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What's happening during your O and his

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?)...

Let's talk about sex, ba-by!

You don’t know much about your big O — except that it’s glorious and pretty much the best thing on earth (beating out new episodes of Scandal by a smidge) — and you know even less about his.
Couple having sex
Photo credit: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/
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I know, I know: science this, Charlie Brown’s teacher that. But in learning the scientific side of the coin, you’ll be able to turn that lowercase "o" into a capital "O". Here, the science behind the female and male orgasm: Let's get it on. (Oh, you know what I mean.)

So once upon a time, you and your beau decide to get frisky.

“The sexual response cycle is made up of four phases, each of which has no definitive start or end time,” says sexologist Logan Levkoff.

Phase one: Excitement

Your heart goes all aflutter, and you start breathing like you just ran up a flight of stairs (or in my case, someone’s front stoop). Various muscles start to tighten all over your body (called "myotonia), while your vajay-jay sets up shop: “During this time the vagina lubricates and the inner 2/3s of it expand,” says Levkoff, while — cha-ching! — your boobs get bigger.

Meanwhile, in his neck of the woods, the endorphins have kicked in: his heart rate increases and his blood pressure rises (among other things). His peen’s nerve endings become more sensitive, as do other areas of his body, but he tends to focus mostly on the groin area. At first, he’s not that focused on a happy ending, but as arousal continues the psychological urge to hit a home run becomes stronger and stronger.

Phase two: Plateau

For you, everything becomes more enlarged and pronounced. Your face, neck or chest might even become flushed. The only area that goes rogue is your clitoris, which retracts in length by about half. This is a sign that if everything goes according to plan, you’re going to have an orgasm (cue Rocky theme song). “This is when a woman’s really ready to engage in intercourse,” says Levkoff. “The problem is: Most of us engage in intercourse before we get to this part.” (Take note ladies!)

He becomes wound like a top, which increases the sexual tension for both of you. The longer the ride, the more pleasurable the finish, so he’ll try to make these physical and psychological sensations last for as long as possible for both of you. Thank goodness, since word has it women can take up to 15 minutes longer than men to reach orgasm. (I know, right?)

Phase three: Orgasm

“Both men and women experience increased heart rate and higher blood pressure at orgasm,” says Carol Anne Austin, sex educator and psychotherapist for Kimberly Moffit and Associates. “Their respiration may also increase as high as 40 breaths per minute.” (Holy. Crap.)

When you’ve made it to the finish line, you’ll feel strong muscle contractions — like everywhere, not just within your lady bits (though those are the best, aren’t they?). These can last anywhere from four seconds to up to 15 seconds, kind of like you're having an exorcism. At the height of your big O, your body might become rigid. And you’re probably making a terrible face right now. All you can do at this point is hope that his is way worse.

While his orgasm and ejaculation seem to go hand in hand, such is not the case: “Men’s orgasms consist of two phases of contractions,” says Austin. The two are actually completely separate entities, but most guys have learned to associate the two sensations, so they tend to happen around the same time and have become quite the dynamic duo (you know, like Batman and Robin).

During his big O, his pelvic area contracts and pulsates, his heart rate and blood pressure increase, his breathing becomes more rapid, his muscles tense and then…

The clouds part. The sprinkler turns on. The volcano erupts. The wine cork pops. And if you’re on the bottom, make sure to find an air pocket so you don’t suffocate. (For once, I’m being serious.)

Phase four: Resolution

Both of your bodies go back to normal like the sexy Transformers you are. “Men experience a refractory period women tend not to have,” says Levkoff. “Men need time to ‘recharge’ so to speak  — which is why women are capable of having multiple, consecutive orgasms.”

Then, you know, he passes the eff out. Hopefully it’s Thursday so you can watch Scandal.

More ways to enjoy the O

A lesson on orgasms
The practice of orgasmic meditation for couples
Weird things people do after an orgasm

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