“Don’t hold back. Give yourself permission to delve as deeply as possible into your biggest and strongest orgasm. Keep going beyond your threshold, beyond what you thought you were capable of.” —Annie Sprinkle
There’s nothing like the giddy excitement of discussing good sex with a group of girlfriends. In a recent conversation, the topic of multiple orgasms came up. “Um, how do you do that?” one of my friends asked coyly. A few colorful answers were offered, and it inspired me to broach the topic with other friends in the past few months.
Some women reported being able to have multiple orgasms only on their own. Some could orgasm repeatedly, one after the other, with just a touch of her thigh or breast. Some required a certain angle of a vibrator, dildo or penis. Others reported not being able to have an orgasm at all because of the side effects of their mental health medications. And some said they can’t even wrap their mind around the concept of multiples — after cumming once, their clit becomes so sensitive they would just as soon end the trice than let you near their button again.
There’s no right or wrong way to have an orgasm, but they certainly don’t all come the same (pun intended). “Multiple orgasms” refers to two or more orgasms achieved in a single session. For some women (we’ll get to men later), this means experiencing many small, gradual waves of pleasure after the moment of climax, while others feel a big explosion of pleasure with a few shorter and less intense orgasms following.
Certified sexologist and writer Annie Sprinkle coined the term “megagasm” to refer to a particular type of multiple — a prolonged and impossibly pleasurable orgasm. Yes, please.
Several friends I spoke with thought multiples were just the way women are built to experience sex. However, I have worked with many women who have never experienced an orgasm alone or with a partner, let alone a megagasm. The difference is in some cases biological, but mostly experiential — most anyone can achieve multiple orgasms with the right awareness of their body.
In a massive 2015 study of women’s orgasms, 47 percent of the 1,055 women surveyed said they had experienced multiple orgasms. Some were naturally more prone to multiples, while others developed the skill over time.
Post-orgasm sensitivity was a hindrance for many, who find clitoral contact painful after the initial climax. Experts at OMGYes — a website highlighting research and education on women’s pleasure, which helped fund the 2015 study and which received the Emma Watson stamp of approval — encourage these women to allow a “cool down” period after orgasm, avoiding the clit and slowing the rhythm of touch or penetration until the sensitivity subsides.
Some women don’t need a cool down — one in seven, according to the study. Oversensitivity isn’t a problem for these sprinters.
“It can sometimes take some work to get me to the first one,” a friend of mine explained of her multiple orgasms, “but after that first one, I kind of stay at a higher level of arousal for a while. During this time, [orgasms] can happen literally every second if I’m still being stimulated, sometimes even if I just clench a certain way.”
Let’s back up a bit and explore the sexual arousal cycle of both men and women to get a better sense of where orgasms originate.
Phase 1: Excitement — Get yer motor runnin…
Muscles tense, heart rate rises, breasts swell, nipples stand at attention and added blood flows to your naughty bits.
Phase 2: Plateau — It’s gonna blow!
Breathing, heart rate, muscle tension intensifies; vaginal walls turn a dark purple, and the clitoris takes cover under the hood to avoid stimulation; muscle spasms may begin in the feet, face and hands.
Phase 3: Orgasm — Boom goes the dynamite
Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing are at their highest rates, with a rapid intake of oxygen. There is a sudden, forceful release of sexual tension. In women, the muscles of the vagina contract. In men, rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis result in the ejaculation of semen. A rash or “sex flush” may appear over the entire body.
Phase 4: Resolution — I need a cigarette
The body slowly returns to its usual functioning and swollen or erect body parts return to their previous size and color.
During the resolution or refractory period, feelings of relaxation, intimacy and a sense that all is right in the world may ensue. Some women are capable of a rapid return to the orgasm phase here. However, men generally need recovery time after orgasm. The duration of the refractory period varies among men and usually lengthens with advancing age.
Biological men do have the potential for more than just one run-of-the-mill orgasm — particularly uncircumcised men, who tend to have a more sensitive glans, or penis head, and who retain the nerve-dense foreskin. For most all men, the refractory period can be avoided altogether by withholding the ejaculation. The medical term is nonejaculatory multiple orgasm, or NEMO.
How does one find NEMO? Ejaculations can be prevented by clenching the pelvic floor muscles right before orgasm, but the muscles must be strong. Paul Nelson, author and sex counselor certified with the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists, suggests strengthening the pelvic floor with kegel exercises.
“Some guys lift their legs and shoulders up and do a crunch to assist in this, which kills the ejaculation while allowing the orgasm to occur,” Nelson writes. “When you have a NEMO, you don’t ejaculate but still orgasm, repeatedly, without losing your erection.”
Breath work is also important in the development of multiple orgasms and non-ejaculatory multiple orgasms.
“As is true in all martial arts and meditative practices, your breath is the gate through which you can gain control of your body,” says Mantak Chia, Taoist, Chi Kung teacher and author of The Multi-Orgasmic Man. Chia recommends “belly breathing” to temper your heart rate and thus control arousal.
As with anything, practice makes perfect, and eccentric sexologist Annie Sprinkle has plenty of practice. Sprinkle identifies arousal and orgasm as spiritual experiences, and combines meditation techniques with masturbation — what she calls “medibation.”
Medibation will look different for all of us, but the important part, Sprinkle says, is giving yourself permission to go deep into your erotic sensations; touch anywhere and everywhere, whisper sweet nothings to yourself, make sensation the goal over orgasm, be mindful of your breath and see if you are able to vacillate between low and high levels of arousal, Sprinkle suggests. See what happens when you change the pressure of stimulation, incorporate lubricant, use or don’t use a vibrator, compare penetration vs. clitoral stimulation, etc.
“For me it’s mainly body memory at this point rather than conscious narrative,” one friend explained to me. “I would say that going slowly and building up to a bigger orgasm is a start. Exploring sensations in the G-spot area, and the type of stimulation in that area that works. Uterine stimulation is another way to have deeper orgasms.”
Once you find the good spots, practice.
“I know some feel overwhelmed with a vibe at first, but figuring out how to receive that stimulation for longer and longer times is how I built up to lengthier orgasms,” my friend added.
So get on out there and touch yourself. Medibate, masturbate, flog your dolphin, cuff your governor, beat your meat, null the void, jack your beanstalk, dot your i. Enjoy yourselves! And, if you feel like it, share your victories with friends, or your favorite sex columnist. (My email is email@example.com, by the way.)
Natalie Benway LISW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Coralville. She has a certification in sexuality studies from the University of Iowa and is currently pursuing additional licensure with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. A version of this article was originally published in Little Village issue 256.