What's The Difference Between Orgasm And Climax? I Took A Class To Find Out

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Most of us grew up hearing the words "orgasm" and "climax" used interchangeably (if we grew up hearing them at all, that is). But some schools of thought, like those around orgasmic meditation and extended orgasm, actually treat them as two separate processes. It's a confusing concept, so when I learned sex educator Lucia Paxton was teaching a class on this very topic through O.School, I was eager to learn more.

O.School is a site full of live-streamed video classes on every sex-related topic from polyamory to sex toys. This particular course was called "A Woman's Orgasm: More than Meets the Eye." In addition to taking people's general questions about female orgasm, Paxton explained her research and personal experience with orgasm as distinct from the "climax model."

Climax, she explained, is what we usually think of when we hear "orgasm": a few seconds of pelvic floor muscle contractions. Orgasm, on the other hand, is a state that can last as long as you want. It's what happens if your body stays in the state it reaches right before climax — except instead of tensing, it relaxes.

Sound like fun? Here's what Paxton taught us about how non-climax orgasm works and how to achieve it.

1You Can Achieve It Through Clitoral Stimulation

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Non-climax orgasm arises in response to gentle attention to the clitoris. Two methods aimed at inducing it are orgasmic meditation, which involves stroking the upper left quadrant of the clitoris for 13 minutes, and extended orgasm, which uses a similar technique but is untimed. Then, the sensation spreads throughout the whole body. The key is to relax into it rather than tense up and to be aware of every sensation in your body. Don't discount any small amount of pleasure you feel. If you attend to it, it will grow.

2It's More Like A Dome Than A Mountain

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Climax is a like a mountain with a sharp peak. You reach the top, and before you know it, you've fallen back down the other side. But orgasm is like a dome. There's a wider area for you to explore at the top, and you can stay up without slipping off.

3It Takes The Pressure Off

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So much of sex is spent thinking about climax. We start off thinking about how we can make our partners come. Then we try to figure out if they're coming. Then we wonder if they came. It's exhausting! Orgasm is less goal-oriented than climax, according to Paxton. It's more about enjoying the journey than it is about reaching a destination. Every little bit of pleasure is interpreted as part of the orgasm, so there's no destination to reach. You're already there.

4It Requires You To Slow Down

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If you want to experience orgasm, create a slow, sensuous experience. Paxton recommends creating a romantic setting by lighting candles, eating sensuous food, and exchanging non-genital touch first. Savor the experience. It's all part of the orgasm.

5It Energizes You

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The cool thing about orgasm is that it doesn't leave you drained like climax. It actually leaves you with more energy than you had before you started. And don't worry — it doesn't leave you sexually frustrated either. It builds up sexual energy so you can channel it into other things.

6Anyone Can Do It

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Paxton said she's spent 5,000 hours in orgasm, and while that may sound extreme, her body's no different from anyone else's. (The class focused on people with clitorises, but those with other genitalia can experience it.)

If it's something you want to experience, too, a little knowledge and lots of practice will get you far.