Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Robert W. Mitchell

Department Affiliation


Second Advisor

Robert G. Brubaker

Department Affiliation


Third Advisor

Theresa Botts

Department Affiliation



This study examines the effects of sex and sexual context (masturbation or sexual intercourse) on characteristics present in descriptions of orgasms from 291 undergraduate participants aged 18 years or older, using the coding scheme presented in the Human Orgasm Model (Mah & Binik, 2001). Participants were asked to describe their most recent orgasm, and to designate whether the orgasm occurred during masturbation or sexual intercourse. Twenty men and 34 women achieved their orgasm through masturbation, and 47 men and 190 women achieved their orgasm through sexual intercourse. The Human Orgasm Model specifies 26 characteristics of orgasms, of which 25 were present in the orgasm descriptions. Descriptions were coded for the characteristics blind to the sex of the participant and sexual context (unless specified in the orgasm description) by two coders, who achieved percent agreement ratings of 85% and above; disagreements were settled through discussion. No characteristics were present in most of the descriptions, and 68% of the characteristics were present in less than 10% of the descriptions; in fact, the most common characteristic, Satisfaction, was present in only 37.8% of the orgasm descriptions. All effects were analyzed statistically via chi-square. Sex differences were present for only 3 characteristics: proportionally more women than men mentioned Whole Body Involvement, Rhythmic Sensations, and Thermal Sensations. The effects of sexual context were discerned for only 2 characteristics: proportionally, more participants who had masturbated described the orgasm as Intense, and fewer, as producing Satisfaction, compared to participants who had engaged in sexual intercourse. There were no sex differences discernible for any characteristics in the (small) sample of participants who achieved their orgasm through masturbation, and there were only two in the larger sample who achieved their orgasm through sexual intercourse: proportionally, more women than men described Whole Body Involvement and more men than women mentioned Joy--Elation. Effect sizes for all difference were small, suggesting that sex and sexual context have only minor effects on the experience of orgasm. Overall, orgasms appear to be similar between the sexes.