Yup, It Happens

Accidental Orgasms Aren’t Just An Urban Legend — Here’s What Causes Them

Exercise is apparently a big culprit. (Brb, working out.)

Written by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
An accidental orgasm would catch anyone off-guard, but they do happen.

There you are, practicing yoga — probably in frog's pose or some other intense hip-opening experience — and it happens. You have what is known as an accidental orgasm. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: having an orgasm purely by accident, aka not from an intentional sexual encounter. Maybe you've experienced that pleasurable, familiar feeling when you've been riding your bike, eating a delicious snack, or even, yes, breastfeeding. If so, you're definitely not alone.

And it's not just you having accidental orgasms, either. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health found that nonsexual orgasms were triggered by various experiences, including exercise, breastfeeding, riding in vehicles, sleep, drug use, eating, auditory stimulation, childbirth, defecating, and more. So, if you've experienced an accidental orgasm, it's important to know it's not an entirely alien scenario. In fact, it's totally normal. We are sensitive humans who have bodies filled with sensitive nerve endings. It happens!

Curious to learn more about accidental orgasms and what can lead to them? Read on to find out.

What causes an accidental orgasm?

"Accidental orgasms can occur in response to various stimuli," says Sexologist Jess O'Reilly, Ph.D., host of the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast. "Some folks have accidental orgasms when having a specific body part stimulated (e.g., lower back or bellybutton)s." This happens, says Dr. O'Reilly, due to the positioning of the navel in proximity to the pubic mound and the density of nerve endings, making this slight indent a common erogenous zone. Others experience sensations in their clitoris through the belly button, with the theory being it could be due to a nerve pathway that connects it to the spine through the pelvic region.

In terms of which activity causes accidental orgasms, O'Reilly says it varies from person to person. "Some people have accidental orgasms while pleasuring a partner (e.g., getting so aroused going down on your partner that you have an unexpected orgasm). Some people have orgasms while working out, spinning, doing pilates or yoga, or riding a bicycle or motorcycle. This may be related to rubbing, grinding, and squeezing, which stimulates the clitoris (and vibrations from a motorcycle or scooter). But everyone is different."

Exercise seems to be a common reason for accidental orgasms. O'Reilly cites a study from 2011 conducted on over 500 women, which found the most common exercises reported to induce orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing, and lifting weights. Other activities, such as biking/spinning, abdominal exercise, and lifting weights, were rated high for stimulating sexual pleasure but no orgasm.

Who knew exercise was so pleasurable?!

Here are a few more things that can lead to orgasms:

These causes may not all be accidental, per se, but can be culprits of causing orgasms in unexpected ways.

  • Performing oral sex
  • Wearing super tight pants
  • Riding a bike or motorcycle
  • Fantasizing about sex
  • Horseback riding
  • Bumpy amusement park rides
  • Sneezing

Can you orgasm in their sleep?

The mind is such a powerful part of your body that it can cause you to accidentally orgasm in your sleep. It usually happens when dreaming of something sex related. The arousal can cause your genitalia to fill with blood, which can lead to an orgasm. While women sleep through it, it can wake some women up.

Contrary to popular belief, women don't only orgasm in their sleep when going through puberty. Nocturnal orgasms can start at 20 year years old or older. It's important to note that female orgasms are not a sign of sexual dysfunction or a lack of sex or stimulation. They are a reflection of a body's development.

How common are they?

According to O'Reilly, some people might be more inclined to have accidental orgasms than others. "For example, if you're high on the sexual excitability scale (you become aroused with ease — physically and mentally), you may be more primed to experience them. And if you tend to be present in your body, open to pleasure, less likely to quash arousal, and low in inhibitions, you may also be more likely to have them."

Although she adds there's not a ton of data to support those theories, it does make sense that those who get aroused easier than others would experience more accidental orgasms than those who aren't.

Are accidental orgasms ever a bad thing?

It should be noted, says O'Reilly, that not all accidental orgasms are desired. Some spontaneous orgasms are unwanted and related to persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD).

"The symptoms of this disorder span the spectrum from mild ongoing arousal to extreme, constant and unprovoked orgasmic sensations," she says. "Though orgasm may offer some temporary relief from this persistent, unwanted arousal, some women report that the feelings of arousal return almost immediately, and this condition can be extremely distressing."

As research in the field is in the early stages, specific causes are unknown. However, according to O'Reilly, PGAD is often associated with anxiety, depression, and hormonal treatments in post-menopausal women. Treatment may include topical anesthetics and anti-depressant medications in conjunction with psychotherapy.

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