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Can Couples Close the "Orgasm Gap"?

New research explores differences in orgasm frequency between men and women.

Unsplash / Pxhere
Source: Unsplash / Pxhere

Data is often the quickest way to settle an argument. What does the data say about the frequency of male versus female orgasms?

New research published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences reports that approximately 50 percent of men experience an orgasm every time they have sexual intercourse. For women, this number is only about 4 percent.

This is according to a sample of 207 undergraduates at the University of Albany, State University of New York. To arrive at these numbers, the researchers asked participants to respond to the following question:

How often do you experience an orgasm during penile-vaginal sex?

  • a) Never
  • b) Less than half the time
  • c) More than half the time
  • d) Always

Expanding this out, approximately 2 percent of men indicated that they never experience an orgasm during sex, 11 percent said they experience an orgasm less than half the time, and 37 percent said they experience an orgasm more than half the time. For women, 15 percent said they never experience an orgasm, 49 percent said they experience an orgasm less than half the time, and 32 percent said they experience an orgasm most of the time.

While this data is helpful in understanding the frequency of orgasms during sex, it is far from conclusive. For a more definitive look at the frequency of male versus female orgasms, we can turn to a 2018 paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Here, the researchers found 33 percent of heterosexual women to report always experiencing an orgasm during sex while 75 percent of heterosexual men reported the same. This was according to a large national sample of over 52,000 U.S. adults.

"Tips, tricks, and strategies designed to elicit the 'elusive female orgasm' suggest that people believe that the female orgasm is far more challenging to attain than the male orgasm," say the team of researchers, led by David Frederick of Chapman University. "The research literature bears this out, with findings from several U.S. national studies showing men report experiencing orgasm during sexual activity much more frequently than women."

The gap is not nearly as large when looking at non-heterosexual individuals, however. The researchers found that 59 percent of lesbian women reported always experiencing an orgasm during sex while 65 percent of gay men reported the same. Among bisexual women and men, 36 percent and 66 percent reported always experiencing an orgasm during sex, respectively.

They also examined which forms of sexual interaction were most likely to increase the likelihood of producing an orgasm in women. Here, they found oral sex and manual stimulation to be key. The researchers also found that both men and women who engaged in "acts of sexual variety," such as wearing sexy lingerie/underwear, incorporating mini-massages/backrubs, trying a new sexual position, or taking a shower or bath together, were more likely to orgasm during sex.

They write, "Orgasm frequencies for heterosexual women only approached those for men when other behaviors were added to sexual intercourse (e.g., oral sex, manual stimulation). These findings are consistent with the view that there are biological differences between men and women in likelihood of orgasm during intercourse. The findings, however, indicate that this orgasm gap can be reduced by addressing sociocultural factors and by encouraging a wider variety of activities when men and women are sexually intimate."

Facebook image: MJTH/Shutterstock


Gallup, G. G., Jr., Platek, S. M., Ampel, B. C., & Towne, J. P. (2020, February 27). Sex Differences in the Sedative Properties of Heterosexual Intercourse. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

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