Qualitative Evidence of the Orgasm Experience

Tue, 05/21/2024 - 10:43
Comparative Analysis of Orgasm Experiences in Sexual Intercourse or masturbation

The Subjective Experience of Orgasm (SEO) involves the perception and evaluation of orgasm from a psychological standpoint, constituting a different approach from the traditional focus on the presence/absence of orgasm or associated difficulties. Orgasm has been linked to sexual health variables (e.g., sexual satisfaction) and depends on the context in which it occurs (sexual intercourse vs. solo masturbation). One of the most relevant measures to assess the ESO is the Orgasm Rating Scale (ORS), which conceptualizes orgasm based on four dimensions: Affective, Sensory, Intimacy, and Reward.

A recent study published in Behavioral Sciences by researchers Pablo Mangas and Juan Carlos Sierra, in collaboration with Mateus Egilson da Silva Alves and Ludgleydson Fernandes de Araújo from the Federal University of Delta of Parnaíba (Brazil), represents the first qualitative approach to the SEO from the ORS paradigm. In this study, self-generated adjectives from a sample of the Spanish population were examined to reference their orgasms in the contexts of sexual intercourse and solo masturbation, as well as the alignment with the semantic descriptions of orgasm proposed by the ORS. The study involved 400 Spanish adults with recent orgasmic experiences, who, using the Free Word Association Technique (FWAT), described orgasm in the contexts of sexual intercourse and masturbation.

The findings replicate the existing quantitative evidence in the study of the SEO. Participants evoked all the adjectives of the ORS, except for two in the context of sexual intercourse ("unrestrained" and "effusive") and four in the context of masturbation ("tender," "overflowing," "growing," and "effusive"). "Effusive" was the only ORS adjective not evoked in either context. Additionally, the most frequently used adjectives belonged to the affective dimension, and when examining the co-occurrence with which people generate adjectives, almost all were evoked simultaneously with one from the affective dimension in both the contexts of sexual intercourse and masturbation. In the context of sexual intercourse, there was more homogeneity in terms of evocation, while in the context of masturbation, more heterogeneous and idiosyncratic descriptions were offered, along with a predominance of the reward dimension. The study also revealed that some people evoked negative adjectives associated with orgasm in the context of solo masturbation, something not contemplated by the existing models.

This study provides qualitative evidence for the study of the SEO and confirms the semantic composition of the ORS. Moreover, the similarity between both contexts is consistent with previous quantitative evidence: the prominence of the affective dimension when describing the orgasmic experience in both contexts and the significant presence of the reward dimension in the context of masturbation.


Mangas, P., da Silva Alves, M. E., Fernandes de Araújo, L. y Sierra, J. C. (2024). The empire of affectivity: Qualitative evidence of the Subjective Orgasm

Experience. Behavioral Sciences, 14. Artículo 171. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs14030171