The Science of Male Orgasms

Understanding Arousal and Orgasm Dysfunction

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The male orgasm is a complex experience that may occur as sexual pleasure peaks. One major function of the male orgasm is to ejaculate, which is the release of sperm. However, not all men will always ejaculate during an orgasm.

There are complex physiological, environmental, and emotional factors that may block or enhance male arousal and orgasm.

This article explores the physiology of male arousal and orgasm for those assigned male at birth. It will also explain orgasmic disorders, their potential causes, and treatment options.

Physiology of Male Arousal and Orgasm

The male orgasm is a complex system in which different areas of the brain and body all have important roles.

Within the brain, the pituitary gland is in charge of managing levels of the hormone testosterone. The pituitary gland sends messages to the testicles to make this hormone.

Testosterone helps with:

  • Sexual desire, also known as libido
  • Orgasm, which is the release of sexual tension, usually accompanied by ejaculation
  • Enhancing sperm production within the testicle

If testosterone is low, it can decrease overall energy and mood. It can also make an individual less responsive to physical and mental sexual stimuli.

The male ejaculate, semen, is made up of sperm cells and seminal fluid. Seminal fluid contains phosphorylcholine, which is an enzyme that helps with fertility. It also contains fructose, which provides energy for sperm. The average amount of semen released in one ejaculation is around a teaspoon.


Semen is made up of sperm cells and seminal fluid. This fluid contains an enzyme that helps with reproduction, as well as fructose, which provides sperm with energy.

Testosterone plays a role in sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm. Low testosterone can impact sex drive, mood, and energy levels.

4 Phases of the Male Orgasm

There are four distinct phases of the male orgasm. While the duration and intensity of these phases can vary, the order tends to be as follows:

  • Arousal
  • Plateau
  • Orgasm
  • Resolution

This model was first outlined by William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

4 phases of the male orgasm

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

Arousal Phase

During arousal, physical, sensory, and emotional cues prompt the brain to release a chemical messenger known as acetylcholine. This triggers the release of nitric oxide into the arteries of the penis, which causes them to expand and rapidly fill with blood. This results in an erection.

Other signs of male arousal may include:

  • Changes in breathing
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Scrotal sac moving closer to the body

Plateau Phase

Right before orgasm is a phase known as the plateau. This phase typically lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes.

During this phase:

  • Heart rate increases to between 150 and 175 beats per minute.
  • Blood pressure and body temperature rise.
  • Pelvic thrusts become involuntary.
  • Pelvic thrusts increase in speed and intensity.
  • Seminal fluid may leak from the urethra.

The release of seminal fluid serves a purpose. It changes the pH of the urethra so that the sperm has a better chance of survival.

The Male Orgasm

The orgasm phase is divided into two parts known as emission and ejaculation:

  • During emission, sperm move to the urethra close to the tip of the penis. At this point, ejaculation is inevitable.
  • During ejaculation, strong contractions of the penile muscle and pelvic floor muscles help propel the semen from the body.

During orgasm, the reward center of the brain is activated, which may lead to an intense emotional response.

A part of the brain known as the lateral orbitofrontal cortex is inhibited during orgasm. This part of the brain plays a central role in judgment and self-control.

Some men are able to enhance both an erection and orgasm with digital prostate massage. This is a technique in which a finger is inserted into the rectum prior to and/or during sex to stimulate the prostate gland.

Located on the front wall of the rectum, the walnut-sized gland is considered by some to be the male G-spot.

Resolution and Refraction Phase

Resolution is the phase after orgasm, in which the penis starts to lose its erection. This is often accompanied by feelings of relaxation or even drowsiness.

Refraction, also known as the refractory period, is when a man is unable to achieve another erection even with stimulation.

Male Multiple Orgasms

Multiorgasmic describes the ability to have more than one orgasm within the span of minutes or seconds. The orgasm may or may not involve actual ejaculate, but will otherwise resemble an orgasm.

According to research, around 10% of men in their 20s and less than 7% of men older than 30 are considered multiorgasmic.

The multiorgasmic state can be condensed or sporadic. When it is condensed, two to four individual orgasms occur within a few seconds to two minutes. When it is sporadic, refraction is delayed and multiple orgasms can occur within several minutes.

There are several factors commonly noted in multiorgasmic men.

These include:

  • The use of psychoactive drugs
  • Having multiple partners
  • Having new sex partners
  • The use of sex toys

Male Orgasmic Disorders

Orgasm disorders differ from ejaculation disorders. Ejaculation disorders have to do with the actual release of semen.

Common ejaculation disorders include:

  • Premature ejaculation is when ejaculation occurs quicker than the individual would like
  • Retrograde ejaculation is when semen flows backward to the bladder during ejaculation
  • Anejaculation refers to the inability to ejaculate

With orgasm disorders, orgasms don't occur, are delayed, or don't happen often.

Dry Orgasm

Dry orgasm is a condition where very little semen is expelled during orgasm. Also known as orgasmic anejaculation, dry orgasm may occur:

  • After bladder or prostate surgery
  • As the result of low testosterone
  • If there is sperm duct blockage
  • In association with high blood pressure
  • With an enlarged prostate

Treatment for dry orgasm may include psychotherapy and medication, depending on the core cause of the issue. Keep in mind, some medications can cause dry orgasm, so it's best to speak with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.

For some, dry orgasms don't impact sexual pleasure so treatment may not be needed.


Anorgasmia is a condition where an individual is unable to have an orgasm.

Anorgasmia may be caused by psychological and physical health concerns such as:

The treatment of anorgasmia depends on the underlying cause. Treatment options may include psychotherapy, changing medications, or testosterone replacement therapy.

Another option may be the use of Dostinex (cabergoline), which normalizes the hormone prolactin. This hormone is thought to reduce sex drive and the activity of the reward center in the brain. Research indicates that many men show a positive response to this medication with minimal side effects.

Erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) don't treat orgasm disorders.


The four phases of male orgasm include arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Some may experience orgasmic disorders such as dry orgasm and anorgasmia. Psychological well-being, overall health, and medications can all lead to orgasm disorders.

Treatment for orgasmic disorders will vary and depend on the underlying cause. Treatments may include psychotherapy, medication, and testosterone replacement therapy. Your prescribing doctor may also speak with you about changing your current medication if it is causing a disorder.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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