The female orgasm has long been the subject of wonder, mystery and much mythologizing. This is primarily because of the ways it differs from the male orgasm which over time came to be regarded as the norm. One such difference is the woman’s capacity to experience multiple orgasms while a male orgasm is usually a one-time affair.
An orgasm is the physiological state of experiencing a sexual climax. While most of the symptoms of an orgasm like flushed appearance, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and muscular contractions are similar for men and women, there are important differences as well. One of the most significant of these is that among men, orgasm is almost always a singular experience, accompanied by and ending with ejaculation while women are capable of experiencing successive orgasms. This phenomenon of a series of sexual climaxes in women, one coming after another, is known as multiple female orgasms.
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The female orgasm began to form the subject of scientific study ever since Freudian theories of sexual motivation made their appearance around the beginning of the twentieth century. But even though Freud departed from the Victorian notion that female orgasm was unnecessary at best and incidental at worst, he did accept that women could and should have orgasms. However he continued to be opposed to the idea of clitoral orgasm in women. The subject came into wide focus with the publication of Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior of Human Female in 1953 which put forward the belief that women had sexual urges and indeed could enjoy sex on the same level as men. Around this time V. H. Masters and V. E. Johnson were gathering research for their landmark book Human Sexual Response (1966). This study not only outlined the four-stage model of sexual response in humans but also dealt in depth with orgasms and, in a first of sorts, with female orgasm. Masters and Johnson's findings revealed that while men undergo a refractory period following orgasm during which they are not able to ejaculate again, there is no similar refractory period in women. And this is what makes women capable of multiple orgasms. The sexual revolution of the 1970s as well as the introduction of the birth control pill finally separated procreation and sexual gratification for women.
Today experts believe there are broadly two types of female multiple orgasms, sequential multiples and serial multiples.
This happens when a series of orgasms are experienced close together, roughly two to ten minutes apart. The chief characteristic of this type is that there is an interruption in arousal between the first and second orgasm. A typical situation involving sequential multiple orgasms may be a climax during oral sex followed by a climax during intercourse.
This kind of female multiple orgasms comprises of a series of orgasms that come one after another, with an interval of not more than a few seconds. The distinguishing feature of this kind is that there is no interruption of arousal between the successive orgasms. A common situation involving serial multiple orgasms is when a woman climaxes due to the stimulation of the clitoris and then the G-spot during masturbation or intercourse.
Despite more than a half-century of studies of female orgasm, experts have not found any set rule on how many times a woman can climax during a sexual encounter. For some women once is enough while others may be capable of coming twice or even thrice in succession. In fact even among women, relatively few can regularly achieve multiple orgasms. It is an ability that usually has to be learned and hence is more common in women with long sexual experience. Among other factors which may determine a woman’s ability to be multi-orgasmic are:
Her comfort level - The more comfortable a woman is with her partner and her surroundings, the higher will be her ability to experience multiple orgasms.
Her energy level - If a woman is under stress, whether physical or mental, she is unlikely to take pleasure in sex and climax at all, much less experience a multiple orgasm. On the other hand a woman who is relaxed both physically and mentally will be more open to achieving multiple orgasms.
The sexual technique - The more skilled her partner and comfortable the sex positions, the easier it will be for a woman to experience an orgasm, single or multiple.
Though multiple orgasms are widely seen as a female phenomenon, there are rare instances of men experiencing successive orgasms, particularly without ejaculation which is also known as ‘dry orgasm’. In fact some males are able to masturbate for hours at a time during the course of which they can achieve several orgasms.
There are many theories why women experience multiple orgasms. One of these posits the argument that muscular contractions associated with orgasms pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's in better position to reach the egg. Researchers F. B. Furlow and R. Thornhill in their study The Orgasm Wars - Adaptive function of the female orgasm, published in Psychology Today, Jan-Feb v29 n1 p42 (5), 1996 argued that when a woman climaxes until 45 minutes after her lover ejaculates, she retains significantly more sperm than she does after non-orgasmic sex. Other theories on why women are capable of experiencing multiple orgasms go back to the functional purpose of the female orgasm which ranges from the Darwinian position that it keeps a woman lying down after sex, passively retaining sperm and increasing her probability of conception to others which suggest that the female orgasm evolved to create a stronger pair bond between lovers.
Contemporary evolutionary psychologists have been exploring the proposition that female orgasm is a sophisticated adaptation that allows women to manipulate, sometimes even without their knowing, which of their lovers will be allowed to fertilize their eggs. The complexity of the physiology and function of female orgasm, including multiple orgasms, is evidence that there is still a lot more to be known about this most intriguing of phenomena.