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Kinsey Confidential: Answering a question about unconventional orgasms

I'm 21 and I had my first orgasm as a 14-year-old while sunbathing on my tummy in a thong bikini and my second orgasm shortly after swimming in our pool. I'm very concerned now that I'm 21, masturbating regularly and having sex with my boyfriend my best orgasms are when I'm wearing a G-string sunbathing or swimming. Do I have some weird addiction or fetish or is this common? I hope the latter.

While we don’t know how common orgasms outside of sexual contexts are – scientific research is clear that they are not rare. In 2011, a colleague and I published a study demonstrating that some women experience exercise-induced orgasms

These have been called “coregasms” in magazines and on blogs and, as it turns out, both men and women experience exercise orgasms and from many different types of exercise including crunches, running, weight lifting and even swimming, as is your experience. Follow-up research from a U.S. nationally representative survey suggests that as many as 10 percent of women and men have experienced an exercise-induced orgasm at least once in their lives.

Of course, we are not the only researchers to investigate orgasms outside of sexual contexts. Researchers from Rutgers University published a paper that reviewed a number of the ways that people report experiencing orgasm, including during childbirth, from breast stimulation, from taking certain medications, as well as from stimulation of the lips, anus, mouth and prostate. 

People have also described having orgasms from listening to music, eating certain foods, reading beautiful prose, walking across wood floors and doing household chores. Your experiences of orgasm include two types: one that occurs while swimming and a second while wearing a kind of underwear that likely put some pressure on your genitals, possibly stimulating them to the point of orgasm. Neither of these are that surprising to me, as someone who has studied orgasm, and neither one would suggest that you have an addiction, a fetish or anything unusual about your sexuality. Rather, it may simply suggest that you have a sexually responsive body. 

At 21, you’re early in your sexual experiences. You began experiencing orgasm at a fairly common time in life and at this point you may be exploring additional ways of being a sexual person. All of this is pretty common. As you gain more experience with partnered sex and masturbation, you may find that things change. 

Over time, you may discover new, exciting and more satisfying ways of masturbating or being sexual with a partner. Or it may be that the swimming and G-string orgasms remain particularly intense, and that’s okay too. For more on sexual exploration, you might enjoy reading the book Sex for One by Betty Dodson, Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski or Women Who Love Sex by Gina Ogden.

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