There’s no shortage of TikToks describing creative ways to orgasm. From the coregasm that allegedly happens during exercise to nipplegasms and nosegasms. But the surest way to max out on pleasure is the OG clitoral orgasm. And while it may seem like old news, few realize that the clitoris is not solely responsible for the feel-good effects of climax.
To achieve orgasm, the clitoris needs robust blood flow, healthy nerves and muscles, and the full support of the pelvic floor — not to mention the complex cascade of physiological events known as the sexual response cycle. Read on to learn how these factors contribute to pleasure and how you may be able to use your pelvic floor to take orgasm to the next level.
The Female Sexual Response — It’s Complicated
Before we dive into orgasm and the pelvic floor, it helps to know a little about the sexual response cycle. In those with a clitoris, this cycle is about as straightforward as the plot of a Shonda Rhimes series. The prevailing model of sexual response includes 4 phases, which can be roughly described as follows:
- Desire - the motivation to have sex or mental arousal, sexual tension starts to build in this phase and some physical changes may be noticeable
- Arousal - the excitement phase, in which physical changes can intensify and sexual tension builds
- Orgasm - a sudden, forceful release of sexual tension accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions and other changes
- Resolution - the process by which your body returns to normal functioning
That may seem fairly straightforward, but a complex combination of hormonal, emotional, and physical factors influence each of these phases.
Depending on what’s happening in your mind and body, you may not feel desire until after you’re physically aroused. You can also be physically aroused with no desire to have sex. Desire, arousal, and orgasm can stall or “plateau.” It’s possible for desire and arousal to ramp up after orgasm. Some individuals can cycle through these phases multiple times in one encounter — or the whole cycle may come to a sudden stop.
Researchers are just starting to unpack all of this, but one thing we do have a clear picture of is physical arousal. Much like how your mouth preps for a delicious meal by kicking your salivary glands into overdrive, your body prepares for sexual activity with increased blood flow. During arousal, blood flow rushes to your vagina, labia, clitoris, and your pelvic floor muscles.
Here’s a simplified run down of what happens next:
- The vagina lengthens and opens.
- The inner labia swell and fold outward.
- Blood fuels the nerves connected to the genitals.
- Lubricant from glands near the vaginal entrance as well as the cervix and vaginal wall starts flowing.
- Erectile tissue in the clitoris becomes engorged. (Yes, your clitoris gets an erection.)
The amount and type of clitoral stimulation required to build up to a clitoral orgasm can vary from person to person and encounter to encounter. And, as explained above, whether sexual tension continues to build to the point of release depends on several factors, including how you’re feeling emotionally. But if all of your physiological stars align, your nerves go into overload and you reach that peak point of pleasure.
And Now, On to the Pelvic Floorgasm
When it comes to arousal, orgasm, and sex, our pelvic floor muscles play a major role. Your pelvic floor muscles are located at the base of the pelvis and wrap around the vaginal and anal openings. For pain-free vaginal penetration to happen, these muscles have to lengthen and release. But that’s just the beginning. While we’re waiting for more research, there are two ways that healthy pelvic floor muscles can likely enhance sexual function.
First, active contractions from your pelvic floor muscles may increase blood flow and arousal and even help with engorgement by compressing the blood vessels to keep blood flow in the clitoris and other pelvic structures, which is exactly where you want it for maximum pleasure.
Second, during orgasm, your sympathetic nervous system triggers a wave of involuntary muscular contractions in your pelvic floor. If you’re able to actively contract your pelvic floor muscles at the same time, it may significantly enhance these contractions and your pleasure — upgrading a clitoral orgasm to a pelvic floorgasm.
How can you make a pelvic floorgasm happen? This is where kegels come in. The same squeeze-and-release of the pelvic floor muscles that helps keep your muscles strong for bowel and bladder function also helps you achieve a pelvic floorgasm. Granted, mastering this movement can take some practice.
The classic way to learn how to use your pelvic floor muscles is to squeeze them as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. You can also practice engaging these muscles by imagining you’re using them to pick a blueberry up with your vagina.
Or, for a sexier practice session, try these moves:
- Grab a vibrator, toy, or use your (or your partner’s) finger. After inserting it into your vagina or anus, experiment by trying to use your muscles to squeeze around it.
- When having penetrative sex, try using just your pelvic floor muscles to pull the dildo or your partner’s penis deeper inside you.
The more you practice engaging these muscles, the easier it will get. When you feel yourself nearing orgasm, try squeezing and releasing them repeatedly to power your pelvic floorgasm.
ORGASM & Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
As is the case with so many aspects of women’s health, there isn’t a lot of research dedicated to how the pelvic floor muscles can interfere with sexual function. But we do know it’s involved, and there are likely several ways it can happen.
- A weak or underactive pelvic floor may not have the strength or tone necessary to encourage healthy blood flow needed for genital engorgement. And tissue laxity which is common in underactive pelvic floor muscles may make it so that there isn’t enough friction to adequately stimulate the clitoris during penetrative sex.
- A tight or overactive pelvic floor will often be inflexible, limiting blood flow and causing nerves of overactive muscles to become sensitized and painful. This can lead to pain with both penetrative and non-penetrative sex.
- Other forms of pelvic floor dysfunction like leakage (from your bladder or bowels) or prolapse can lead to fears and insecurities that can put a serious wrench in sexual response.
If you think pelvic floor dysfunction may be getting in the way of your pleasure or any other aspect of your life, we’ve got you. A pelvic floor physical therapist will work with you to investigate what could be going on, and build a plan to help you get your orgasm back, and bigger than ever.