No doubt you’ve heard before that women can have more than one orgasm close together, i.e. multiple orgasms. But a new documentary from the U.K.’s Channel 4 says there’s such a thing as “super orgasms”—having up to 100 orgasms in one sexual encounter—and it’s naturally drawing a lot of attention.
For the documentary, which is simply titled The Super Orgasm, Channel 4 follows five women who each say they experience super orgasms. One woman, Nathalie, is an engineering student who says the most orgasms she’s had in one session is over 60. However, she says, if she’s “pushed for time,” she’ll have between seven and 10 orgasms. Another is Danika, a mom of two who says she’s only had super orgasms with her husband. (She says she’d never masturbated until the documentary team encouraged her to try it.)
The women were put through three experiments that tried to figure out why they can experience these super orgasms from a psychological, neurological, and endocrinological perspective. One test was in an “arousal booth” overseen by Gerulf Rieger, Ph.D., a lecturer in social health and psychology at the University of Essex. Rieger’s test measured the women’s pupil dilation and blood flow to their genitals (via an internal probe with a camera) as they watched porn and masturbated. Their conclusion: The women in the experiment were easily aroused.
Another test was organized by Nicole Prause, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and psycho-physiologist, and it involved the women watching porn while Prause monitored their alpha waves, the electrical activity of the brain when you’re awake and relaxed. Prause found that certain types of alpha waves are seen when a person is working their way toward an orgasm, and then stay up when women have multiple orgasms (they go down after an orgasm in people who have one, researchers said).
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The final test was conducted by neuroscientists Barry Komisaruk, Ph.D., and Nan Wise, Ph.D. They put one of the women, Jannette, in an unusual-looking mask, had her enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (which tracks increased blood flow to the brain), and asked her to become aroused. Looking at her results, neuroscientists concluded that women who have more than one orgasm have increased blood flow in more than 30 areas of the brain, while blood flow to the brain of women who have one orgasm stops increasing after they climax.
The documentary research was not scientific, and experts have issues with the term “super orgasm.”
The documentary is interesting, but, while it includes experiments, it’s hard to make any huge conclusions given the small number of women who participated. Plus, there were no controls (i.e. people who don’t experience super orgasms), to compare them to, which is standard for scientific experiments. So, are super orgasms a thing, or is this just made-for-TV hype?
Cynthia Graham, Ph.D., a professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton and a Kinsey Institute research fellow, tells SELF that she has “mixed feelings” about the documentary. “The main thing that is important to get across is that this isn’t scientific research,” she says. “While watching it, I started wondering what’s the difference between super orgasms and multiple orgasms, and the answer I got was ‘not very much.’ ” Graham says she doesn’t doubt that these women are capable of having as many orgasms as they say, but she also stresses that this is uncommon and isn’t something that the average woman should aspire to achieve.
Wise agrees. Even though she participated in the documentary, the sex neuroscientist tells SELF that she’s “not a big fan” of the term “super orgasm,” adding, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a super orgasm.” Instead, she says, it’s simply easy for these women to be multi-orgasmic. “It’s not unusual for women to have multiple orgasms, so to talk about super orgasms…it’s, in my opinion, a bit misleading,” she says.
However, women can achieve multiple orgasms—but everyone experiences orgasms differently.
New York City sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a member of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research and author of She Comes First, tells SELF that it’s important to keep in mind that orgasms are variable from woman to woman. “Some women report having a single major orgasm and others report having a series of smaller orgasms,” he says. “Some women don’t know for sure if they’re having orgasms at all or just experiencing the peaks of arousal—so there’s incredible variability.”
Women who have multiple orgasms typically go one of two ways, Wise says: They have an orgasm, it peaks, they go back to baseline, peak again, etc. Other women can have orgasms in waves, where it builds up, comes down a little, and builds bigger on a continuous basis. She suspects that women who have super orgasms fall into the latter camp. “They’re just kind of on a roll,” she says.
The quality of super orgasms was never discussed in the documentary, Graham points out, which is interesting. “Orgasms are not all alike,” she says. “Sometimes they’re mind-blowing and other times they’re little blips” and it’s unclear where super orgasms fall on the spectrum.
The documentary suggests at the end that all women may be able to achieve super orgasms of 100 in a row if they try hard enough—an implication that Wise isn’t happy about. “It sets the idea that, unless you’re having a wild number of multiple orgasms, there’s something wrong with you,” Wise says. “It certainly shouldn’t be the next gold standard that we have to achieve.”
Graham says she doesn’t think it’s “very likely” that most women can achieve super orgasms. Wise agrees, calling the women in the documentary “outliers” and says that, while other people may be capable of achieving an incredible number of orgasms in a row, it doesn’t mean they’ll actually do it or even want to do it. “Most women are happy having an orgasm or couple of orgasms and then going about their business,” she says.