Physiology of the Male and Female Orgasm

During orgasm, many and very different psychological, neurological, physiological, vascular, and hormonal changes occur. Whether you're a man or a woman, changes at the physiological level will occur.
Physiology of the Male and Female Orgasm
María Vijande

Reviewed and approved by the pharmacist María Vijande.

Written by María Vijande

Last update: 27 May, 2022

The physiology of the female orgasm is more complicated than the male. Orgasm is the neurovegetative response produced by the body due to the stimuli created during the excitation phase.

When the tension in the pelvic and genital muscles is maximized by the amount of blood accumulated in them, they send messages to the medulla. Therefore, orgasm is the reflex reaction triggered by those messages, and this nervous system reaction causes contractions in the envelope of the muscles.

Thus, orgasm is a type of explosive discharge of neuromuscular tension, accompanied by a sensation of intense pleasure. This sensation of pleasure is capable of altering the physical state and causing a unique mental sensation.

It’s worth mentioning that women enjoy fewer orgasms than men, specifically, 61.6% compared to 85.5%.

Physiology of the female orgasm

Woman having orgasm in bed.
The female orgasm is a cycle of 4 phases that starts with arousal and ends with the resolution after orgasm.

During the female orgasm, many and very different psychological, neurological, physiological, vascular, and hormonal changes occur. This physiological response can include, among other aspects:

  • Elevation of the uterus.
  • Vaginal lubrication.
  • Dilation and enlargement of the vulva.
  • Increased blood supply to the genital organs.
  • Clitoral erection.
  • Intermittent contractions in the genital muscles.
  • Sexual flush, or pinkish coloration on the face and chest.
  • Increased pain threshold in some areas of the body.

Additionally, the female orgasm takes place in 4 quite different phases. This cycle could last on average about 15 minutes with many individual variations. Therefore, the phases of the female orgasm are:

Phase 1 of female orgasm: Arousal

This first phase has a variable length, from just a few minutes to several hours after the erotic stimulation has started.

Physically, the vagina begins to lubricate. The woman experiences expansion of the vagina, swelling of the vagina’s major and minor lips, clitoris, and breasts. In addition, her heart rate accelerates, increasing her blood pressure and breathing rate.

Also read: 5 Keys to Reactivate Your Libido

Phase 2 of female orgasm: plateau

During phase 2 of the female orgasm, the arousal phase changes are accentuated. The vaginal lips thicken and change color slightly. Also, the vaginal walls fill with blood, and the vaginal opening increases in size.

The clitoris also increases in size because it fills with blood, and the heart and respiratory rates continue to accelerate.

Phase 3: orgasm

This is the climax of the cycle. This is the shortest stage since it lasts only a few seconds. During this stage, the woman experiences a series of involuntary muscle contractions in the vagina, uterus, and rectum, which are very pleasant.

Phase 4 of female orgasm: resolution

The last phase is characterized by the return to a state of rest. It can last from 5 to 60 minutes. During this phase, the woman returns to the previous state of arousal.

Some women may respond to additional stimulation after orgasm, unlike men. In addition, it’s important to consider that women have a much longer resolution phase than men, so many feel the need to continue having sex.

Finally, it’s also important to remember that each woman experiences different sensations, intensity, and duration of their orgasm since it’s a reflex with a threshold, which can be affected by various factors.

You might also be interested in reading: Three Tips to Increase Sexual Stamina

Physiology of the male orgasm

Couple having sex, male orgasm.
In the physiology of the male orgasm, ejaculation isn’t necessary to experience orgasm. It can happen without the release of semen.

Most people think that male orgasms happen when the man ejaculates. This is usually the case, but not necessarily. In reality, ejaculation can occur after climaxing and may not even occur. A man can have an orgasm and not have expelled semen.

Despite having the same stages (arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution), men often go through the cycle much faster than women. The phases of the male orgasm are characterized by:

  • Arousal: The penis becomes erect, the scrotum and testicles increase in size.
  • Plateau: During this phase there is the secretion of the Cowper’s glands, contraction of the prostate gland, and contraction in the terminal vesicles.
  • Orgasm: This is usually when the man ejaculates. (However, it doesn’t always have to be). The sphincter, urethra, penis, and rectal sphincter also contract.
  • Resolution: This is much shorter than in women. However, like in women, it’s a return to normal physiological states.

Did you know the phases of orgasm? Did you know the differences between male and female orgasm?

We hope this article has clarified any questions you had and even some you didn’t know you had!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Beyer, C., & Komisaruk, B. R. (2009). El orgasmo y su fisiología. La Ciencia Del Orgasmo.
  • Guillén Salazar, F., & Pons Salvador, G. (2000). El orgasmo femenino, ¿adaptación o subproducto de la evolución? Gazeta de Antropología.
  • Uribe Arcila, J. F., Quintero Tobón, M. T., & Gómez Gómez, M. (2015). Orgasmo femenino: Definición y fingimiento. Urologia Colombiana.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.