how do i know when i've had an orgasm

How Do I Know When I’ve Had An Orgasm?

I was asked ‘how do i know when I’ve had an orgasm’ recently by a young woman in an RSE lesson. She was saying that it’s obvious when men orgasm because they ejaculate, but how can she tell when she is having an orgasm? 

So here I’ll explain, what happens when you orgasm and what to look out for. I’ll also explain how you know when you’ve had one. Do read the whole thing if you can, because I have a surprising ending for you. 

What happens when you have an orgasm

As I say in this article, orgasm and ejaculation are not the same. This is true no matter what gender you are or what kind of body you have. Orgasm is associated with:

These are the signs that scientific studies have found when they examine someone who is experiencing an orgasm.

How you can work out if you are having an orgasm

We know that these things happen when people are being studied when they are having, what they experience as, an orgasm. These are the ‘objective’ things that happen for other people. This doesn’t mean that you will experience this for yourself in the same way: every person is unique and every orgasm is unique. But, the more you experience your own ‘subjective’ pleasure, the more you will start to learn what an orgasm might feel like for you. (There’s an interesting academic article called the Pleasure Systems in the Brain, which explains it)

So this means actually noticing it.

‘Oh my heart rate is increasing’

‘Oh I’m out of breath’

‘I’m noticing a change in my consciousness’

‘There’s a pleasurable muscle contraction’.

Just noticing the smallest smallest sign, and welcoming it, will help. Bit by bit you might start to feel it. It becomes circular after a while and you might start noticing these different signs interacting with each other as well as other things happening in your body. Skin tingling, the things you might say out loud, change in skin colour, how your breathing changes, etc.

How do I know I’ve definitely had an orgasm though?

After a while you will start to notice what emerges for you each time you have these feelings. This builds up as a series of memories which you draw from to help you understand what it is you are feeling. If someone else is with you they might notice it too and tell you. 

‘Wow you came really hard there’ 

‘Oh yeah?’ 

‘Yeah your breathing … the noises …  and you seemed to really just lose it at one point.’ 

‘Oh wow great!’ 

So you, and anyone else you are having sex with, will start to recognise them and understand them. Of course, because we are all changing all the time, our orgasms will change over time too. So our own sexual knowledge, our sexual intelligence, grows over time and through our experiences. Make sense? 

How do men know if they’ve had an orgasm?

Men might think they (we) know when they’ve had an orgasm, but they are often wrong. Everything I’ve said so far applies to people of all genders and all different kinds of bodies. That’s right men, this all applies to you. If you thought that orgasm was jizzing, you are wrong.

Don’t worry though, this is really great news because it means you can have multiple orgasms. If you follow the above advice, you might start to notice a difference between what you experience when you ejaculate and something else. 

Try it. If you want to ejaculate, by all means go for it, but there’s the option here of experiencing different kinds of pleasure that feel different to semen simply being ejaculated from your prostate through your penis

Also, although some men can ejaculate more than once in a row, most men experience a drop off of excitement called the refractory period. That just means there’s a period where it’s hard to get excited again. So this is a way of experiencing more pleasure, before ejaculation. It might even help you to control ejaculation too. 

Read – How to enjoy Solo Sex more

Gender and sex education

The ‘common sense’ story (or should story, as I call them) of orgasms are really powerful and have massively affected how we relate to our bodies. We are told that for men, ejaculation and orgasm are the same. This is why we say ‘cumming’ to mean both these things. We are also told that orgasms are harder for women to have and that they are mysterious (neither of those are true). Lately we have also been told that to prove women are having an orgasm they must squirt. All of this is wrong!

So, instead of telling women (or anyone with a vulva) that they should try to experience orgasm like a man, by squirting, we could do the opposite. Men (with penises) could try experiencing orgasm without ejaculation. 

Try my Teach Yourself Sex Ed course if you want to nerd out about Sex Ed.

Orgasms without ejaculation, the NNN loophole

I spoke about this in my article about No Nut November, if you can’t ‘Nut’ you might be able to have an orgasm. You can actually also experience this without masturbating if you wanted to. So instead of trying No Nut November, or any of the other ‘masturbation control’ challenges or resources, you could try this way instead. If you could learn to not be so focused about ejaculation, but could experience a lot of pleasure from orgasms, what might that do? If you were so connected with your body that you could experience orgasms from any kind of touch or sexual situation, what would that do?


When we have sex with other people, the enjoyment isn’t just what is happening in our own bodies, but what is happening with the other person. With truly enjoyable sex, there is a merging of our ‘selves’. Learning to enjoy sex more, which I’ve written about here, is the key. If as part of that we know when we are having an orgasm, great. But the most important thing is to try to enjoy it. 

Comment below if you like. I moderate all comments before they appear, just so you know!

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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