Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

"It feels so good it almost hurts": Young adults' experiences of orgasm and sexual pleasure

Opperman, Emily; Braun, Virginia; Clarke, Victoria; Rogers, Cassandra


Emily Opperman

Virginia Braun

Profile Image

Dr Victoria Clarke
Associate Professor in Qualitative & Critical Psychology

Cassandra Rogers


Orgasm is a "goal" of much sexual activity, and a source of potentially intense pleasure and fulfillment, yet can be fraught with difficulty or distress. Relatively little social science research has explored people's experiences around, and their meanings related to, orgasm, and indeed other sexual pleasures, especially with young adults. This study aimed to provide a rich exploration of the meanings associated with orgasm and sexual pleasure during sex with a partner, to understand the social patterning of orgasm experience. A qualitative survey was used to collect data from 119 sexually experienced British young adults (81% women, mean age 20, 92% heterosexual). A descriptive form of thematic analysis that prioritizes participants' meanings and experiences was used to identify and explore patterns in the data. Five main themes are reported here: (a) orgasm: the purpose and end of sex; (b) "it's more about my partner's orgasm"; (c) orgasm: the ultimate pleasure?; (d) orgasm is not a simple physiological response; and (e) faking orgasm is not uncommon. These (mostly not gendered) themes demonstrate the complex and contradictory meanings around orgasm, and reveal meaning to be dependent on situation and context. However, they do resonate strongly with widespread discourses of sexuality that prioritize heterosexual coitus, orgasm, and orgasm reciprocity. © 2014 Copyright The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.


Opperman, E., Braun, V., Clarke, V., & Rogers, C. (2014). "It feels so good it almost hurts": Young adults' experiences of orgasm and sexual pleasure. Journal of Sex Research, 51(5), 503-515.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2014
Journal Journal of Sex Research
Print ISSN 0022-4499
Electronic ISSN 1559-8519
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 51
Issue 5
Pages 503-515
Keywords sexual pleasure, reciprocity, faking orgasm, orgasm imperative, coital imperative
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Published online: 30 April 2013. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Journal of Sex Research in 2014, available online: .


Opperman Braun Clarke Rogers Orgasm JSR.docx (70 Kb)

You might also like

Downloadable Citations