In the movie When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan demonstrates to a clueless Billy Crystal just how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm. In the now infamous scene, she goes on and on moaning, writhing, and generally making a lot of noise to a shocked diner audience. Movie viewers are led to believe that having an orgasm has a lot to do with screaming, but that's not exactly helpful for a woman with genuine questions about how to know if you orgasmed. Thankfully, there is a way to know if you've actually hit that climax.
Simply put, an orgasm is the intensely physical response characterized by feelings of pleasure centered in the genitals and the result of the release of tension built up during sexual stimulation. Although there's an easy way to tell if a man had one (you know, he ejaculates), the question isn't so easy when it comes to a woman's orgasm. And because the orgasmic experience is different for every woman, explaining what an orgasm actually feels like can be very tricky.
Typically, there are some physical signs that reveal when someone is on their way to climax, according to Cosmopolitan. The publication noted that being aroused leads to a heart beating faster, quicker breathing, nipples becoming erect, and the genitals becoming engorged with blood. This tension typically continues until the magic moment, but how can you tell if you've actually reached that magic moment?
According to Planned Parenthood, the physical signs of having an orgasm happen when the muscles of the uterus, vagina, and even anus rapidly contract about once per second, and typically five to eight times during an orgasm. This is what leads to that quintessential thrusting of the pelvis, the curling of the toes or fingertips, and yes, even moaning. Many also experience what is commonly known as a "sex flush" when the chest, neck, and face gets red.
According to the previously mentioned Planned Parenthood piece, it's pretty common to get sleepy or feel euphoria after orgasm, since having one releases oxytocin (the "love hormone") and endorphins (which naturally relieve pain). Other post-orgasm symptoms include having a sensitive clitoris immediately after cumming. Like, please-don't-even-try-to-touch-it kind of sensitive.
Although almost everyone experiences the same telltale physical signs of an orgasm, they can actually feel quite different each time, according to Bustle. This can especially vary depending on the type of stimulation (or combination) received during sex. For instance, orally stimulated orgasms can feel very different from ones where intercourse, anal stimulation, or even sex toys are involved.
When it comes to that point of climax, sometimes there is a mild tingle and other times there's an explosive full-body rush. The range of an orgasm for a woman can greatly vary. I for one can testify that they can come in all sizes, from "Oh, that was nice, I need a nap now" mild to "OMG that was so good that I burst into tears at the end" intense. Yes, that crying after sex thing actually happened.
If you're still not sure where or not you've experienced reaching the Big O, then it's likely that you haven't. The feeling is very distinct and it's hard to confuse it with something else. There may be a lot of built up sexual tension happening in your body, but no final release. If that's the case, discovering your body through masturbation on your own and with your partner is key.
Besides the health benefits of masturbation, it's a wonderful way to try what works and what doesn't work for you. There are steps you can take to masturbate in order to reach orgasm, such as learning the basics, focusing on exploring first, trying different strokes with your hand if you're not using a vibrator, and giving yourself 30 to 40 minute blocks of time to attempt reaching the end point. Just remember that part of the point is to have fun while getting there. Relaxation is key, so no need to stress yourself out while trying to have an orgasm. Keep going, and don't be afraid to ask for your partner's helping hand.