Can girls have orgasms?

The short answer? Yes, yes, YES! Girls can orgasm.

People often associate orgasm with ejaculation (in this case, when semen leaves the penis). This makes sense, since when someone with a penis orgasms (or comes), they also ejaculate. But when we think orgasm = ejaculation, it raises the question of “can you orgasm when you don’t have a penis?”

The answer is YES, because an orgasm is not the same thing as ejaculation. Orgasm feels different for everyone, but there’s a reason some people call it a “climax.” An orgasm is (usually) the peak of sexual pleasure, involving a series of involuntary muscle contractions around your genitals and the release of feel-good hormones—no semen necessary.

In addition to confusing ejaculation with orgasm, the myth that girls can’t orgasm probably (cough) comes from a few places.

In order to make a baby, the person with a penis usually needs to have an orgasm (though keep in mind that pre-come can have sperm in it!). This means that men’s orgasms get talked about in sex education classes that often focus on reproduction and never mention pleasure. Unfortunately, since people with a vagina don’t need to orgasm for a pregnancy to begin, it’s often just ignored.

In our culture, it’s common to center on men’s pleasure. Sex is often talked about as something girls do for guys, rather than something they might want for themselves. In porn, sex usually ends when the guy comes, not when the girl does. Guys “need” sex, but girls can take it or leave it. Of course, this isn’t true. No one “needs” sex, though they might want it a lot. And plenty of girls want sex just as much (and more!) than many guys. In reality, sex should be about both partners’ pleasure—unless you’re flying solo, of course, in which case it’s all about you!

Plus, penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex (also called sexual intercourse) isn’t always the easiest way for people with vaginas to have an orgasm (though for some people it is). Every body is different. Many people require direct stimulation of their clitoris to have an orgasm. However, this doesn’t mean that women’s orgasms are “mysterious” or “complicated.” It just means that if you have a vagina, you might need to experiment a bit on your own or with a partner before you find what works for you and your body.

Of course, it’s also completely normal to not be interested in having sex or exploring your sexuality. That’s totally ok!

If you have any other questions about your body and sexual health and are 10-22 years old in NYC, you can make a free, confidential appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. Our adolescent medicine specialists and health educators can answer any questions you have—no judgment, no charge.