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There’s Actually a Difference Between ‘Climaxing’ and ‘Coming’

We typically use the words interchangeably, but there is a very real distinction between the two types of pleasure

If you Google synonyms for “orgasm,” you’ll get the classic selection: coming (see also: cumming), climax, pleasure and, er, the big O. But, in news to all of us, the former two aren’t quite as interchangeable as we might think. In fact, you can orgasm without climaxing/cumming, and climax/cum without having an orgasm.

Here’s how: According to Body and Soul, an orgasm refers to the “extended journey of pleasure throughout the body,” and is the point right before the climax. Meanwhile, the climax is the shorter “culmination of pleasure,” which happens “when the sexual tension built up during arousal is released through involuntary muscular contractions of the pelvis.” The climax sometimes includes ejaculation.

Many experts compare the two to a mountain, with the orgasm being the journey up it, and the climax being the peak. But how do you delay your journey up to the top, and bask in an extended sexual bliss? For starters, you can practice edging, which is where you stop yourself from climaxing right as you’re about to. Or, as Healthline says (continuing the mountain analogy), bring yourself to “the metaphorical ‘edge’ right before you fall off the cliff into sexual climax.”

For those with a penis, after you climax, you likely won’t be able to again for a little while — this is known as the refractory period. (People with vulvas also have refractory periods, but they’re far shorter, and they’re more likely to experience regular old “fatigue after orgasm” that allegedly makes them temporarily lose interest in sex.) “If you’re young and healthy, your refractory period may only be a few minutes before you’re able to have sex again,” Zachary Zane, sex columnist and sex expert for P.S. Condoms, tells me. “But as you get older, it can take multiple hours.”

“The key is separating ejaculation from orgasm — that way, you can have non-ejaculatory multiple orgasms,” Zane continues. “When you orgasm without ejaculating, you don’t have the same refractory period and can orgasm repeatedly.”

If you want to become multi-orgasmic, Zane says, the best way is to strengthen your pubococcygeus (PC) muscle and pelvic floor muscles. And how do you do this? Kegel exercises, of course! “Simply contract your PC muscle, the same way you do when you control/stop the flow of urine while peeing,” explains Zane. “And do it repeatedly throughout the day.”

See you at the mountain top.