Everyone wants to feel good. But not everyone agrees on what “feeling good” means. With orgasm, we generally know which brain chemicals are involved, but the range of orgasm is still a mystery, one shrouded in antiquated thinking and norms.
For most of its history, sex science has been a male-led field, subject to the biases, privileges, taboos, and hetero-centric standards that modern sex therapists have to do away with. We still don’t know everything about orgasm for humans with vaginas and clitorises, which are described in countless different ways by those who have them. People with penises are led to believe their orgasms are simple — buildup, ejaculation, and you’re done — and as a person with a penis, I disagree.
When I was little, I didn’t know how to masturbate, so for years I just rubbed myself against the bed. I never achieved ejaculation, or the “standard” orgasm for cisgender men, but I still liked the feeling. Later, I was taught how to “jack off” but it never became a big thing for me. As an adult, I don’t masturbate every day, and in sex, I never have to come. Other types of orgasms are more powerful for me.
We must redefine “orgasm” to include a range of sensations that are non-normative — that don’t fit a playbook, need specific body parts, or require movements that only able-bodied people can achieve. Many people can’t orgasm the “traditional” way — they have physical, medical, or psychological barriers to doing so — and often feel left out of discussions on sex. There are no limited people, just limited understandings.
Here are 20 alternative orgasms you should explore right now.
Some people like to watch. For them, looking is all it takes. There are limits to what you’re allowed to see without someone’s consent, and you shouldn’t stare or make someone uncomfortable. But you’re generally allowed to check someone out, and if they communicate that they want to be looked at or watched — or even want to watch you in return — you can very erotic encounters with no touching whatsoever. Stripping and teasing exist for a reason.
One of the most beautiful things you can do with someone is look into their eyes while they’re looking into yours. The most intense experience with a former partner was when we sat in the shower and did this for about an hour. It was more intimate than most of the sex I’ve had in my life.
Before I learned how to masturbate, I loved rubbing myself against the bed. I would later learn that pillow-fucking and dry humping are very common and are generally seen as a precursor to “standard” masturbation — the first time a person notices they feel good “down there” is usually when they rub against a pillow. But if it feels really good, who says you can’t do it as an adult?
Dry-humping isn’t the only way to achieve a rubbing-gasm. A good massage session or feeling someone gently brush their fingers over your skin can tickle, arouse, tease, and be very intense. During my freshman year of college, one of my friends had the most sensitive touch. He would gently stroke my back and butt while I was lying next to him on the bed, and he had me moaning. I felt held, protected, surrendered. It was some of the best sex of my life.
Wet dreams are extremely common, but I included them because they’re also widely depicted as an adolescent phase — a stepping stone between childhood and a more “developed” sexual identity. It’s a myth that wet dreams only happen to teenage boys in puberty. Adults of all genders can have them too. The dream doesn’t even have to be erotic — research has found that, on average, only 8 percent of dreams have some sexual content, and most people report having an orgasm in only about 4 percent of their erotic dreams.
I prefer erotic encounters over solo time. An erotic encounter can be anything — browsing the underwear aisle in a department store, meeting the eyes of a sexy person on the sidewalk, stripping next to someone in a gym locker room, or seeing a man’s bulge on the sidewalk. These are complete erotic experiences — and for me, they’re better than masturbation. Every time I walk outside is an adventure.
Most people silo “sexuality” into two experiences: “sex with other people” and “masturbation,” with the former involving penetration and the latter involving self-touching. I believe these are just two items on an endless buffet of erotic experiences a person can enjoy. The reason why we don’t normally count powerful encounters with art, film, or erotic spaces — or non-tactile exchanges with people — as “sex” is because, linguistically, we’re stunted in our ability to convey this range of human eroticism.
If someone on a TV show said they had a sexual experience by reading a book or engaging with art, most audiences would raise their eyebrows — but I believe this is sex. If you’ve ever read really powerful sex poetry or erotica or engaged with arresting, transfixing erotic art, you know how this feels.
Have you ever just gotten lost in the music? I’ve had beautiful movements — often enhanced with mind-altering substances — where I felt completely in sync with the people I was with, and our connected pulse was the music. In those moments, you’re not really sure if the source of your pleasure is the sound or the person, and truthfully, it’s both. Hearing great music fires some of the same chemicals in your brain that sex and orgasm trigger, which is one reason why music is such a great accouterment to other powerful sex experiences.
P-spot orgasms are also common, but for heterosexual men to enjoy them, they have to get past any fears and insecurities associated with anal penetration. A good P-spot orgasm only happens through the back door.
Everyone has a G-spot that can be stimulated for extra pleasure. The G-spot for someone with a prostate gland is called the P-spot. The prostate is a small walnut-sized gland accessed through the anus. It sits inside the body at the base of the bladder and can be most easily stimulated with a lubed index finger or (much better) with a P-spot toy. The prostate is ultra-sensitive and you can orgasm from feeling it being rubbed gently. Many people train themselves to come hands-free from P-spot stimulation alone.
Asexuals are probably better able to speak on this orgasm and the one following. There are many people who simply don’t like sex who connect to people in other ways: mentally, emotionally, romantically, and so on. A mental orgasm, for me, happens when I’m talking to someone who I am completely in sync with. I don’t want it to stop and don’t want to leave. We understand each other, we’re even probably crushing on each other a bit, but it’s not so much a sexual crush as it is a stimulating fascination.
I last had this kind of orgasm with a super-cool sex therapist in Atlanta. She was physically very beautiful, but she also radiated this power, intelligence, and empathy that was really nice to be around. Needless to say, I left a little smitten. I don’t think these experiences happen often enough — certainly not for me — so when you have one, count yourself lucky.
I consider this a deep and passionate feeling of love that overwhelms you. You feel connected, close, and surrendered to someone. Really great sex — especially dominant/submissive and BDSM sex — includes this feeling, but as love and sex are two different things, so too must their climaxes be different. You can connect with and someone deeply without fucking them just as easily as you can fuck someone without loving or connecting with them. The former is a love-gasm.
I’ve written a little bit about tickling in this publication. In the kink world, tickling is a fetish practice that, when taken to extremes, can feel closer to torture than pleasure, but as we hopefully all know by now, torture and pleasure often feel like the same thing.
You don’t have to have an extreme tickle session to have a tickle-gasm. Simply teasing someone’s sensitivity and arousing their body with your hands, your breath, or with various ticklish tools can be a very intense and erotic experience.
I know many people whose preferred way to orgasm is through nipple play. On humans of all genders, the nipples are erogenous zones and are usually very sensitive. They are filled with nerve endings and react strongly to being touched, stroked, licked, kissed, and gently bitten (or not-so-gently bitten), as well as pinching, pain, pressure, and more. Try using your fingers and your mouth on someone’s nipples to see how they react. If they want more, go to a good sex store (I recommend Fort Troff) and buy some nipple clamps.
My favorite thing is fisting. Among fisters, descriptions of fisting orgasms vary widely, but we all agree that a fisting orgasm is the single greatest physical pleasure our bodies can feel. When I orgasm from getting fisted, it feels a bit disassociative and I’m told that it looks a little violent. My entire body just lets go — and I’m loud. If I’m at a sex party, people turn to see who’s yelling. In his book Fist Me!, Stephan Niederwieser says a good fisting orgasm “sounds like someone is giving brith to a cow.”
My friend — a better fist bottom than me — describes his anal orgasms this way: “Mine are like a wave that emanates from my sphincter. Everything contracts. I can’t take a breath in. For me it’s really similar to cumming in that my whole body feels a rush of ‘orgasm’ cascade over it — the only difference is, it can last for up to 15 to 20 seconds, and every pass through reignites the sensation.”
Reaching climax during a workout happens all the time! A study from Indiana University that surveyed 530 women found that 370 of them had experienced orgasm or sexual pleasure while working out, usually from core-based exercises. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a workout orgasm, but I’m a gym devotee, and when my endorphins are firing and I’m lifting heavy — say, doing squats — I can feel a euphoria that seems close to orgasm.
Put simply, anal orgasm is the result of sexual stimulation of the nerves in and around the anus. So many nerves are there that stimulating it has to make you feel something. Fisting orgasms (above) are just one way to achieve anal orgasm — you can also experience one with anal sex (with a penis) or with a toy.
What does this orgasm feel like? In this article for Health — which is frustratingly only written with women in mind, as if men don’t love getting fucked — Andrea Barrica, founder of the sex-ed website O.school, says that “some women describe it as being similar to a clitoral orgasm, a pulse of pleasurable contractions, but this time around the anal sphincter.” Others, she says, feel more of a “spreading wave” of pleasure. Minus the prostate, everyone’s rectal anatomy is the same, so these descriptions should be the same for everyone who enjoys ass play.
My boyfriend achieves anal orgasm rather quickly and can have multiple ones over a single night (say, at a sex party where he’s getting fucked by many people). For me, anal orgasms longer and are harder to achieve, but mine are more intense and seem to last a long time (up to a few minutes).
Some people involuntarily pee on themselves in an anal orgasm (anal play can stimulate the bladder). It’s hard to say exactly what anal orgasms feel like, but when you experience one, you’ll know.
There are two versions: The first is when you climax, take a break, and go again. (If you’re having ejaculatory orgasms, you might find that when your tank is dry, you can orgasm without releasing semen, which is perfectly normal.) The second version is less common and happens when you experience multiple orgasms back-to-back.
Want to test your ability to see if you are a multi-orgasm champion? The next time you have sex, orgasm, take a 30-minute rest to enjoy the extra oxytocin (the love hormone, which is secreted during sex) flooding the brain, then go for round two.
Funnily enough, I learned the term “orgasm” at a hair salon when I was in high school. The sassy woman who cut my hair a) certainly knew I was “funny” and b) told me the best stories. She gave excellent scalp massages when she shampooed your hair, and she told me that she had once had a client, a middle-aged woman, who actually orgasmed from the scalp massage — and now that I’m adult and can see how my boyfriend responds when I play with his hair, I believe that story was 100 percent true.
While hard to describe, a blended orgasm is understood as a moment of intensity achieved when multiple erogenous zones are being stimulated at once (for example, G-spot penetration with clitoral touching). When I stroke and ejaculate while getting fucked and having an anal orgasm, this is a blended orgasm.
Many anal and fisting orgasms feel whole-body, but not every whole-body orgasm comes from anal play or fisting. This orgasm is when you climax while several areas of your body are being stimulated simultaneously. If your partner is playing with your nipples, clitoris, and G-spot all at once, you might orgasm but be unsure which area is responsible. For me, these amazing orgasms are when you’re having drawn-out, really intense sex (never rushed) and are slowly building up to an intense point, and theyre a great way to drag out the pleasure, since I find it easier to have an orgasm after a full-body one.
I occasionally write about nightlife, and after interviewing many dancers who tell stories from discos and dance parties of the past, I can say that nearly everyone describes a state of transcendence that only seems achievable on a dance floor. It’s an intense feeling of connection and community — also, in most cases, assisted by drugs — mixed with music and endorphins and lights and sound. It’s a kind of intense collective love that comes from close contact and movement and sweat and heat.
Humans are pack animals, so it makes sense that we can only unlock certain sensations when crowded together. Every man I’ve interviewed who danced at The Saint — a gay disco that ran from 1980 to 1988 in New York City’s East Village, nicknamed “the Vatican of discos” — describes the experience in quasi-religious terms as something like an orgasm, but better.
What’s better than passionate kissing? With the right chemistry, a good makeout can be better than sex and far better than a “standard” orgasm. Don’t let anyone define for you what sex and intimacy are — you set your own definitions and understandings. Kissing and touching are powerful things and should be respected as such.
This is easier said than done, but here’s my advice — as a sex worker and someone who loves writing about pleasure: when talking about sex with people you’re attracted to, present yourself as a complete experience. The things that you like and feel comfortable with are a package deal — they can take them or leave them. You must stand by what you enjoy rather than feel pressured to give the kind of sexual experience you think they want. If you just want to kiss, kiss and tell them how lucky they are.