Sex Ed

Orgasm 101: The Science of Arousal

By Lindsey Lavoie, WHNP Gabi Powell Apsaline Douglas

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Let’s talk physical intimacy.
Betties, you may know the feeling – the warm fuzzies that spark when things are, uhm, getting spicy. 🥵  The chills & thrills that leave you saying,“….Wow.” 🫠

Here at Betty’s, our approach to sexual health is give our Betties the education and cut the hype. So from the top, we want to debunk the mentality of “achieving” orgasm. Can an orgasm contribute to an enjoyable sexual experience? Ya damn right. However, positive sexual experiences don’t place orgasm as the end goal. As we’ll see, arousal is an intricate process unique to every Betty!


So, The Big O – what’s it all about? Why does it make us feel so good? And how can you experience it? Keep scrolling for the Betty’s breakdown on arousal ;).


what exactly *is* an orgasm?
Also known as the climax or “The Big O,” an orgasm is the peak moment of arousal. Typically, the female orgasm lasts for a few seconds, but those brief moments are often described as a feeling of euphoria.


oooo, got it. but why does climax feel that way?
When we’re getting down, our brains are working overtime to produce a slew of different hormones and neurochemicals, like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These baddies are responsible for feelings of pleasure, desire, and motivation. In other words, when we orgasm, we experience a smorgasbord of feel-good sensations.


i’d say.😅 now can you explain What’s going on in my body during an orgasm?
Sure thing! Let’s walk through the physiological happenings:

1. excitement

Sexual desire and arousal both contribute to climax. When heightened hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and lowered hormones, such as progesterone, are released, they generate a feeling of lust.

This rush of hormones trigger physical changes in the female body during intimacy, such as:
– Vulvar swelling + increased blood flow
– Vaginal lubrication
– Fuller breasts + sensitivity
– Hardened nipples
– Increased heart rate and breathing
– Flushed skin
– Sweating

These physiological changes are your body’s way of saying, “I really, really like what’s going on here,” while indicating its readiness for intercourse.

2. plateau

Once these reactions get going, your body enters a plateau stage, where sensations intensify. Some may experience muscle tension, increased heart rate, and increased sensitivity in the clitoris.


Ahhhhh, welcome.
An orgasm is characterized by physical changes, such as:
– Involuntary muscle contractions
– A sudden release of tension
– Rhythmic contractions of the vagina + uterus
– Some Betties may get a sudden hot feeling throughout the body

4. Resolution

Once orgasm is complete, all that built-up muscle tension is released, your heart rate decreases and body goes back to business as usual. Many Betties feel warm, fuzzy, relaxed, and happy. Sometimes, you may feel the opposite or somewhere in between, and that’s okay, Betties!


Clearly, sexual arousal and climax are very involved, intricate biological processes. It shows how amazing our bodies are, and how much is really going on during physical intimacy! Super, super cool.


Uh, ya! But why do orgasms even exist?
Pair bonding, sperm retention, and mate selection are a few ongoing theories. However, the “function” of the orgasm is still a mystery. For now, the orgasm exists as just another feel-good perk of physical intimacy. No complaints here!


How can I experience the big O?
👀 Spoiler alert: There’s no secret to arousal. Why? Because every Betties’ preferences are unique! The nuts and bolts of the orgasm are standard but initiating the arousal process is an individual recipe.

Some Betties might need to consider contributing factors like emotional connection, trust, affection, safety, respect, and desire. For our brains to release these hormones and get in the mood, how we feel in the moment, our environment, and our partner (…or no partner) have to be juuuuust right!

Identifying your arousal formula will take some exploration into what stimulates and feels good for you. Here are some steps you can try to help you with the process:


Tense up your muscles 

Try to focus the tension on your vaginal, abdominal, and buttocks muscles. Also called myotonia, tensing these muscles can increase blood flow to parts of your body, including the genital area, increasing your likelihood of experiencing an orgasm.


Relax your mind

But you just said tense up! I know, I know, but hear us out: Orgasm is the release of hormones and neurochemicals that the brain interprets to initiate climax. Meaning: your brain is a significant player when it comes to pleasure! A relaxed mind can help you focus on sensation and register what feels good to you.


communicate what feels good

If your sexual experience involves a partner, communication is a Betty must. What feels good? What does not?

Voicing your feelings in the moment can be tough and we get it! Try simple phrases of affirmation like, “Yes, that feels great!” or alternatively, phrases of dislike, “I don’t like that, can we try something else?” Betties, it is A-okay to stop and speak your mind! And that goes both ways – for both you and your partner.


don’t forget about foreplay
Orgasm is a complex process and it’s completely normal if your body doesn’t zap hot like a microwave! Try the slow-cooker approach: Take the time to cuddle, kiss, and do other bonding activities that up those happy hormone/neurochemical levels! If we’re talking a solo sesh, do the same – communicate authentically with yourself.


Betties, these activities aren’t intended to be a Big O playbook, but to help you explore + create a space that allows you to feel comfortable.

Orgasms might play a pleasurable part in getting intimate, but, remember, they are only one part and not essential to pleasurable sexual experiences. Understanding how your body uniquely works and responds is what being a Betty is all about! And your sexual wellness depends on it.


so bring Betty’s Co. your questions and your awkward.

 Our providers are ready to talk with you, not at you, with empathy, without judgment, to empower your whole-self health.


book your appointment today


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