Given how much attention popular culture gives to female orgasms—from how to achieve them to how to improve them to how to multiply them—it’s easy to forget that not all men experience phenomenal orgasms themselves.
I know, I know—poor men with their frequent and easily obtained orgasms. But just because some men happen to orgasm like clockwork doesn’t mean improving men’s sexual health isn’t a worthy goal, or one that deserves more attention. I mention this because, according to a new paper published in Sexual Medicine Reviews, a large swath of the population could be missing out on what sounds like a pretty rad experience: the multiple male orgasm.
For their paper, Erik Wibowo, a post-doctoral fellow at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, and Richard J. Wassersug, a professor of urologic sciences at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, decided to examine the small body of research that exists on men who are able to orgasm more than once during a single sex session. While much is still unknown, after combing through the data, they were able to come to a few conclusions (pun intended)—and the findings raise the question of whether more men could be getting in on the action.
First, let’s take a look at what we know. In their paper, the authors identified two main types of multiorgasms in men. The first, and most common, is called a “sporadic orgasm.” When a man has a sporadic orgasm, he experiences multiple climaxes less than 20 minutes apart. The orgasms themselves are similar to the orgasms of men who just have one climax; the difference here is that most men stop ejaculating after the first and experience subsequent dry orgasms.
The second type is called a “condensed” multiorgasm. In this scenario, men experience a burst of non-ejaculatory orgasms within seconds of each other for up to two minutes. This phenomenon appears to be incredibly rare; it has only been reported in a few studies. However, one possible reason why they aren’t more commonly reported is, since these orgasms are dry and happen in quick succession, men may not even realize they are multiorgasming.
I should note here that neither type of multiorgasm appears to be particularly common. After examining the data, Wibowo says less than 10% of men in their 20s and 7% over the age of 30 have reported being multiorgasmic. Not only that, but because of how limited the data is, the researchers had to rely almost entirely on the study participants’ accounts of their experiences for their paper. “The lack of physiological measurements makes it difficult to determine whether or not the multiple orgasms reported anecdotally are really occurring or not,” says Wibowo.
Assuming these multiorgasms really are happening, the authors aren’t sure, either, whether being multiorgasmic is a talent that’s only afforded to a lucky few, or whether all men have the ability to become multiorgasmic with practice. It’s possible many men simply aren’t “trying,” because they don’t know it’s an option.
So why might some men be more prone to climaxing over and over again and not others?
According to the authors, one big reason might be due to the release of a hormone called “prolactin.” After a typical man orgasms, his body goes through something called a “refractory period”—a 30-to-60 minute window during which his prolactin level surges. During this period, the authors explain, his levels of sexual desire and arousal usually plummet, which appears to raise the threshold to reach another orgasm. Scientists still don't know why men experience a refractory period or what the biological function of it might be, but the research does suggest that men who experience a shorter refractory period and a less pronounced spike in prolactin are more likely to be multiorgasmic.
(Interestingly, prolactin has also been shown to boost bonding between mammals—and particularly between mothers and babies during breastfeeding. So there's that.)
But prolactin isn’t everything. “The link between prolactin and orgasm is not rock solid,” says Alexander Pastuszak, a urologist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine, who was not affiliated with the study. “It’s a reasonably tight association, but no one has proven without a shadow of a doubt that if you drop prolactin then men can more easily orgasm.”
When it comes to experiencing “condensed multiorgasms,” for example, the research suggests that simply avoiding ejaculation might be key, since men who experience rapid-fire condensed orgasms aren’t ejaculating in between. Notably, men who’ve had their prostates removed often report having multiple orgasms in which they don't ejaculate—because they can't.
Now, if you’re a man reading this and wondering how you, too, can experience multiple orgasms without manipulating your prolactin levels or removing your prostate, Wibowo actually mentions four tactics that men in various studies have reported using.
The first is learning how to avoid ejaculation through practice, Kegel exercises, or squeezing the head of the penis. The second is using sex toys to stimulate the prostate, which anecdotal evidence suggests could lead to more orgasms. Third, men who use psychostimulant drugs such as cocaine have reported experiencing multiple orgasms, probably thanks to changes in neurochemisty (though I can’t endorse this option). And fourth, men who change partners in group sex situations have reported multiple orgasms, most likely because novelty has been shown to decrease the refractory period.
I asked Pastuszak if men can really teach themselves to become multiorgasmic, and the answer is maybe. "Do I think sex toys might help? Yeah, [the prostate] is an extremely erogenous zone for guys. Do I think that stimulant drugs might help because they alter the neurochemistry in a dramatic way? Yeah. Do I think avoiding ejaculation could help? Sure," he says. But he also cautions, "The part that makes me hesitant is that we don't fully understand what causes these."
And that's where the real problem lies: Male orgasms are rarely studied, and when they are studied, they’re typically only examined on a superficial level. Until this changes, men’s sexual functions will remain something of a guessing game.
While it may seem odd to be fighting for the male orgasm, it's really not—because when it comes to sex, the more orgasms the better. For both partners.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.