Q: Have you ever heard of the term “crymaxing”? I feel like that’s a thing you would know about.
A: “Crymaxing” is an expression for crying after coitus, combining the words “cry(ing)” and “climax.” It originates from an episode of the hit show, Scrubs. Urban Dictionary notes that it is when “an orgasm is so powerfully moving that one or both parties involved cries after climaxing” but, given the nature of the term itself, could also mean “to cry while masturbating because one is thinking of one’s ex.”
Everyone responds to an orgasm differently – some people grunt, some get loud or yell, some cry, some laugh (affectionately referred to as a “gigglegasm”), and some people say things like “Touchdown!” I even know a woman who says she farts when she orgasms. What’s important here is that everyone responds differently to the sensation of climaxing. I know we like to set these parameters of acceptable behavior in the bedroom but unless there is harm (emotional, physical, spiritual – however you define “harm”), it’s really whatever you want to make it.
I will say that whenever your partner cries before, during, or after sex, it’s important to check in with them. You may very well be hurting them in some way. For example, a gasp could be a very nice thing to hear… unless it is because your nails cut them, their grip is too tight, or you hit an especially sensitive spot on (or in) them. Talking about what you are doing is the key to any successful relationship, including sexual relationships. Crying when you orgasm may not be pleasurable at all – it may be because the experience triggered a painful memory or emotion, because their hormones are resetting and the “real world” of life, job, and relationship is coming back to their awareness. Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., says in her book, Because it Feels Good (2009), that crying after sex often happens in deeply connected, emotionally close partnerships and so there’s no reason to worry about it. But, she notes, if your relationship does not feel like that and you feel conflicted in some way (ex: you do not feel emotionally connected, happy, or fulfilled, or even might feel unsafe in the relationship), pay attention to that intuition and talk it over with a friend, family member, or therapist.
Speaking candidly, there was a season of my life about five years ago when I was in a relationship but, whenever I would masturbate or we would have sex, I would get incredibly depressed – and yes, sometimes cry. I knew we needed to break up and whenever I came back down from that high, the emotions were overwhelming for me. I wish I knew enough back then to do a self check-up. “Checking in” is not just for partners. You need to check in with yourself as well, whether or not your sex life is shared with someone else. For me, I would climax, become emotional, and then shrug it off and go on with my life as though those emotions didn’t matter. But every time we would start fooling around, I could feel my body responding negatively. It was like an early warning system, “You’re going to do this and you’re going to feel bad about it.” Again, I wish I had known enough then to do a self-inventory of what was causing such intense emotional swings focused around my sexual activities.
Physically speaking, no one knows why this happens – although it is very common. Studies on this phenomenon say it is similar to the experience of crying at a commercial. Yes, it happens. But what exactly causes it to happen on one day and not another, to one person and not another, is really hard to pin down. “It just happens,” is the best answer.
However, it’s not surprising. The body goes through several stages of mental, physical, and emotional arousal during sex. You might start off cuddly and gentle and then work your towards an angry orgasm only to find yourself unable to hit that peak, then you change positions and are dealing with your partner’s needs as well now and so your arousal drops momentarily and there you are climbing the high again and (so on and so on).
“An orgasm instigates the release of powerful hormones, such as dopamine, epinephrine, and oxytocin, all of which rile the emotions,” says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong (2001). Not only that, but your heart rate is increasing, a tense body is relaxing, your breathing rate is changing, your pupils are dilating (a physical sign that chemicals like dopamine, epinephrine, and oxytocin are present and taking effect), so it’s really quite the workout! By the time you have an orgasm, it’s really surprising that you can keep it together at all!