Sex Ed

7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Orgasms

March 27, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller


The science of orgasm is a fascinating subject. In this post, we’ll take a look at seven of the most interesting things scientists have discovered about orgasms. What to learn more? Check out this video for even more orgasm facts.

1.) The faces people make when they have an orgasm look different across cultures. Researchers have found that the Western orgasm face includes eyes that are opened wider and a vertically stretched mouth, while the East Asian orgasm face includes more smiling, with a raised brow and closed eyes.

2.) Orgasms are a potential headache trigger. Some people get sudden and severe headaches every time they reach orgasm. Interestingly, however, orgasms are also a potential headache cure for others. Some people with migraines report that orgasms actually relieve their headache symptoms. Read more about this here.

3.) Beyond the orgasm-headache connection, there are also some people who literally get sick every time they have an orgasm. It’s called post-orgasmic illness syndrome, and symptoms range from having an allergic reaction to feeling like you have the flu. Symptoms can last for up to a week.

4.) While there are a number of gender differences in orgasm, research suggests that men and women are pretty similar when it comes to what they say an orgasm actually feels like. Orgasmic descriptions tend to be indistinguishable, perhaps because what goes on inside the brain during orgasm looks quite similar across the sexes. Learn more about gender similarities and differences in orgasm here.

5.) Some people report having non-genital orgasms, in which they reach orgasm without any genital stimulation. Scientists haven’t yet verified whether these orgasms look the same physiologically as orgasms that occur through genital stimulation, but people report a wide range of activities that can potentially trigger orgasms, from relying on mental imagery alone to exercising to stimulating the nipples.

6.) Not all orgasms feel the same. For example, the vast majority of women say that some orgasms feel better than others, and that there are a number of factors that can increase the quality of their orgasms, including taking time to build up arousal, having a partner who knows what you like, having emotional intimacy, and having a new or different sexual experience.

7.) A surprising number of people misperceive how often their partners are having orgasms, but men are more likely to misperceive a partner’s orgasms than women. Among women, research suggests that 6% of them underperceive their partner’s orgasmic frequency, while 8% overperceive it. Among men, 17% are underperceivers, while 25% are overperceivers.

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Image Source: 123RF/Katarzyna Białasiewicz

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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