Everything you want to know about orgasm but are afraid to ask

How to reach an orgasm, what it is, how long it takes and even how many calories they burn - all this in our handy ten point guide.

What is an orgasm?

It is believed to be a similar experience for men and women because the penis and clitoris are made from the same tissue and are connected to the brain and spinal chord by the pudendal chord.

It is the physical and emotional climax of intercourse, and consists of involuntary muscle contractions in the anus, lower pelvis and sexual organs, accompanied by a sudden release of endorphins.

How often do people experience orgasm?

People have more orgasms the younger they are. In 1948's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred Kinsey reported that men had an average intercourse frequency of four times per week when they were 15-20, three times per week at age 30, twice per week at age 40 and less than once per week at 60.

How long does it take to reach orgasm?

Men typically require two to ten minutes of intercourse to reach orgasm. Some women orgasm within 30 seconds of self-stimulation, while most reach climax after 20 minutes.

How can I tell if my partner is faking?

You probably can't. Both sexes fake because they don't want their partner to think they're dissatisfied. For men it's harder because orgasm is followed by ejaculation, while a women's orgasm may occur with or without external signs. The only way to know for sure is to ask.

How many calories does an orgasm use up?

Only three – a compelling argument for multiple orgasms, if ever there was one. And 30 minutes of vigorous sex for the average male uses up 63 calories, compared to 288 for 30 minutes of jogging.

Can orgasms cause a heart attack?

Death 'in the saddle' is rare. In one study of 5,559 cases of sudden death in men, fewer than 20 occurred during a sexual act. The exertion associated with sexual activity is more the culprit than the actual orgasm. A heart attack is also more likely if the man is married but consorting with a non-spouse in unfamiliar surroundings after a big meal and alcohol. Most scientific articles on death by sex focus on men.

Do orgasms stop at a certain age?

Sexual function starts to decline in the 30s and 40s, but some people experience orgasms past the age of 90. However, a typical man in his 80s is twice as likely to be sexually active as a woman of a similar age (41 per cent versus 18 per cent).

Why do men become sleepy after orgasms?

Nobody knows for sure, but it's very common. Since the physical exertion for a 175lb man having 30 minutes of vigorous sex expends only 63 calories, it's likely to be something else that causes it, but so far the research is inconclusive. Male rats also fall deeply asleep shortly after mating, but then so do female rabbits, while their human counterparts prefer a little post-orgasm tenderness and bonding, however brief.

Are orgasms good for the health?

Despite not being particularly effective at burning calories, having orgasms is still good for our overall health. Research suggests that benefits include longevity, increased immunity to disease, improved reproductive health and management of pain, and a possble reduction in the risk of heart disease and cancer. There is even some evidence that male orgasms may also protect women, as antigenic proteins in a partner's sperm boost the immune system. Apparently, it seems that the more sexual partners a woman has, the lower her risk of breast cancer.

Do different cultures view orgasms differently?

Yes, but historical texts from a variety of cultures describe pleasurable orgasmic sensations, and discussions concerning how both men and women can and should experience sexual pleasure, including orgasm, are often part of their tradition. Sometimes the intention is to reduce sexual activity, at other times, to foster a good marriage – in some Islamic cultures, for example, men are encouraged to withhold ejaculation until they are certain their wife is satisfied.

Some societies have recommended restraint in men because ejaculation was considered debilitating, while others have considered it beneficial for vigour and health.

In 1910, researcher Havelot Ellis surveyed historical and religious pronouncements on the appropriate frequencies for marital coitus (and presumably orgasm) for men, and reported the following recommendations – Zoroaster, Persian religious leader: once in nine days; Hindu authorities: three to six times per month; Solon, Athenian statesman and poet: three times per month; the Koran: once a week; the Talmud: once a day to once a week, depending on occupation; Martin Luther, German founder of Protestantism: twice a week.