Male and female orgasms – What’s the difference?

Sex is everywhere, from your favourite TV show, to the morning after debriefs with your friends. Everyone’s obsessing about it, but no one really knowns what’s going on inside your body, or the differences between male and female orgasms – only that males’ are shorter, singular and easier to achieve.

Men and women differ in the final stage of sex. Men require a recovery phase, where  further orgasm isn’t possible. This time period can range from a few minutes to a few hours. Women, however, can undergo multiple orgasms, should stimulation continue.

The nerves involved in signalling pleasure to the brain result in the release of a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones, and the activation of various brain areas, which differ between men and women. Both males and females also have a rush of dopamine and serotonin release during orgasm, which are neurotransmitters (chemicals carrying electrical signals in the nervous system) involved in pleasure pathways.

There are however a few extra areas in the brain that are stimulated/inhibited during a woman’s orgasm. This has tentative links to the idea that women need to feel more comfortable/safe during sex. Activation or deactivation of certain areas of the brain such as the periaqueductal grey matter, the amygdala and the hippocampus are all involved in emotional stability.

There are also hormonal differences during orgasm. Both sexes produce the hormone oxytocin, also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’. However, this hormone has been found in higher concentrations in women, and possibly forges a stronger emotional connection from a woman to their partner during sex. Interestingly, the same amount of oxytocin is produced by females on a one night stand, and when they are in a long term relationship.

Men, on the other hand, produce a higher concentration of the hormone prolactin (normally causes lactation in women during breastfeeding). Prolactin is thought to promote sleep, and is high during a man’s recovery period, and may be why men often fall asleep so soon after sex. Surprisingly, prolactin is released in a significantly higher concentration after orgasm achieved by sex, than after an orgasm achieved by masturbation.

Whilst there are some differences between men and women, the underlying basics of sex and orgasms are all the same – increased blood flow, pleasure and neurotransmitter/hormone release – but it seems that it is the intensity of the biomechanics cause the variations between men and women.

Hilary Robinson

Image: When Harry met Sally

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