The health benefits of orgasms aren't all that well known, in large part because big, controlled studies haven't been done (researchers aren't usually willing to ask subjects to masturbate while being monitored). For most of the existing studies, scientists either ask participants to report their orgasmic history – not always the most dependable data – or find subjects willing to orgasm in a controlled lab environment. Because of this, much of the information that's out there about what happens to our bodies during and after sex is still fairly preliminary.
But what data we do have strongly suggests that orgasm are very good for us. "The bottom line is that orgasms are probably better for your health than they are worse for your health," says Barry R. Komisaruk, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University who specializes in behavioral neuroscience and sexual health. Here's a close look at the orgasm – and how it impacts our health.
What Is an Orgasm?
During arousal, blood flow to your genitals increases and the muscles in the area tense up. Orgasm is your body's way of getting rid of all that tension and getting back to your pre-arousal state through rhythmic contractions. What an orgasm feels like varies for everyone but often people experience changes in breathing, feelings of warmth or tingling, and a sense of altered consciousness. Men often ejaculate during orgasm but not always, since those are actually separate bodily processes. Most men average about two to three minutes of intercourse before orgasm but, if you count foreplay, the average jumps to 7 to 14 minutes.
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