We often get the message that we need to relax in order to enjoy better sex, but sometimes the opposite can be true. Sexual arousal needs tension.
When we become aroused, the tension of our pelvic muscles increases naturally and automatically. Muscle tension and pressure causes nerve endings within the muscles to be stimulated. This information is passed on to the brain and experienced as arousal.
Let’s take a closer look at the different pelvic muscles, learn about the links between muscle tension and orgasm, and go over a few techniques to put theory into practice.
This guide is brought to you by CLIMAX, a virtual training program dedicated to the exploration of female pleasure, grounded in science and designed for better pleasure.
Getting To Know Your Pleasure Muscles
Have you ever felt the muscles in your pelvis rapidly pulsing or contracting during sex? Whether consciously or involuntarily, many of us tighten or squeeze our muscles during moments of intense arousal. These contractions create a general tension which can develop into a full-blown orgasm. It’s also common to feel muscle contractions during orgasm itself.
The Orgasm Muscles
So, what exactly is happening with the pelvic muscles at the moment of orgasm? The uterus, the bulbospongiosus muscle, the anal sphincter, and the pelvic floor muscles are all rapidly tensing and relaxing. (1)
The bulbospongiosus muscle or BC is one of the muscles of the perineum. Aside from playing a role in orgasm, the BC is the muscle which holds the vagina closed. It also contributes to clitoral erections — when the clitoris becomes swollen and sensitive during arousal.
The pelvic floor is a muscle group shaped like a hammock that stretches from the pubic bone (at the front) to the tail-bone (at the back) and from the left side of the abdomen to the right side. These muscles — which include the coccygeus muscle, the pubococcygeus or PC muscle, the iliococcygeus, and the puborectalis — are the ones targeted by Kegel exercises. Aside from their important contributions to bladder and bowel control, the pelvic floor muscles play an important role in sexual sensation and function.
You might notice that tensing your buttocks, pelvis, thighs, or even your whole body can cause sexual arousal. When this tension is combined with pressure on the clitoris, it can quickly lead to orgasm.
Some of us learned to masturbate by squeezing our leg and buttock muscles tight, and holding the rest of our body fairly rigid. While holding our breath, we quickly rubbed our clitoris until orgasm exploded in a short burst. This type of quick, silent orgasm is called a tension orgasm.
Coregasms: A New Incentive to Work on That Six Pack
Some women experience orgasms from muscle tension only, without any direct genital contact. This can be caused by squeezing the thighs tightly together, or even from a strenuous ab workout. You may have heard stories of girls orgasming from climbing a rope in the school gymnasium (or even experienced it yourself!).
Coregasms are not simply an urban legend. In their ground-breaking 2012 study, researchers Debby Herbenick and Dennis Fortenberry surveyed 530 women on their experiences with exercise-induced sexual pleasure.(2)
They found that during sports activities, and most commonly during abdominal workouts: 46% of the women reported sexual arousal, and 23% experienced orgasm!
Very few of the women reported having sexual thoughts or fantasy during exercise, suggesting that their arousal and orgasm was caused by muscle movements alone. Though scientists have not yet confirmed the cause of these “coregasms”, Herbenick suspects they are due to fatigued abdominal muscles putting extra pressure on the clitoris.
Now we’ve covered some of the anatomical theory behind arousal and muscle tension, how about putting it into practice?
3 Muscle Tension Techniques for Heightened Pleasure
It appears that the key to sexual arousal and pleasure is to find a balance between muscle tension, movement, and relaxation. Here’s how:
Cross Your Legs
Many women discover the pleasure of crossed legs completely by chance, for example, when they have a pressing urge to pee. But it seems there are still a lot of people who are not aware of this trick: According to the New Hite Report, only 3% of women who masturbate use the crossed leg technique. (3)
Try this technique while sitting down, or while lying on your back, your belly, or your side. Cross your legs just as you do when seated. Your thighs will naturally come together, putting pressure on the vulva.
Rub your thighs together, and notice the sensations caused by the delicate pressure on your clitoris. You can also try contracting and then relaxing your leg muscles, concentrating on your inner upper thighs. Alternatively, try keeping your thighs tight together as you move your pelvis in a circular motion. Repeat these movements in rhythm as many times as possible.
For heightened pleasure, pulse your PC muscles at the same time (these are the muscles you use to stop yourself from peeing).
Some people are able to reach orgasm by simply squeezing their thighs and contracting their muscles — a “hands-free orgasm” if you will. Others find that holding a cushion tightly between their thighs helps to focus the pressure point. Experiment and see what feels best for you.
Tension & Pressure
Start by stimulating your clitoris: either using your fingers, a vibrator, your shower head, or by asking your partner to assist.
Then, while continuing clitoral stimulation, squeeze the muscles in your pelvic floor, your leg muscles, or even your entire body. Hold this tension for as long as you can, then release. Feel the pleasure flow through you!
Repeat this technique, tensing and releasing different muscles, as many times as you desire.
To increase your level of arousal: tense your buttocks, pelvis, thighs, abs, or your whole body. Then, release. Try this tensing and releasing or “pumping” at different speeds and intensities.
Now, see if you can also squeeze your pelvic muscles. Pump your pelvic floor muscles to imitate the contractions of orgasm. You may even find this helps you to climax!
Pumping your pelvic muscles can also make your orgasm last longer: during or just after your orgasm, try clenching and releasing your pelvic muscles. Start off with a few extra squeezes, and continue until you just can’t anymore!
How To Release Excess Tension
There is such a thing as “too much tension”. Squeezing or tensing our muscles for long periods can cause pain and cramps. In the case of the pelvic muscles, prolonged tension may cause discomfort during vaginal or anal penetration.
To enjoy sexual arousal and pleasure without unwanted pain or discomfort, we need to find a balance between muscle tension, movement, and relaxation. If you feel yourself getting stiff or sore, try squeezing and then releasing your muscles, rather than simply holding them tight. You can also try shaking out your whole body to relax your muscles and then begin again.
Tense Muscles, Relaxed Mind
While you work your muscles, try to relax your mind. Letting go of thoughts and worries is an important part of entering deeper levels of sexual arousal. While you try each of these techniques, focus on the sensations you’re feeling and try to let your mind zone out.
Give these techniques a try and find out how they feel for you. The goal here is to explore different sensations and learn something new about your body. If you discover something you want to add to your sexual repertoire, even better!
Prefer to learn by watching? Head over to CLIMAX to see explicit step-by-step demonstrations of these techniques — and more.
Netten, J., Georgiadis, J., Nieuwenburg, A., & Kortekaas, R. (2006). 8–13Hz Fluctuations in Rectal Pressure Are an Objective Marker of Clitorally-Induced Orgasm in Women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(2), 279-285.
Herbenick D, Fortenberry JD. Exercise-induced orgasm and pleasure among women. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 2011 Nov 1;26(4):373-88.
Hinchliff S. The new hite report: the revolutionary report on female sexuality updated by shere hite London: Hamlyn, 2000. Sexualities, Evolution & Gender. 2004 Aug 1;6(2-3):195-207.