Some women wonder if they’ve ever experienced an orgasm. This is not a ridiculous question, as many women have not ever reached climax, and others experience what is called a missed orgasm. So whether they’ve just missed a passing orgasm or have never even come close, millions of women (and a few men) don’t even know what an orgasm is.

An orgasm is an intense feeling of physical pleasure that we human beings experience as the culmination of sexual stimulation. When you experience an orgasm, your breathing becomes fast and heavy, your pulse races, the deep muscles in the genital area contract, and your toes may even curl. In men, orgasm is almost always accompanied by ejaculation, the forceful ejection of semen from the penis, necessary for procreation. Women also feel orgasms, although their orgasms aren’t needed for procreation.

As with every other bodily process, what’s going on inside your body during an orgasm is a lot more technical than what you’re feeling.

  • In a man, first the prostate, seminal vesicles, and upper portion of the vas deferens, called the ampulla, contract, which forces out the secretions that form the ejaculate; then the muscles that surround the penis do their part to actually eject the ejaculate in what is called the Expulsion Phase. The first two or three of these contractions are quite strong, and they’re followed by some diminishing spurts.

  • For women, the uterus and the first third of the vagina, controlled by the underlying muscles, called the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles, incur the most contractions during orgasm.

But your main sex organ is located not “down there” but “up here” — in your brain. Men whose spinal cords have been broken can have erections and ejaculations but can’t feel any of the sensations. So the real importance of all that heavy breathing, those strong contractions, and those ejaculating spurts is the pleasure that you register from the overall feeling.