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4 Things You Didn't Know About Orgasms

Oprah.com
Love + Sex
August 9, 2012
Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

By Corrie Pikul

The Best Ones Hold Their Thrill Longer than a Werther's Original Butterscotch

Sex researchers Masters and Johnson labeled "intense orgasms" (like the kind where Sally's not faking it) as involving 8 to 12 vaginal contractions, each lasting 4.0 to 9.6 seconds. That adds up to over two minutes of continuous mind-bending bliss.
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They're Even More Elusive than You Thought

Not even scientists can agree on what percentage of women regularly climax, or how or even why. But it's generally accepted that roughly a third of women are unable to have orgasm through any means, says Cindy M. Meston, PhD, who was the chair of the World Health Organization's 2005 orgasm committee (yes, there was such a thing). Recent research has confirmed that anatomy plays a role: Some women are just born to orgasm--and some have to work at it. A study published last year in the journal Hormones and Behavior confirmed that the shorter the distance between a woman's clitoris and vagina (less than 2.5 centimeters is ideal), the easier it is for her partner to stimulate her supersensitive areas (tools and toys can help bridge the gap). Regardless of how we're built, almost every woman is aware of the other big challenge: Orgasms tend to require more constant attention--about 20 minutes, studies show--than most busy people have the time or concentration for.

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...But They Can Also Hit When You Least Expect Them

Working out at the gym? Sleeping on an airplane? Giving birth? Women (perhaps even you!) have reported experiencing orgasms in all of these unconventional situations. This has nothing to do with subconscious fantasies: Spontaneous, non-sexual orgasms can be caused by increased blood flow to the genitals combined with vibration or contact with the clitoris (during labor, there are also massive surges of ecstasy-inducing hormones like prolactin, oxytocin and beta-endorphins). Exercise-induced orgasms, in particular, seem to have been the gym addict's best-kept secret, until a study late last year by human sexuality researchers at Indiana University revealed that about a quarter of the 530 women they interviewed had climaxed while working on their abdominals, riding a bike or lifting weights.

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Some will Knock You Out; Others Will Just Chill You Out

Research has shown that orgasms experienced during sex cause us to release 400 times more prolactin--which tends to make people feel sleepy and satiated--than from those from masturbation, writes Meston in Why Women Have Sex, a book she co-authored with psychologist David M. Buss. This is why women may still feel alert enough to write a status report or clean the bathroom mirrors after a self-induced pleasure session. It all makes evolutionary sense, say the authors, because post-sex sleepiness helps women lie still, which is the optimal position for conception.

KEEP READING: 4 More Things You Didn't Know About Orgasms

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