear indicator.  

For women, it’s not quite as simple because while some do ejaculate (somewhere in the 15% range), it’s not always connected with an orgasm.

The indications

A few “standard” indicators tell if you’ve had an orgasm. However, some of them are incredibly vague and unmeasurable or highly subjective, so it’s challenging to use them as a good indication of whether or not you’ve had an orgasm.

For example, some people say, “if you aren’t sure, then you haven’t had one,” which is incredibly unhelpful. I’ve been married for 21 years, and my wife has been through seasons where it’s difficult to orgasm and very easy to orgasm. Times when it’s self-evident she’s had one, and times when she’s not sure if she had one or not.

Other indicators are more reliable but might be hard to ascertain in a bedroom setting. Nevertheless, here is the list I’ve managed to gather in the hopes that they will help you figure it out if you’re having trouble.  

Of course, most people don’t experience all of these, some only a few, and not every time. So, take them as signs you might be having one, not proof positive that you either are or aren’t.

Muscle spasms / contractions

I’m going to group a bunch of these, though they may present in various or multiple ways.  

Let’s start with spasms or contractions in your pelvic floor muscles. Those typically indicate an orgasm, and if you have a medical instrument that can detect those contractions, even if they’re minor, that’s a pretty solid indication. However, the vast majority of us don’t have such equipment. Judging by contractions can be a problem because, for some women, their contractions are weak. Or their internal sensors are not sensitive enough to detect them.

One way to increase the sensitivity is to insert a finger (or more) to see if you or your husband can feel them. Adding fingers helps both by increasing the pressure so you can tell internally, or you may be able to sense the contractions through your fingers. If you’re into anal play, often those muscles are stronger, so it’s even easier to detect there.

If you aren’t interested in fingers in your rear, if there’s enough light, you might be able to see the contractions of the anus during an orgasm.

Along with pelvic floor contractions, some women experience muscle spasms in their buttocks, thigh, leg, or ab muscles. Curling of toes or gripping with fingers also happens for some. You might recognize this by the “grabbing of sheets” typically displayed in movies to portray an orgasm as happening.

Breathing changes

Breathing changes can be another indicator. However, this can be a bit difficult because a change, either way, can be indicative of orgasm, but also of approaching orgasm.

Some wives find that they almost hyperventilate when they approach or begin to orgasm. Others hold their breath as they approach orgasm and then either let it out as they orgasm or after.

Of course, this can lead to confusion if you’re trying to figure out if you’ve had an orgasm. Eventually, you need to breathe. So if you’re holding your breath in an attempt to orgasm but don’t have one – you still have to stop holding your breath at some point regardless. However, if the wife immediately takes one or more large breaths and starts to hold it again – that might be a good indication that she’s not had one yet. Either that, or she’s overstimulated so much she can’t breathe. So, that’s a bit tricky. In those cases, I’d look to see if some other indicators happen simultaneously to see if they coincide.

Somewhat related to breathing changes, some women start moaning or screaming, sometimes uncontrollably, during orgasm; however, again, this can happen up to and through the orgasm.

Sensation changes

As well, for many people, orgasms result in sensation changes. The most notable and often discussed is your clitoris becoming more sensitive. For some, this means that continuing with sex gets even better. For some who are multi-orgasmic, the first orgasm kicks it off. With the increased sensitivity, they can go on to have many orgasms.  

For others, an orgasm makes their clitoris too sensitive. This sensitivity can last seconds, minutes, or hours depending on the person. For some, you have to change positions or activities that don’t put as much pressure, like going from missionary to doggy style. Others need to stop everything for a bit. Some will still be interested in focusing on their spouse because they’re still aroused and can’t be touched. Others aren’t interested in anything sexual anymore and flip into a “let’s just get this done” mode because it’s uncomfortable.

And for a few, their clitoris sort of goes numb after an orgasm. They lose sensitivity for a bit.

But the clitoris isn’t the only thing that can change sensitivity. Nipples are often also cited, with the same range as above. For some, they get more sensitive, and it’s great. For others, an orgasm means no touching of the nipples for a while. For a few, there’s little to no sensation after an orgasm.

And some people experience increased sensitivity everywhere on their skin, for good or not.

The point is that there is a clear line between one sensitivity and another, usually marked by an orgasm. Sensitivity changes can also happen during arousal, but that tends to be a slower progression. In contrast, the changes we’re talking about here are relatively abrupt.

Arousal changes

As well, arousal often changes with orgasm. For some, orgasm is a resolution, so any built-up arousal starts to dissipate. For some, it happens immediately. For others, it lessens over time.  

For some women, orgasm increases arousal. Some don’t get into enjoying sex thoroughly until they’ve already had an orgasm.  

So, suppose you find that your level of arousal either increased or decreased significantly. In that case, that might indicate that you’ve had an orgasm.

Of course, getting close to orgasm can also increase arousal, which can complicate things.

Physical appearance

I hesitate to mention changes in physical appearance for two reasons. Firstly, people often have sex in dark or dimly lit areas, making it hard to tell. Secondly, for many people, the changes are very subtle. Even in a well-lit area, unless you take before and after pictures (which might be an exciting activity), you may not be able to tell.

Nevertheless, the textbook discussions of orgasms typically list things like flushed skin, particularly the upper chest, changes in nipple colour, and lip colour.

Now, for some, it’s more noticeable. There’s that stereotypical post-orgasm “glow.” For others, you’re not going to be able to notice at all.

Energy changes

Lastly, we have what I’ll call “energy changes,” for lack of a better term. These energy changes are a wide range of experiences and are pretty subjective. Nevertheless, quite a few women experience them, so I think it’s worth mentioning.  

Some of these energy changes can be positive. For example, you feel happier, more relaxed, or sleepy (which can be positive at night). Others feel exhilarated or like you completed something.

Others are less positive. Some people suffer from depression after having an orgasm (clinically known as post-coital dysphoria). For some, it’s immediately afterwards. For others, it’s later on. So, if you think you may have had an orgasm and suddenly feel down, tired (not necessarily sleepy), depressed, sad or anxious, this might indicate an orgasm.

How do you know if you've had an orgasm?
Muscle spams / contractions
Breathing changes
Sensation changes
Arousal changes
Physical appearance
Energy changes

As well, there is a curious thing that happens in the brain during sex. While aroused, your brain directs blood flow away from the regions that determine what is “gross” or distasteful and the part that calculates risk. In the heat of the moment, some may find themselves enjoying and engaging in activities or behaviours that are uncharacteristic for them. Then, when “sober” from arousal, they look back and reevaluate their choices.

For some women, this causes a fair bit of embarrassment and shame. Others get angry at their spouse for “making” them do those things. You can read more about that in the post “Your definition of gross changes when you’re aroused.” I believe there should be neither embarrassment, shame, nor anger in most situations. Just a realization that your priorities are different during sex. But if you notice these feelings come upon you suddenly, that might indicate that you had an orgasm and your brain is redirecting blood flow.

Did you have an orgasm?

From everything I know, these are the most reliable methods of figuring out if you’ve had an orgasm or not. As I said, many can be subtle, and it’s not a simple checklist, but hopefully, they can help you determine if you’ve had one or not.

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