The Orgasm Gap: the unequal frequency of orgasm during sexual encounters between genders.
A recent study explored how often men orgasm compared to women during heterosexual foreplay and sex. Surprise surprise, men orgasmed more. A lot more.
Foreplay and sex are all about experimenting, that’s a given. And no one can be amazing at first – it takes experience and practice. But nonetheless, how many times have you experienced bad sex before? If you asked a heterosexual woman that, the answer is likely going to be a bit different to if you asked anyone else.
Sex isn’t all about climax. But there is clearly a problem – we should be aiming for women to climax during sex. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It could be down to a number of factors beyond the quality of the sex. But for heterosexual women to be having consistently less orgasms – as a whole demographic – evidently female pleasure is being overlooked.
Durex did a study in 2017 of 1,500 Dutch and Belgian men and women between the ages of 18 and 65. Three out of four women said that they can’t always achieve an orgasm during sex. 20% of women don’t orgasm compared to 2% of men, yet 25% of men think that women don’t have a problem reaching orgasm. One in five women claim that their partners are unaware of how to push the right buttons.
Researchers from the Archives of Sexual Behavior assessed the sex lives of over 52,500 adult Americans. They found that the group most likely to always orgasm during sex were heterosexual men. 95% said they usually or always climax.
The Hetero Dynamic
You will note that I specify heterosexual women. This is no error – studies have found that heterosexual women are the demographic having the least orgasms during sex. Lesbian and bisexual women have significantly more orgasms than heterosexual women, so the male/female inter-relation is an important factor in analysing the stark difference in male to female orgasm ratio. What I take away from that is:
Men = less orgasms.
(If you’re a guy reading this, I hope you’re triggered. Instead of going and punching a wall, why don’t you utilise that anger into making sure that you’re doing everything you can to be an unreal sexual partner.)
Non-heterosexual women have the insight of knowing exactly what pleasure feels like, and where it feels best. Women generally have more specific or complicated climax needs than men, so it’s not as easy a job for heterosexual men to make their partner orgasm. But the differences are so stark, that some more analysis is needed into why there is such disparity in the bedroom.
The clitoris is the most important way to help a woman orgasm, yet it’s treated as some kind of ‘warm up’ before the real thing that is penetrative sex. But when only 20% of women can reach orgasm through vaginal penetration, it’s pretty clear that the clit is the key to success (it literally means “key” in Greek). It’s also the only organ in the human body solely responsible for sexual pleasure, with 8,000 nerve endings.
There’s the classic line about judging a guy’s bedroom capabilities on his ability to locate the clit. In a study, 59% of men and 45% of women couldn’t label the vagina, but surprisingly enough most people of all genders could correctly label the clitoris. So if everyone can locate it, what is the problem here?
Even if a woman is orgasming through vaginal penetration, it’s likely that the clit is involved somehow. Yet studies suggest that men consistently overlook the importance of the clit, whereas it should be the priority. Essentially, everyone needs to clitorise.
Porn is obsessed with blowjobs and penetrative sex. Both focussed around male pleasure, porn shows women ‘having fast and fabulous orgasms from intercourse alone.’ We all know that porn is an unrealistic representation of sex based around men’s needs, but it really does make a difference to how people approach sex. Most women need direct clitoral stimulation — such as oral sex and touching — to orgasm, but this is rarely depicted.
Boys from a young age see porn and think that a total slamming is going to make a girl squirt. Even though the transition from boy to man definitely changes this approach (I hope any experience like that is comfortably in the past, gals), ignorance of the clitoris remains and the media images of sex over-privilege male sexuality.
You may have heard about hysteria, a so-called mental illness which supposedly resulted from excess female sexual desire. The fact is, we’re way past that level of stigmatisation of female sexuality but cultural attitudes remain that raise their ugly little head in daily life. For example the annual analysis of Love Island: Zara Holland had her Miss Great Britain title taken off her in 2016 for having sex with a fellow contestant, Meghan Barton Hanson was slut-shamed for having sex on the show in 2018 (including receiving death threats) and Maura Higgins was slut-shamed by a fellow male contestant in 2019 just because she was open about her sex drive.
Every woman is different in how they can climax, and men can’t be expected to be able to read every girl perfectly. Communication is key, but women need to feel entitled to communicate their needs. If strong, sexually empowered women are vilified, how will bedroom equality ever exist?
Holla to Nicki Minaj who demands an orgasm every time she has sex. She also teaches her friends how to demand, which brings up the point that it is so important for women to discuss with other women their sexual experiences. I have learnt so much from my friend’s experiences and vice-versa, it’s made for a much happier sex life. Women’s sexuality is not taboo.
Judgment of Women’s Bodies
The most common reasons that hinder women from climaxing are insufficient relaxation, fatigue, stress and being distracted. So really, no wonder there’s an orgasm gap.
Scientifically it has been shown that for a woman to achieve orgasm, she should be relaxed and any kind of tensity in the body hinders reaching climax. In Remy Kassimir’s podcast ‘How Cum’ (I’ve been a listener for two years now and absolutely recommend giving it a listen), Wednesday Martin PhD explains in ‘How Squirt’ (Season 4, Episode 2) how the expectations of women to have flat stomachs leads to an inherent tendency to tense the abdominal muscles, ultimately lessening the chances of a woman reaching a wonderful climax and even squirt.
An extremely worrying development is that the world’s fastest growing cosmetic surgery is labiaplasty, an operation to reduce the length of the inner folds of skin on either side of the vagina, basically changing the way it looks. This is a result of the constant portrayal of unrealistic standards of the female body in the media, social media and pornography which has created a pandemic of critical self-analysis in women, particularly of younger ages, fuelling a mass lack of self-confidence in their own bodies. Vaginas and vulvas are still a taboo topic, where realistic photographs and diagrams are not out for healthy public viewing. Instead, you see vulvas in porn. Sex education doesn’t teach girls about what vulvas look like, and doesn’t concentrate on informing young girls and boys that vulvas are all different, and there is no desirable aesthetic.
Teamed with self-righteous boys and men making comments on the look of vulvas, there is an atmosphere of uneasiness about the way vulvas look which can be a total distraction in the bedroom. We need to normalise all vulvas. If men’s bodies and dicks were held to the same standards of criticism, we’d have a huge problem with male sexuality, so lets treat this the same.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I love a good clitoris pun so here’s a shoutout to the ‘cliteracy project’ – aiming to educate people on the makeup and layout of the vulva to help individuals have positive relationships with parts of their body that are too often undiscussed and unexplored.
Sex education doesn’t focus on pleasure, totally hindering the chances of women to have a happy sex life with regular orgasms.
We are taught that boys orgasm during sex, so women need to go careful because this can cause them to get pregnant so use contraception. Oh and wear a condom because chlamydia exists too. The first time I learnt about the g-spot orgasm was whilst I was having one.
Historically, our culture has stigmatised female pleasure, discouraging women from exploring their sexualities or masturbating. This legacy continues today. Does anyone remember at school, rumours going round about a girl fingering herself like it was some sort of shameful deal, but boys bragged about having six wanks in one day? Girls need to be taught from a young age about the importance of their own sexual pleasure and empowerment.
I watched an interesting Ted Talk by Peggy Orenstein about female sexuality which raised a really interesting point. From a young age, we are taught that losing your virginity is the big deal, ultimately downgrading ‘foreplay’ as minor stuff that will eventually lead to penetrative sex. Even the ‘fore’ part reiterates this. As a culture, we tend to prioritize sexual activities that lead to male orgasm more than female orgasm, with penile-vaginal intercourse equated with “sex” itself. Given that so many women don’t orgasm from penetrative sex, the importance placed on virginity ignores female pleasure. Orenstein says that it would be an interesting development in the prioritisation of female pleasure if virginity was instead measured by the age which a woman has her first orgasm with a partner.
How different would the age you lost your virginity be? Granted, in school boys may continue to prioritise themselves (and their reputation), but as we mature, the focus would quickly turn to whether the girl felt real pleasure. This would surely tip the balance of sexual intimacy in favour of a more pleasurable, communicative and joint experience of sex. Instead of girls feeling ashamed about losing their virginity, or scared into pregnancy paranoia, a girl losing her virginity could be something that would be celebrated because such a sexually empowering milestone has been reached.
It’s up to you how you demand your climax, whether through words or behaviours, but make sure you do. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine, but your sexual pleasure must be the priority. And men, be self-critical about whether you’re really prioritising your female partner’s pleasure over your own.