Some women experience accidental orgasm—here’s how it *usually* happens


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Photo: Photo: Stocksy / Matt and Tish

Given how hard it can be for certain partners to bring a woman to climax, it feels slightly condescending to write an entire piece about how orgasms can just casually happen by accident. It’s almost 2020, though, and we no longer need to tiptoe around male egos so here’s the cold hard truth: (some) women can absolutely experience accidental orgasm without even trying.

According to Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, host of the The @SexWithDrJess Podcast, if you typically become aroused with ease, you may be more open to an accidental orgasm. Beyond this demographic of lucky individuals, she says the likelihood it’ll happen to you has less to do with the specific design of what’s between your legs and more to do with what’s going on between your ears. “It may be related to sexual excitability and/or mindfulness,” she says. “If you’re present in your body and you allow it to receive stimulation without inhibition, you might be more likely to have spontaneous orgasms.”

When I ask Dr. O’Reilly exactly how spontaneous orgasms might be achieved, she had a lot to say. “Some folks report having orgasms from having the small of their backs tickled, licked, or massaged. Others report that they’ve had orgasms from stimulation of their belly buttons; the positioning of the navel in proximity to the pubic mound coupled with the density of nerve endings in the region makes this sensitive indentation a common erogenous zone,” she says. “Some people say they experience sensations in their clitoris through the belly button, which might be attributable to a nerve pathway that connects it to the spine through the pelvic region.”

Others have reported accidental orgasm while performing oral sex. She’s heard this from those who are performing this act on people with penises, but she figures it could also occur while performing oral sex on a vulva. “Some attributed it to the stimulation in the back of their throat, and others explained that they were so aroused by the power of the act and their partner’s pleasure that they found themselves experiencing orgasm as well,” she says.

Meanwhile, some people accidentally orgasm without the involvement of partner—during exercise, of all things. So-called coregasms can occur during ab work, which can mean crunches (though 100-200 are required), pull-ups, chin-ups but also not-so-ab-centric work including leg presses, leg raises and even, in some cases, running or swimming.

Dr. O’Reilly tells me she’s also heard of accidental orgasm occurring during a cycle sesh, whether in spin class or on the street. “It’s no surprise that riding a bike can produce pleasurable and even orgasmic sensations, as rubbing, grinding and squeezing on the outside can stimulate both the external and internal parts of the clitoris that are believed to lead to orgasm,” she says. Before you sign up for a year’s worth of spin, however, she cautions that there is some research suggesting that frequent bike riders report adverse sexual side effects, including reduced desire and difficulty achieving orgasm, so it’s always a good idea to get to know your body and adjust your efforts accordingly. “I’ve also had reports of accidental orgasm from motorcycle riders (and passengers) as they rub against the seat and experience the vibrations from the engine,” she says.

I ask her if it’s possible to orgasm from sneezing because the internet tells me this is a thing. “There are reports of orgasm inducing sneezing, but I’m not aware of any evidence that sneezing leads to orgasm,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “This doesn’t mean that it has never happened, so if it’s your experience, it’s entirely valid; both orgasms and sneezes are involuntary reflex responses that involve tensing and releasing (often) followed by a sense of relief, so people may like to draw comparisons.”

Next, I’m curious as to whether tight jeans can do the trick, because I’ve had a few denim-related close calls myself. “If you rub against a surface in a way that brings you pleasure, it’s possible it could lead to orgasm,” she says. “It really depends on your preferred method of reaching orgasm, but I’m sure there are folks who can do so by rubbing against the seam of their jeans alone.” She tells me she’s also heard reports of orgasms during yoga or pilates, and says that some suggest the combination of tight pants and pelvic floor exercise produce this effect.

On a similar note, kegel exercises can also cause spontaneous orgasms, though Dr. O’Reilly says she’s not sure they qualify as accidental. “Oftentimes, we discover a pathway and then use it over and over again because it works. I’ve met many folks who can have hands-free orgasms by tensing and releasing their pelvic floor muscles. Some do so while rubbing against a mattress or squeezing a bed sheet between their legs and others use the tense-and-release method on its own,” she says.

While to me this all sounds quite fun, Dr. O’Reilly points out that in some cases, it can point to a problem. If your accidental orgasm occurs without touch, sexual thought, or exposure to stimuli, they may be related to persistent genital arousal syndrome (PGAS). “The symptoms of PGAS span the spectrum from mild ongoing arousal to extreme, constant, and unprovoked orgasmic sensations,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “Orgasm may offer some temporary relief from this persistent, unwanted arousal, some women report that the feelings of arousal return almost immediately and this condition can be extremely distressing. As research in the field is in the early stages, specific causes are unknown, but PGAS is often associated with anxiety, depression and hormonal treatments in post-menopausal women. Treatment may include topical anesthetics and antidepressant medications in conjunction with psychotherapy.” You should speak with your doctor if you’ve experienced any of these issues.

Last, but certainly not least, she tells me that some people can orgasm using little more than imagination. In her book The New Sex Bible, Dr. O’Reilly writes: “So powerful is the mind’s hold over our sexuality that some people can actually ‘think’ themselves off through fantasy and breath work. Though early sex researches theorized a strong link between fantasy and orgasm, technological advancements now provide evidence that some women can have hands-free orgasms.”

Weird but true: wearing socks in bed can lead to more orgasms. Plus, here’s how to “blend” your O’s (read: have more than one kind, simultaneously, because this needs no because).

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