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The edge of excitement: how to orgasm 101

By Maya Khamala

If you’re seeking (carnal) knowledge from this article, chances are you’re a little bit like I once was: a sexual explorer with an open mind who has yet to find that magic button that changes everything—y’know, that button marked “Big O.”

When I was 21, I had already slept around quite a bit (granted, I’d never been in a real relationship). The point is, even though I’d helped trigger many an orgasm for the men (and a couple of women) I was involved with, I had never cum myself. Interestingly, none of my sexual partners had ever so much as raised this clear disparity in conversation. It was only while having coffee with a dear friend one day that I realized I had some personal solo work to do if I wanted to become an orgasmic being. Shocked that I had never cum before (especially given the major sex vibe I gave off), she told me in no uncertain terms, “you can’t expect anyone else to make you cum if you can’t make yourself cum.” My friend wasn’t talking about letting shitty lovers off the hook for being shitty—she was talking about the deeper work we must all do to manifest what we want. What she said to me that day stuck with me, and after discussing a few basic clitoral stimulation techniques (i.e. caressing it in a circular motion), I went home and experimented—for the rest of the day. And guess what? I came. And then I did it again.

While you should never let anyone measure your worth by your ability to orgasm or make you feel pressured or stressed about it in any way (counterproductive!), if you feel you’re ready to go there and just need a helpful nudge in the right direction, this one’s for you.

What exactly is an orgasm?

Let’s start with brass tacks, shall we? When you’re becoming aroused, the blood flow to your genitals increases, rendering them more sensitive. As your arousal grows, your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing tend to speed up. As you approach orgasm (AKA climax) your muscles might twitch—or spasm. Many women also have rhythmic spasms in the vagina while orgasming. Although there is no one formula for orgasm, studies have shown that sexual response tends to follow several specific stages: excitement (arousal builds); plateau (arousal grows and then levels out; orgasm (intense feelings of pleasure, sometimes explosive); and resolution (arousal diminishes). Many women are capable of having another orgasm after their first (AKA multiple orgasms), while most men usually need a longer in-between period (women have superpowers, that’s why).

Now that you have a basic understanding of what an orgasm entails, it’s also worth noting that there are many different kinds of orgasms, including the clitoral orgasm, the vaginal orgasm, the g-spot orgasm, anal orgasms, squirting orgasms, and many more. Crazier still is the fact that different types of orgasms are intimately connected and you can have more than one kind at the same time, AKA a blended orgasm. But that’s a topic for another day. For now, chew on this: the way orgasm is achieved can vary wildly. If you’re an orgasm rookie, chances are you’ll start off with a clitoral orgasm—but if you cum some kinda other way, hats off to you, dear one!

How to make yourself cum

Whether you’re experimenting solo or with a partner (either way, make time for some solo play!), consider integrating the following tips into your orgasmic repertoire. Note: with a slight change of perspective, the following tips can also be helpful if your current project involves trying to coax your partner’s pussy to walk the path of pleasure. So—use it as you see fit!

1. Get outta your head…and into your body

It’s all about the narrative here—as it so often is—y’know, the one playing on a loop in your head. Good sex and good masturbation and the ability to fully experience pleasure all necessitate being present. And to be truly present, you must inhabit your body, not your twirling, swirling mind. Maybe you’re exploring with a partner and you keep feeling self-conscious about your cellulite or your boobs, or you feel like a slut just for enjoying yourself. Whatever it is, you must exorcise those anti-orgasmic demons—‘cuz that’s what they be. Our cultural conditioning as women is a minefield and it’s difficult not to internalize the many contradictory messages we’re inundated with from a young age. Think of orgasm as an act of rebellion against all those who try to lock you in a box; your box will thank you (sorry, had to go there). All that said—don’t pressure yourself. Start without an end in mind. Y’know, the journey being a tasty treat in and of itself.

2. Practice, practice, practice

Much like playing the piano or riding that proverbial bicycle, practice makes perfect! It doesn’t require magic or even great skill. All it takes is commitment. Of course—it should never feel like a chore. “While I don’t have the power to guarantee orgasms, I can tell you that women who master their own masturbation routine will come closer to reaching the Big O every time,” says sexologist Emily Morse. “My top tip is to take pleasure into your own hands and become the expert of your own body. When exploring your self-love routine, it’s best to be patient and go slow.” In other words, try not to masturbate impatiently, or beat yourself up because you’re not cumming fast enough with a partner. The goal here is to explore, and practice exploring more. Once you find what feels good, you can start honing your, um, craft. 

3. Get experimental

When it comes to learning your truest pleasure pathways, nothing is more important than the will to experiment. Every one of us is home to our own unique sensitivities. Because we’re complex, beautiful beings. And yet so simple, too. Really, we embody paradox. If every one of us achieved orgasm in the exact same way, maybe it’d be easier, but it would also be a lot less hot. So, experiment: toy with different pressure levels, movements, positions, and types of touch. When I was first learning how to make myself cum, I found that propping my entire pelvis up against my bedroom wall was the ticket. I felt so on display that way, and for me, that unleashed something I needed to follow through on my pleasure. In contrast, I have a friend who can only cum by lying on her back and stimulating her clit with her toes (she’s flexible that way). No joke. Whatever you do, have fun. You might experiment with a range of different sex toys. And if you’re in a relationship, find ways of experimenting with your partner too.

4. Don’t think twice about lube

When I first learned to make myself explode, I was licking my fingers every few seconds and reapplying the wetness. I enjoyed tasting myself in the process and to this day, I find this works wonders for me. That said, I get that some might prefer to explore with a good lube instead. In any case, there’s no substitute for a quality water-based lube. Plus, it has so many purposes (anal pleasure, anyone?), that you’d do well to have a bottle on hand regardless of whether you’re planning on using it right away.

Bottom line: there are endless paths to orgasm. Some can climax when their breasts are touched or their necks kissed while others require deep probing, and still others can get there without any touch at all—simply by fantasizing (true story). Whatever you do, be adventurous. You never know what will send you catapulting over the edge of excitement. You got this.

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