Are Orgasms More Linked to Psychological Factors or Physical Factors?

Achieving an orgasm isn’t always a piece of cake. I think we’ve all been there, you’re stressed, or something is on your mind and no matter how good stimulation feels- you just can’t quite orgasm. When you think about an orgasm, it’s usually thought of as a reaction to stimulation with two common effects: the pleasure of the body and mind. This being said, when you really think about how you got there, was it simply by physical stimulation or was there some mental work involved too?

This being said, when you really think about how you got there, was it simply by physical stimulation or was there some mental work involved too?

Most research on orgasms has primarily focused on orgasmic responsiveness in women. Meaning did it happen, how many times, does it happen regularly, and overall sexual or relationship satisfaction. Additionally, there have been a handful of studies that connect intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors to a woman’s orgasm. It seems that there might be a little bit more to it than just “did she come?” and “how many times?” Shocking.

We know that the quality of your relationship with the person you are having sex with is a consistent correlate of orgasm frequency, sexual satisfaction, and happiness. It has also been hypothesized that physical intensity of orgasmic sensations and perceived orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction are corradiated and are actually different depending on if the orgasm comes from solo sex or sex with a partner. So, researchers are lead to wonder if there is a situational or social component to pleasure. Spoiler alert: we think so!

So, what did they find?


  • Orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction were more consistently related to the cognitive characteristics of the experience than were the sensory characteristics. In fact, no sensory characteristics were associated with pleasure and satisfaction experienced with masturbatory orgasm.
  • For both solo sex and partner sex, increased relaxation and greater ecstasy were related to heightened orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction.
  • Orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction experienced during sex with a partner heightened emotional intimacy during orgasm and after. Showing the importance of interpersonal-affective qualities of the orgasm experience.
  • “throbbing sensations,” and  “flushing sensations” both of which are sensory characteristics were felt with a partner, not solo sex.
  • Anatomical location of orgasm sensations by itself was associated with orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction. Orgasmic sensations that extend beyond the pelvic region were evaluated as more pleasurable and satisfying than those that remain localized within the pelvic area. But, regardless of where the orgasm was felt (pelvic region only or throughout the body) the stronger the effective intensity of the orgasm experience, the more pleasurable and satisfying the orgasm.


Mind Over Body

Long story short: cognitive components of the orgasm experience were more associated with orgasmic pleasure and satisfaction than were the sensory components.




Co- Founder of Psych n Sex, previous writer and campus educator for the Kinsey Institute & published psychology researcher. Manhattan girl obsessed with post ww2 abstract expressionism, beet juice, vintage clothing & Scandinavia.

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