Sex & Relationships

Turns Out There’s Actually A Difference Between Climax & Orgasm

A sex educator breaks it all down.

Originally Published: 
There's actually a difference between climax and coming.
Emelie Ollila/Moment/Getty Images

You probably grew up hearing the words “orgasm” and “climax” used interchangeably (if you grew up hearing them at all, that is). Yet, some schools of thought, like orgasmic meditation and extended orgasm, actually treat them as two separate processes. The difference between climax and coming can be a confusing concept, so when I learned sex educator Lucia Paxton was teaching a class on climax vs. orgasm 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 the best G-spot 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 what an orgasm is, 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.


A Climax Is Like A Mountain, An Orgasm Is Like A Dome

As Paxton shares, a climax is like a mountain with a sharp peak. You’re working your way up, reach the top, and before you know it, you've fallen back down the other side. An orgasm, however, is like a dome. There's a wider area for you to explore at the top, and you can stay up without slipping off. It’s not as sharp as an acceleration and fall; it’s an elongated curve of pleasure.


Non-Climax Orgasms Demand Clitoral Stimulation

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.


Non-Climax Orgasms Can Take The Pressure Off

For a lot of people, 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 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. Remember, it’s a dome, not a mountain: You don’t need to reach the peak — you just need to enjoy the ride.


Non-Climax Orgasms Require You To Slow Down

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 it. It's all part of the orgasm.


Climaxing Can Tire You, Orgasms Can Energize You

The cool thing about orgasm is that it doesn't leave you drained like a 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.


Anyone Can Do It

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 an elongated orgasm.) If it's something you want to experience, too, a little self-exploration will get you far.


Lucia Paxton, sex educator

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