Orgasm (from Greek ὀργασμός orgasmos "excitement, swelling"; also sexual climax) is the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual excitement during the sexual response cycle, resulting in rhythmic muscular contractions in the pelvic region characterized by sexual pleasure. Experienced by males and females, orgasms are controlled by the involuntary or autonomic nervous system. They are often associated with other involuntary actions, including muscular spasms in multiple areas of the body, a general euphoric sensation and, frequently, body movements and vocalizations. The period after orgasm (known as the refractory period) is often a relaxing experience, attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endorphins (or "endogenous morphine").
Human orgasms usually result from physical sexual stimulation of the penis in males (typically accompanying ejaculation), and the clitoris in females. Sexual stimulation can be by self-practice (masturbation) or with a sex partner (penetrative sex, non-penetrative sex, or other sexual activity).
The health effects surrounding the human orgasm are diverse. There are many physiological responses during sexual activity, including a relaxed state created by prolactin, as well as changes in the central nervous system such as a temporary decrease in the metabolic activity of large parts of the cerebral cortex while there is no change or increased metabolic activity in the limbic (i.e., "bordering") areas of the brain. There is also a wide range of sexual dysfunctions, such as anorgasmia. These effects impact cultural views of orgasm, such as the beliefs that orgasm and the frequency/consistency of it are important or irrelevant for satisfaction in a sexual relationship, and theories about the biological and evolutionary functions of orgasm.
Orgasm in non-human animals has been studied significantly less than orgasm in humans, but research on the subject is ongoing.
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