The American Association of University Women published a report titled “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.” They explained the gap, why it exists, and how to close it. This blog will do the same for another gendered gap.

Defining the Gender Orgasm Gap

Source: pixabay.com
  • Plain & Simple: The orgasm gap refers to the fact that in heterosexual sexual encounters, men have more orgasm than women.  
  • Statistical Details: In one study examining about 800 college students, a 52% orgasm gap was found. That is, 39 percent of women and 91 percent of men said that they usually or always experienced orgasm in partnered sex. This study didn’t ask the context of the sex, but another study with 15,000 college students found that the orgasm gap is larger in hookup sex than in relationship sex. Still, in college student committed relationships, there is still a 17% orgasm gap. Strikingly similar statistics were found in a survey of about 3,000 single women and men in the U.S. ranging from 18 to 65 years old. When having sex with a familiar partner, women said they have an orgasm 63% of the time; men said 85% of the time.

Two Other Orgasm Gaps: Two other gaps help explain the gendered orgasm gap.

  • Lesbian vs. Straight Sex: There is an orgasm gap between women who identify as lesbian versus straight. Lesbian women have significantly more orgasms than straight women.  (For men, orgasm rate doesn’t vary with sexual orientation).
  • Women Alone vs. With a Partner: Women have more orgasms when they masturbate than when they are with a partner. (In the study with 800 college women, 39% of women said they always orgasm during masturbation while 6% said they always orgasm during sex with a partner).

So, why do lesbian women and women masturbating have more orgasms than women having sex with a male partner?  Because there isn’t a penis involved. And why is there a gendered orgasm gap in heterosexual sex?  Because there is a penis involved.

Prioritizing Male Orgasm

Please don’t get me wrong. I am NOT blaming penises for the orgasm gap, nor am I blaming the men who own them. I’m also not blaming the women who have sex with the men who own them. The orgasm gap is a cultural problem.

  • The Main Problem: Culturally, we overvalue penetrative sex. To be a bit “punny”, our cultural over-focus on the importance of putting a penis in a vagina is screwing with women’s orgasms. Evidence for this is found in language. As detailed in my prior blog, we use the words sex and intercourse synonymously, and relegate clitoral stimulation is to “foreplay” or that which comes before the main act of intercourse. We commonly mislabel women’s genitals by the one part (the vagina) that gives men, but not women, reliable orgasms. We have countless nicknames for the penis, but few for the clitoris. More evidence for our cultural overvaluing of penetration is found in media images and our resulting false beliefs. You don’t have to look far to see media images of women having mind-blowing orgasms from intercourse alone. No wonder that most women say that this is what they want. The most common question I get from my Psychology of Human Sexuality students is how women can orgasm during intercourse.
  • Other Cultural Problems: There are a host of other cultural problems contributing to the orgasm gap. We have a double standard that judges women more harshly than men for casual sex. Sex education generally doesn’t focus on pleasure. Most of us have little training in sexual communication, yet good sexual communication is key when it comes to female orgasms since there are differences between women in terms of what they need to orgasm and what one woman needs to orgasm can vary from one encounter to another. Many women are plagued by body-image self-consciousness during sex and it’s pretty much impossible to have an orgasm while worrying if you look fat or holding your stomach in. Finally, reaching orgasm requires a complete immersion in the sensations of the moment—or mindfulness—and few of us have mastered this skill in our daily life, let alone our sex lives.
mic.com
Source: mic.com

Closing the Orgasm Gap. Closing the Orgasm Gap requires knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge.

  • Clitoral Knowledge: Again, plain and simple, to close the orgasm gap, both women and men must understand that the clitoris is key to women’s orgasms. A very small percentage of women (about 3 – 10%) reliably orgasm from penetration alone. Most women require clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm.
  • Applying The Knowledge: Women’s orgasms are an area where knowledge isn’t sufficient. In one study, knowledge of the clitoris wasn’t related to women’s rates of orgasm. These authors concluded that “knowledgeable women, or their partners, do not give priority to orgasm for women.” Again, when penetration is involved, it’s often considered the main event and mistakenly assumed to be the way that both partners should orgasm. So, to close the orgasm gap, we have to hold clitoral stimulation and penetration as equal. Women also have to be able to let go of body-image self-consciousness and immerse themselves in sex. They have to feel entitled to pleasure, know what brings them pleasure (often through masturbating on their own to find out), and be able communicate this to their partners and these partners have to want to use this information.

It’s now probably obvious that closing the orgasm gap isn’t going to be easy—not for individual women or for our culture as a whole. Still, it’s well worth the effort. It’s time for Orgasm Justice for All!

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