What You Should’ve Been Taught About Orgasms In Sex-Ed

Although sex-ed was first formalized in some American schools in 1913, the female orgasm still remains a curious process to many. And it’s no wonder, especially considering the sexual education we were given at school mostly focused on the male orgasm.

By Rebecca Hope3 min read
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Marina Fedosova/Shutterstock

The male orgasm’s function is obvious – it enables us to reproduce – but the female orgasm doesn’t have this glaringly obvious reason for function, which is potentially part of the reason it has been left behind.

Some women struggle to climax no matter what. To overcome this hurdle and bridge the orgasm gap, it’s best to go back to basics and understand how arousal and the menstrual cycle work. Here’s what you need to know.

The Four Stages of Arousal

To have a better orgasm and a more fulfilling sex life, understanding how the arousal process (also known as the sexual response cycle) works is essential.

1. Excitement

This stage is also known as the initial arousal phase and can last a few minutes to several hours. During this stage, you’ll notice the following:

  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration will increase 

  • Your blood vessels will dilate, and all the tissues of your sex organs – clitoris, labia, and vagina – will swell

  • Your breasts become fuller, and your nipples will harden

  • You’ll notice you start to feel wet 

2. Plateau

In this stage, arousal will continue, and the changes begun in the first stage will intensify. You’ll also notice:

  • The tissues of your sex organs will swell even more

  • Your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure will continue to rise 

  • Your clitoris becomes more sensitive

  • The muscles within your vagina will begin to tighten and reduce the diameter of the opening

  • You may start to moan or make noises involuntarily

This stage is often brushed over as people rush to climax. However, staying longer in this stage will not only increase pleasure but will also produce a variety of health benefits too. More on this later!

3. Orgasm

The orgasm is the shortest of the phases and generally lasts only a few seconds. You’ll usually experience:

  • A surge of lubrication

  • Fast cycles of contractions in the muscles of your pelvic floor

  • Muscle spasms in other areas of your body

  • Increased overall pleasure in your body

It’s important to note that not all women will experience an orgasm at this stage. There could be a variety of reasons for this, but one could be a hormonal imbalance

4. Resolution

Following climax, your muscles will relax as your body calms down from its aroused state. You may feel a greater sense of well-being, closer to your husband, and fatigued. With further sexual stimulation, some women can quickly return to the orgasm phase and experience multiple orgasms.

How the Menstrual Cycle Affects Arousal and Climax

As your hormones change throughout your cycle, it affects everything from your cognitive function to your libido – and it affects how you experience the four stages of arousal.

Depending on where you are in your cycle, some days you may find it harder to become aroused.

Depending on where you are in your cycle, some days you may find it harder to become aroused, and others you may find it easier to climax. By learning more about your cycle, you can make adjustments to increase pleasure during sex.


Your hormones are at their lowest levels during this 3-7 day phase. Although you’re bleeding, this isn’t a wet phase. This is a dry phase, and lube is advised. 

During this phase, you’ll also have low pH levels in your vagina, increasing your susceptibility to bacteria. So if you’re someone who regularly experiences yeast infections or UTIs, it may be best to avoid sex during this phase in your cycle.

It’s perfectly normal not to feel in the mood for sex at all, but you may feel some pleasurable pressure on your G-spot, encouraging you to engage in sex. Some women even find that sex relieves symptoms, such as menstrual cramps and migraines, during this phase. Do what works best for you and your husband!


Your follicular stage is typically 7-10 days. During this phase, your hormone levels are low, but your estrogen levels will be on the increase. This is a dry stage, and your sex drive may still be low too, so you may need lubricant. You’ll also need to put more time into the arousal phase to increase your mental and physical desire for sex. This means plenty of touching, massage, and non-penetrative foreplay. 


This stage is usually 3-4 days. You’ll experience your biggest surge of estrogen and an increase in testosterone. The ovulatory stage is a wet phase, meaning you’ll have lots of natural lubrication. As you’re the most fertile in this phase, you’ll find you’re naturally more interested in sex – and you’ll reach orgasm more easily.


The luteal phase is usually 10-14 days. During this stage, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone reach their peak before falling to their lowest levels. Although you’re not ovulating, this is still a wet phase, so you’ll find you still have natural lubrication. In the first half of this phase, you’ll feel ready for sex. By the second half, you may be less interested in sex, meaning you’ll need more stimulation to orgasm. You’ll require more attention in the arousal stage, so don’t rush and take your time making out with your husband and engaging in foreplay. 

The Orgasmic Plateau

Previously, I mentioned that the plateau stage is often brushed over even though it offers the most benefits. To reap the full benefits and get the most pleasure out of the sexual response cycle, it’s important to take your time and pay particular attention to the plateau stage. 

You can still enjoy the pleasurable effects and benefits of the plateau stage even if you don’t climax.

During your orgasmic plateau, you produce a huge amount of oxytocin and nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, in particular, provides lots of health and hormone-balancing benefits, and you want to be making as much of this as possible. Although you produce nitric oxide during climax, by rushing to climax, you won’t fully reap the rewards like you would by extending the plateau stage.

The great thing about the orgasmic plateau is that if you’re a woman who can’t climax, you can still enjoy the pleasurable effects and benefits of the plateau stage.

To have a more pleasurable sex life and stay in the orgasmic plateau stage for longer, you can try an edging technique. You can read about this here.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding your menstrual cycle and the four stages of arousal is just one part of improving your sex life. Next, look at which route to orgasm works best for you. Most women reach climax through clitoral stimulation, but you can also achieve climax through vaginal penetration, applying pressure to your G-spot, or even nipple stimulation.

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