Multiples have been reported for almost a century. Now we know more about them.
From the earliest sex research through today, the main issue with women’s orgasms is the substantial proportion of women who DON’T have them—especially during vaginal intercourse with men. Fortunately, there’s hope for women who don’t climax. With accurate sex information and gentle, extended clitoral caresses, almost all women can have orgasms with partners.
But from the earliest sex research through today, some women have reported a series of orgasms, one shortly followed by another, sometimes several. The research on multiple orgasms is limited, but a recent Canadian study sheds new light.
What’s an Orgasm?
In all genders, when sexual excitement rises to a peak, it triggers a series of involuntary, wave-like contractions of the muscles between the legs (the pelvic floor muscles), often accompanied by convulsive movements and grunts or gasps, and brief euphoric pleasure. That’s an orgasm.
Beyond that, it’s difficult to generalize. There’s only one universally valid sexual generalization. Everyone is sexually unique. Our sexuality is as individual as our DNA. Our orgasms are, too. But scientists always look for patterns, and sex researchers have endeavored to identify the parameters of orgasm. They’ve asked:
- How many muscle contractions do orgasms involve? That’s individual. During the 1960s, Masters and Johnson wired genitals, counted contractions, and said three to 15. Other studies have counted more. And some women report satisfying orgasms with NO discernible pelvic muscle contractions at all.
- How much time separates orgasmic muscle contractions? That’s also individual. Some studies say less than one second. Others say a second or more, with some studies showing time between contractions increases with successive contractions.
- How long do orgasms last? Again, individual. Findings vary from three to 30 seconds, with a University of Minnesota report suggesting that after the main series of contractions, some people experience extended irregular contractions for as long as another 90 seconds.
But no matter how these variables play out, the entire series of intensely pleasurable pelvic muscle contractions equals one orgasm.
Multiple Orgasms in Women: How Prevalent?
Multiple orgasms are much less common in men than women. But the proportion of women who experience them is controversial. Before I delved into this subject, I would have guessed it was a rare woman who could climax more than once per sex session.
But the literature suggests that multiple orgasms, while not common, are far from rare. The first report, based on interviews with 2,200 women, appeared in 1929. In 1953, Indiana University’s Alfred Kinsey, the nation’s first prominent sex researcher, declared that 14 percent of the several thousand women he interviewed claimed to have had multiple orgasms. Several studies over the past 30 years have reported around 25 percent. Finally, in 1991, researchers at Florida State University surveyed 805 women college students and discovered that 43 percent claimed to have had multiples.
Women who just have vaginal intercourse have much lower rates of orgasm than those who enjoy extended kissing, hugging, mutual whole-body massage, hand jobs, intercourse, and especially receptive oral sex (cunnilingus). As sexual repertoire expands, so do reports of multiple orgasms.
Now, it’s possible that some of the women reporting multiples have been mistaken. It’s conceivable that some called each individual pelvic muscle contraction one orgasm, and may have counted 10 serial contractions not as one orgasm, but as 10. However, it’s also quite possible that true multiple orgasms are more prevalent than I would have guessed. At this writing, the actual prevalence of multiple orgasms in women remains a mystery.
The New Study
The most recent exploration of multiples—at McGill and the University of Montreal—began with advertisements on Internet sex and psychology sites looking for women over 18 who had experienced multiple orgasms and were willing to be surveyed about them. Four hundred nineteen completed the questionnaire. They ranged in age from 18 to 69, average age 33. The findings:
- Three-quarters (74 percent) of the women said they’d experienced their first multiple orgasms during self-sexing. That’s not surprising. For all genders, it’s easier to climax solo than with partners, so it makes sense that self-sexing would be more likely to produce multiples.
- Most said they’d experienced their most recent multiple orgasms with partners (64 percent)—usually from a combination of genital hand massage and cunnilingus, particularly the latter. Many women say they’re most likely to climax from oral sex, so it makes sense that this would also produce the most multiples.
- The women said it was easier to work up to multiples solo than with lovers. It took them six to 14 minutes to work up to their first orgasm in the series solo, and 30 to 60 minutes to have their first with partners. It’s more challenging to come with partners, so it makes sense that it would take longer to have multiples partnered. But subsequent orgasms occurred more quickly. After their first orgasms, most of the women required only around three minutes to work up to number two.
The women’s average age at their first single orgasm was 19. They reported having their first multiples at an average age of 20.5.
- For one-third of the women, “multiple orgasms” meant two. For the other two-thirds, multiples ranged from three to—I kid you not—more than 100! Of those who had more than two, the most frequently reported numbers were five (12 percent) and 10 (12 percent).
- Most of the women (58 percent) maintained—or their lovers maintained— continuous vulvar/clitoral stimulation between orgasms. About one in five (21 percent) preferred to suspect stimulation for a minute or so between orgasms, and one in eight (13 percent) stopped for two or three minutes. Very few reported between-orgasm breaks of five minutes or longer.
- Half the women (50 percent) said their second orgasm produced more pleasure than their first, but one-quarter (25 percent) experienced no change in pleasure, and the other quarter noted decreased pleasure after their first. Those who reported increased pleasure tended to have multiples during partner sex, while those who reported no change or less pleasure generally had their multiples solo.
- Multiples are also a function of libido. Most of the women who reported multiples said they felt lustier and more sexually adventurous than their friends. Most (72 percent) began masturbating before age 14. Singles reported masturbating an average of eight times a month (about twice the frequency reported for women in most other studies). Those in relationships reported sex nine times a month—once solo, eight times with partners. Ninety percent of those in relationships had partner sex at least weekly—considerably more frequently than most couples.
Many women say they’d love to have multiple orgasms, and the Internet abounds with articles that offer tips. In contrast, the recent study shows there’s no formula, no magic recipe. Women who have multiple orgasms figure it out for themselves in their own individual ways.
But again, compared with women who experience multiple orgasms, many more women have difficulty having even one, or have none at all. For help climaxing, women might check out the chapter on women’s orgasms in my book, Sizzling Sex for Life.