In the 1950s, Alfred Kinsey, the first scientist to study human sexuality in any detail, described the orgasm as “an explosive discharge of neuromuscular tension!” I just think it’s fucking awesome!
Although similar in some ways, there are differences between the male and female orgasm.
In The Science of Orgasm, authors Barry Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores and Beverly Whipple cite two studies that are relevant to this question, although neither provide a concrete answer.
In one study, researchers had male and female college students write out descriptions of their personal experience of orgasm. Then they removed any terminology that would reveal the gender of the person who wrote the description (substituting the word genitalia for the word penis, for example). Finally they had male and female judges try to determine from the written descriptions which ones were men and which were women. They found that people were not able to tell the difference. The authors also cite the research of Kenneth Mah and Irving Binik, which suggests that people focus more on how an orgasm feels than where in the body they feel it.
Women can often experience an orgasm for a longer period of time than a man. In general, women are more capable of rapidly returning to orgasm following an initial orgasm.
Pre-adolescent boys may experience an orgasm without ejaculation. Some men do not have an ejaculation until several seconds after orgasm. Some men who are incapable of ejaculation are still capable of orgasm. Some men may experience several ejaculations and go on to have further orgasms, but without ejaculation.
And if you are lucky enough to have it both ways? Buck Angel is a well-known adult performer and an outspoken transsexual speaker and activist who was born female and has transitioned to male. Buck talks a lot publicly about his experiences living in the world as a woman and as a man:
“Since I began taking testosterone I became more masculine and finally evolved into the man I am today, my orgasms have changed considerably. A big part of it is that I am more comfortable with myself now, and I think that makes a difference in the…quality of my orgasms. That is clearly where part of the emotional/mental aspects are involved. I would say my orgasms are more intense than before. And now I can usually only have one, whereas before I could have many in a row. Also, now after I have an orgasm I fall right to sleep, which is how everyone knows I’m really a dude.
However, I can only answer from the perspective of a man who has a usual amount of testosterone, but does not have a penis, testicles, sperm, etc. So, I don’t ejaculate the way men do, so I suppose that my orgasm is in some way different from that of a biological male, but also different from that of a biological female.”
How much of the sensation of orgasm is physical and how much psychological is difficult to judge.