The average orgasm lasts less than 30 seconds—but we assign a lot of weight to those ephemeral episodes of ecstasy. People tend to have very strong opinions about what orgasms should be like and how and when and with whom we should be having them. But most of these opinions? Well, they’re not based in reality.
We reached out to a few orgasm experts to get the skinny on what’s really going down downstairs. Read on to discover some of the most prevalent orgasm myths—and the truth about la petite mort.
MYTH: Men orgasm one way, women orgasm another way.
You may have heard that men “need” to orgasm every time they have sex or that orgasming just isn’t that important to women. In reality, our relationship to orgasm is affected by a whole lot more than just what sort of genitals we’re packing. While it’s true that some men feel pain or frustration if they don’t have an orgasm, others are far less bothered by it. And while some women are fine not coming, for others it’s a major dealbreaker. Everyone’s different, and our gender is no more likely to dictate our relationship to orgasm than our hair color is.
“It’s not so much the difference between different sets of genitals, it’s really the difference between one individual to another,” says sex educator Haylin Belay. “[There’s] no one way that a certain group of people experiences orgasm or achieves orgasm or even thinks about experiencing orgasm.”
MYTH: Some orgasms are better than others.
Straight women feel a lot of pressure to orgasm from vaginal sex, says Belay. It’s not that vaginal orgasm is supposed to feel better—it’s that many women believe being able to orgasm from vaginal sex alone somehow makes them a “better” partner.
And that idea isn’t limited to vaginal sex. “A partner who can squirt—that’s [considered] a ‘better’ orgasm,” Belay says. “Or a partner who can orgasm from anal sex, or can climax without using a toy, or partners who can have multiple orgasms.” If there’s a way to orgasm, there’s someone lining up to tell you why that specific orgasm style isn’t just more pleasurable for you, but a better experience for your partner.
But Belay thinks that’s all bunk: “There are some people who can have multiple orgasms very easily—which is a beautiful and wonderful thing!” she says. “The problem is when that beautiful and wonderful thing becomes this unreasonable standard for all kinds of people who have all kinds of different bodies and ways of enjoying sex.”
MYTH: Orgasming at the same time as your partner means you’re really in love.
“This idea of simultaneous orgasm being representative of how good your relationship is, or how good the sex is, is just manufactured by our culture,” says Anne Hodder, a multiple-certified sex educator based in LA. “It’s really damaging … it’s not easy to do, regardless of how orgasmic you are.” Hodder notes that there are plenty of factors that can prevent you and your partner from coming at the same time, none of which have anything to do with whether you’re really in love.
“It’s luck,” Hodder says. If you’re able to sync your orgasms, it’s an amazing coincidence more than anything else.
MYTH: If you can’t make your partner orgasm, there’s something wrong with you.
Most of us want to be good in bed—but being good in bed doesn’t have to mean being able to bring your partner to orgasm every single way you try. Not everyone can orgasm from oral sex or hand jobs or penis-in-vagina sex, and some people can only orgasm with the aid of a sex toy or in some very specific setup.
If your partner can’t orgasm just from sex with you, that doesn’t automatically mean there’s something wrong with what you’re doing. They might just need something a little different to achieve the big O.
MYTH: Sex without orgasm is pointless.
Orgasms are so celebrated in our culture, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s no point to having sex if it doesn’t end in some big finish. But plenty of people find pleasure in arousal and intimacy, even if it never erupts into a massive orgasm—and some people find orgasm underwhelming or even painful when they experience it. Orgasms can be wonderful and amazing and essential, and if they feel necessary to your sexual experience, you should definitely be experiencing them. But if they’re not the be-all, end-all for you? That’s perfectly OK, too. “All pleasure is valid, whether you call it orgasmic or not,” Hodder concludes.