Orgasm Chasm: Men's and Women's Orgasm Experiences

Tips for improving your orgasm experience.

Posted Sep 24, 2019

We know surprisingly little about orgasms relative to how important they are in our sexual lives. Many individuals (but certainly not all) consider the experience of an orgasm to be a metric of satisfaction with their sexual lives and partner.

When asked to describe the experience of orgasm and indeed when we examine the neurology involved, men’s and women’s experiences appear to be very much alike. In fact, if you disguise the gender of a person’s written description of their orgasm, you cannot distinguish men’s from women’s descriptions. “A tingling starts in my toes, then warmth moves quickly inward…”

However, one reason believed to underlie some differences in sexual interest and satisfaction is how reliably we experience orgasm. Heterosexual men are most likely to say they almost always had an orgasm during sex, followed by gay men, bisexual men, lesbian women, and bisexual women. Heterosexual women are the least likely (40-65%).

Another recent study in the US of single men and women found no differences in the occurrence of orgasm on the basis of orientation for men, but lesbians had higher rates of orgasm compared to bi- and heterosexual women. Women in same-sex relationships also report that their orgasms are more satisfying and frequent.

Overall, women tend to be less likely to have orgasms in partnered sexual activity compared to men. Why might that be? One reason: The typical script for heterosexual activity tends to favor activities that work well for men’s orgasm (e.g., intercourse) rather than women’s (e.g., oral sex).

And our bodies are of course quite different: A penis evolves out of the structures for the clitoris during development. However, unlike the penis, a huge portion of the clitoris is actually tucked away inside a woman’s body despite stimulation of the clitoris being critical for orgasm. Stimulation for a penis is very direct; it's often far less direct for the clitoris.

Alex Holyoake/Unsplash
Orgasms often are seen as the endpoint of sex--but should they be?
Source: Alex Holyoake/Unsplash

An important new study found that gender differences in orgasm experiences relate only to partnered sexual experiences, not experiences through masturbation. Women and men report no differences in how reliably they reach orgasm on their own. 

Men in mixed-sex or same-sex partnerships both rate their orgasms as highly satisfying, but women in same-sex partnerships rate their orgasms as more satisfying than do women in mixed-sex partnerships.

So, what are you going to do?  And how can you make your experiences better? 

Five top tips:

  1. Pay attention to what heightens your arousal. 
  2. Experiment with different positions, fantasies, rates, and pressure of stimulation, even tools and toys that you can incorporate into sex and masturbation.
  3. If you have a partner, communicate what works for you. Nobody is a mind-reader and there are sexy ways to let your partner know what works best.
  4. Check out some of the new online “sextech” apps and sites (such as OMGyes) that use state-of-the-science research to teach people how to improve their sexual functioning. You don't have to have a problem to learn how to make orgasm even better.
  5. Most importantly: Keep in mind that the focus on orgasm as an end-goal in sex makes you highly likely to overlook a great many pleasurable sexual experiences in the moments along the way.

References

Blair, K. L., Cappell, J., & Pukall, C. F. (2018). Not all orgasms were created equal: Differences in frequency and satisfaction of orgasm experiences by sexual activity in same-sex versus mixed-sex relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 55, 719-733.

Frederick, D. A., John, H. K. S., Garcia, J. R., & Lloyd, E. A. (2018). Differences in orgasm    frequency among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual men and women in a US         national sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 273-288.

Garcia, J. R., Lloyd, E. A., Wallen, K., & Fisher, H. E. (2014). Variation in orgasm occurrence by sexual orientation in a sample of U.S. singles. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 2645-2652.

Georgiadis, J. R., Reinders, A. A., Paans, A. M., Rendken, R., & Kortekaas, R. (2009). Men versus women on sexual brain function: Prominent differences during tactile genital stimulation, but not during orgasms. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 3089-3101.

Mah, K. & Binik, Y. M. (2005). Are orgasms in the mind or the body? Psychosocial versus physiological correlates of orgasmic pleasure across gender and sexual context. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 31, 187-202.

Rosenberger, J. G., Reece, M., Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Novak, D. S., Van Der pol, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2011). Sexual behaviors and situational characteristics of most recent male-partnered sexual event among gay and bisexually identified men in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 3040-3050.

Schick, V., Rosenberger, J. G., Herbenick, D., & Reece, M. (2012). Sexual behavior and risk reduction strategies among a multinational sample of women who have sex with women. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 88, 407-412.