I am fairly new to sex even though I am almost thirty. A lot is still pretty mysterious to me - in particular orgasm. When my boyfriend is finished it’s pretty obvious because there’s fluid. But how do I as a woman know if I have orgasmed? I have heard that I will just know, and I will feel a release. I have felt very very good, especially when he’s touching me, but never the release. Eventually I have to have him stop because it becomes overwhelming. Is this orgasm? Should I try to continue?
— Anonymous, from Tumblr
Sarah: How do you know when you’ve really laughed? How do you know when you see the perfect rainbow? How do you know you’re in the presence of the divine? I don’t know, man, I just know it when I’m there. The long and the short of this is you need to do a hell of a lot more masturbating until you have absolutely sussed out what is and is not an orgasm. Buy a vibrator, put on a deep house or cool jazz playlist and figure that shit out.
Dr. D: Orgasm is tricky for many women to pinpoint when they are first beginning to gain sexual experience, either through masturbation or with a partner. It’s common for women to think they’ve had an orgasm because they feel such intense sexual pleasure. Then, one day, they experience something that feels like more of an “event”, if you will, that feels more defined and that’s followed by often intense feelings of happiness or content and then they think “ah… that’s the orgasm”. That’s not a particularly great or clear answer but it’s roughly how women talk about it. That said, some women experience very mild orgasms that don’t feel like much of a defined moment. And others experience a defined moment as part of their climax but don’t feel euphoric or content the way other women do, so it’s not clear enough for an outsider to look at your experience and judge whether you’ve had an orgasm or not. I would guess you are experiencing intense pleasure but not yet an orgasm, but I could be wrong. Have you tried exploring your own body through masturbation? Many people, whether female or male, experience their first orgasms through masturbation. It takes the pressure off (there’s no one waiting for you to have an orgasm) and you can touch yourself exactly the way you want (so if it begins to feel overwhelming you can back off and re-start when you’re ready). You might try using a vibrator with your partner, which can sometimes make orgasm easier to come by. And it’s also okay to NOT “go for” orgasm but to instead “go for” pleasure. Just because orgasm exists doesn’t mean you have to chase after it right now or ever. If you’re enjoying what you and your partner are doing, then that’s pretty awesome. If you want to try exploring orgasm, though, check out the book Becoming Orgasmic or Sex Made Easy