How Multiple Orgasms Occur, and Who Experiences Them
Multiples have been reported for a century. Now we know more about them.
Posted September 15, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
- Many women have trouble working up to one orgasm, but reports going back 100 years show that some women have several in rapid succession.
- One orgasm involves a series of pelvic muscle contractions. Multiple orgasms require two or more series of contractions.
- No one knows how many women have multiple orgasms, but studies report anywhere from 14 to 43 percent.
- As sexual repertoire expands beyond just vaginal intercourse, prevalence of multiple orgasms increases—especially with oral stimulation.
From the earliest sex research through today, the main issue around women’s orgasms has been the substantial proportion of women who don't have them during vaginal intercourse with men. Fortunately, there’s hope for women who don’t tend to climax. With accurate information and gentle, extended clitoral caresses, almost all women can have orgasms with partners. (For more, see my previous posts from 2018 and 2016.) But from the earliest sex research through today, some women have reported a series of orgasms, one shortly followed by another, sometimes several. The research on multiple orgasms has been limited, but a recent Canadian study sheds new light.
What’s an Orgasm?
In all genders, peak sexual excitement triggers a series of involuntary, wave-like contractions of the muscles between the legs (pelvic floor muscles), often accompanied by convulsive movements and grunts or gasps, and brief but sublime pleasure. That’s an orgasm.
Beyond that, it’s difficult to generalize. There’s only one universally valid sexual generalization: Everyone is sexually unique. Our sexuality is as individual as our DNA. Our orgasms are, too. But scientists always look for patterns, and researchers have endeavored to identify the parameters of orgasm. They’ve asked:
- How many muscle contractions do orgasms involve? That’s individual, too. During the 1960s, Masters and Johnson wired genitals, counted contractions, and reported 3 to 15. Other studies have counted more. And some women report satisfying orgasms with no discernible pelvic muscle contractions at all.
- How much time separates orgasmic muscle contractions? That’s also individual. Some studies say less than a second. Others say a second or more. And some studies show that time between contractions increases with successive contractions.
- How long do orgasms last? Again, individual. Findings vary from 3 to 30 seconds, with a University of Minnesota report suggesting that after the main series of contractions, some people experience extended irregular contractions for as long as another 90 seconds.
But no matter how these variables play out, the entire series of intensely pleasurable pelvic muscle contractions equals one orgasm.
Multiple Orgasms in Women: How Prevalent?
Multiple orgasms are much more common in women than men. But the proportion of women who experience them is controversial. Before I delved into this subject, I would have guessed it was a rare woman who could climax more than once per erotic interlude.
But the literature suggests that multiple orgasms, while not common, are also far from rare. The first report, based on interviews with 2,200 women, appeared in 1929. Many of those women claimed to have serial orgasms. In 1953, Indiana University’s Alfred Kinsey, the nation’s first prominent sex researcher, declared that 14 percent of the several thousand women he interviewed said they had multiples. Several studies over the past 30 years have reported around 25 percent. Finally, in 1991, researchers at Florida State University surveyed 805 female college students and discovered that 43 percent believed they'd had multiple orgasms.
Now, it’s possible that some of these women were mistaken. It’s conceivable that some called each individual pelvic muscle contraction one orgasm, and may have counted 10 serial contractions not as one orgasm, but as 10. However, it’s also quite possible that true multiple orgasms are more prevalent than I would have guessed. At this writing, the actual prevalence in women remains a mystery.
The New Study
The most recent exploration of multiples—at McGill University and the University of Montreal—began with advertisements on sex and psychology websites looking for women over 18 who had experienced multiple orgasms and were willing to be surveyed about them. The researchers were clear that one orgasm involves serial pelvic floor muscle contractions, and that they were looking for women who'd experienced two or more sets of contractions. Respondents numbered 419, ranging in age from 18 to 69, with an average age of 33. The findings:
- Three-quarters (74 percent) of the women said they’d experienced their first multiple orgasms during self-sexing. That’s not surprising. For all genders, it’s easier to climax solo than with partners.
- As sexual repertoire expands, so do reports of multiple orgasms. Women whose lovemaking involves only vaginal intercourse have low rates of any orgasms, let alone several. Women who report multiple orgasms almost always enjoy a creative combination of extended kissing, hugging, mutual whole-body massage, hand jobs, intercourse, other erotic touch (feathers, vibrators, etc.), and especially receptive oral (cunnilingus).
- Most said they’d experienced their most recent multiple orgasms with partners (64 percent)—usually from a combination of genital hand massage and cunnilingus, particularly the latter. Many women say they’re most likely to climax from oral sex, so it makes sense that this would also produce the most multiples.
- The women said it was easier to work up to multiples solo than with lovers. It took them six to 14 minutes to have their first orgasm in the series solo, and 30 to 60 minutes to have their first with partners. It’s more challenging to come with partners, so it makes sense that it would take longer to have multiples partnered. But subsequent orgasms occurred more quickly. After their first orgasms, most of the women required only around three minutes to work up to their second.
- The women’s average age at their first single orgasm was 19. They reported having their first multiples at an average age of 20.5.
- For one-third of the women, “multiple orgasms” meant two. For the other two-thirds, multiples ranged from three to—I kid you not—more than 100. Of those who had more than two, the most frequently reported numbers were five (12 percent) and 10 (12 percent).
- Most of the women (58 percent) maintained—or their lovers maintained—continuous vulvar/clitoral caressing between orgasms. About one in five (21 percent) preferred to suspend stimulation for a minute or so between orgasms, and one in eight (13 percent) stopped for two or three minutes. Very few reported between-orgasm breaks of five minutes or longer.
- Half the women (50 percent) said their second orgasm produced more pleasure than their first, but one-quarter (25 percent) experienced no change in pleasure, and the other quarter noted decreased pleasure after their first. Those who reported increased pleasure tended to have multiples during partner sex, while those who reported no change or less pleasure generally had their multiples solo.
- Multiples are also a function of libido. Most of the women who reported them said they were lustier and more sexually adventurous than their friends. Most (72 percent) began masturbating before age 14. Singles reported masturbating an average of eight times a month—about twice the frequency reported for women in most other studies. Those in relationships reported sex nine times a month—once solo, eight times with partners. Ninety percent of those in relationships had partner sex at least weekly—considerably more frequently than most couples.
Many women say they’d love to have multiple orgasms. The Internet abounds with articles that offer tips. In contrast, the recent study shows that there’s no formula, no magic recipe. Women who have multiple orgasms figure it out for themselves in their own individual ways.
Again, compared with women who experience multiple orgasms, many more women have difficulty working up to one, or have none at all. For advice, women might check out the classic self-help book, Becoming Orgasmic, by Julia Heimen and Joseph LoPicollo.
Facebook image: fizkes/Shutterstock
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