Please Stop Believing These Male Orgasm Inaccuracies
The male orgasm is generally thought of as rather straightforward and not terribly mysterious.
After all, it's something that guys can literally do in their sleep. What's to know? It's a basic "point-and-shoot" model, right?
Actually, if you start to delve into how it works, the male orgasm can be a source of some confusion for guys.
Misconceptions still surround the male orgasm, so let's set a few straight.
The male orgasm is a standalone function
An important starting point in getting to know the male orgasm is to understand what it isn't. First, it's not just one action.
Most people are familiar with erections, ejaculation and the pleasure sensation that usually accompanies it, but it's important to understand that these components of orgasm don't necessarily have to all work together.
"A big part of my job as a sexual medicine specialist is figuring out where that person has an issue," said Amy Pearlman, M.D., a men's health specialist and co-founder of Prime Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "Someone could have great erections but never reach climax. Someone could have great erections and ejaculate but not actually experience the pleasure sensation. So to really tease that out requires asking some really specific questions for the sake of understanding what's really going on."
Prostate surgery means no more orgasms
We're conditioned to think of sex for men as a very linear process: erection, stimulation, ejaculation. That's not always the case. There are ways around certain steps in the process if they prove to be difficult.
One particular situation that might require some orgasm rethinking is after prostate cancer surgery. Changes are likely after a prostatectomy, the partial or complete removal of the prostate gland. For instance, it's common for men to experience erectile dysfunction (ED) in the year or two following a prostatectomy.
What's more, the penis is likely to be shorter afterward, and that can affect how the man experiences sex.
"What a lot of guys don't realize is when you remove the prostate, that removes a couple of centimeters of urethra," said Neel Parekh, M.D., a men's fertility and sexual health specialist with Cleveland Clinic. "So when they make the connection, your urethra is going to be a couple of centimeters shorter, and that, oftentimes, means shortening of the penis. A lot of guys come to me saying, 'My penis is shorter, and I'm not getting erections.'"
Even with successful nerve-sparing surgery—the nerves required for erections that run across the surface of the prostate gland are saved—the mere act of peeling those nerves off the prostate before removing the gland can be traumatic.
For these men, a different approach may be required to reach orgasm.
Men with a fully flaccid penis can still stimulate themselves and make an orgasm happen, according to Pearlman. But they need to learn about other nerves that go to the penis.
"The pudendal nerve that goes to the penis also gives sensation to the perineal area and the anal area," she said. "So even stimulating those areas can result in very pleasurable experiences. Where someone experiences pleasure has nothing to do with their sexual orientation."
Orgasms are orgasms; they all feel good
Another common source of changes in men's bodies that may cause them to experience orgasm differently is aging. As men grow older, it's common to experience changes in ejaculate volume, how often they get erections, how erect they get and the sensations in their penis.
"As men get older, and if they're not having regular erections and if they gain weight, their penis gets smaller," Pearlman said. "It also means thinking outside the box of only being able to reach orgasm from stimulating the penis or from penis-in-vagina [intercourse]."
Changes that may occur to a man's female partner as she ages can affect how sex feels.
"Sometimes penis-in-vagina doesn't feel good," Pearlman said. "We can't forget what happens with the female body if it's a heterosexual relationship. If she's had babies and her body changes, and they're having sex, neither of them might be able to feel the other person. Even if that results in ejaculation, it might not feel that good."
Healthy heart, healthy erections, healthy orgasms
Blood flow is vital to sexual stimulation, but so are healthy nerves. If the sensation in the penis is reduced, it's going to be more difficult to reach a satisfying orgasm by stimulating it directly.
Diabetes is a common condition known to affect the tiny nerves in the penis.
"[On a] very basic level in terms of sensation, why would somebody's sensation change? Diabetes," Pearlman said. "Diabetes wreaks havoc on the nerves. So keeping nerves healthy is really important in terms of keeping sensation and reaching climax."
If penile nerves do get damaged, it might be time to explore other erotic or erogenous zones around the body. The entire area is riddled with nerves, so fondling the testicles, stimulating the perineum (the area between the genitals and anus) or probing the anus to stimulate the prostate are good examples. Those actions feel good to many men and can lead to a similar feeling of orgasm.
Sex toys can help.
"They may get a vibrator that feels good on the penis, and they might still be able to reach orgasm even if they don't get an erection," Pearlman said.
The first step in developing different approaches to sexual pleasure for guys is breaking apart the various components of sex: erection, stimulation, sensation, orgasm and ejaculation. Developing a certain open-mindedness about these topics and opening up the discussion with your partner, as well as your healthcare provider, is a great second step.
"Oftentimes, these conversations don't really have a place in a urologist's office," Pearlman said. "Maybe they have a place in a therapist's office or a psychologist's office, but I think they actually have a place in all of our offices.
"Healthcare providers have to get more comfortable talking about what are the uses of vibrators and pelvic wands and so forth, even though we're not taught about those things in our training," Pearlman said.