10 things you didn't know about orgasm?

Here’s an interesting, frustrating thing:

It’s a fun video and you should watch it, but I’d like to take this opportunity to point out a common error made both in the mainstream media and in the science: Sex, stimulation, desire, arousal, ejaculation, and orgasm are NOT IDENTICAL. They are all different.


Fetuses masturbate in utero. This is true, they do, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have orgasms. It turns out they do, but masturbating and orgasm are not identical and let’s all be thorough, precise critical thinkers and remember that.

Orgasm can cause bad breath? This is, she tells us, according to a 1930s marriage manual. However, it’s not orgasm but ejaculation, which is not the same thing.

Orgasm can cure the hiccups? Actually not orgasm but intercourse. Ask 23 of women and they’ll tell you it’s DEFINITELY not the same thing.

Pig upsuck – orgasm in pigs promotes fertility? By her description, it’s not orgasm but STIMULATION that generates upsuck of ejaculate. Stimulation is not the same as orgasm.

The last one “But it sure is entertaining” is also about ejaculation.

So at least half the “things you didn’t know about orgasm” aren’t actually about orgasm.

Does it matter, the distinction between arousal, orgasm, and ejaculation?

Well of course it does.

For better or worse, people believe orgasm is a big deal – which is why the talk has the title it does. “10 Things You Didn’t Know about Sexual Response” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, eh?

But if orgasm is a big deal, that’s all the more reason to be precise when we talk about it. If we go around conflating orgasm, arousal, and ejacuation, we end up with people very confused about orgasm.

I would like a world where orgasm wasn’t such a big deal, which I think necessitates a world where people don’t assume that stimulation, ejaculation, arousal, and desire somehow necessarily imply orgasm.

Incidentally, you should all read Elisabeth Lloyd’s Case of the Female Orgasm, which is relentlessly precise around this distinction of stimulation, arousal, desire, and orgasm. A brilliant, feminist, and did I mention brilliant, work of philosophy of science.