We have a problem with pleasure equality.
According to (multiple) recent studies, heterosexual women are having the least amount of orgasms during partnered sex.
Heterosexual men, on the other hand, are having the most.
A 2017 study found straight women reached orgasm 65% of the time during partnered sex while straight men reached orgasm 95% of the time. During first-time heterosexual hookups, women report reaching climax only 7% of the time.
That huge disparity is what sex educators are calling “the orgasm gap.”
Now, we all know the running joke that the female orgasm is a “tough code to crack” and no one can seem to find the elusive clitoris, right?
Is it possible those two are connected?
Just a hunch.
The problem isn’t orgasmic ability
Lived experience and sex research will tell you that the orgasm gap certainly doesn’t exist because women can’t orgasm.
Lesbian women reach orgasm 85% of the time during partnered sex.
During first-time lesbian hook-ups, women report reaching orgasm 65% of the time (versus 7% in first-time heterosexual hookups.)
When masturbating, 95% of women orgasm within minutes.
Potentially related information -- only 1% of women say they pleasure themselves with penetration only.
It’s a cultural problem, not a penis problem
I know what you're thinking —it’s men, the problem is men, but as much as that tickles me, it’s not true.
It really comes down to a lack of sex education, and disillusioned ideas of female pleasure rooted in pornography.
In a recent study, 30% of men said they thought the best way to pleasure a woman was via penetrative sexual acts. While only 4% to 18% of women can orgasm with penetration alone. The majority of vulva owners require clitoral stimulation to climax.
This much is clear -- if sex focuses mainly on penetrative acts, women are going to be far less likely to orgasm than men. Period.
Where’s the clit again?
The clitoris glans is THE most pleasurable part of the female anatomy. The clit contains 8,000 nerve endings, double the amount of a penis.
But, guys can’t seem to find it.
Shockingly, research shows college-age adults have no earthly idea where the clitoris glans is. In a study of college students, over 60% believed the clitoris was inside the vaginal canal and could be reached during penetrative sex. (Spoiler: it’s not and it can’t.)
In another study that assed knowledge of the sex and anatomy of much older adult men, 44% (still) couldn’t “find” the clit. Many experts believe this problem is partially why the orgasm gap exists.
What if women “couldn’t find the penis” and settled for just stimulating the taint instead? Sure, it’s nice, but it definitely leaves something to be desired.
If sex education was actually educational instead of dismissive, perhaps the orgasm gap wouldn’t even exist.
Pornography and its role in the orgasm gap
Porn is never an example of “good (or safe) sex” -- but for young adults, it’s the primary source of sex education. In a US survey, young adults aged 18 to 24, listed porn as their “most helpful” source of sex education.
Teenagers report that they have nowhere else to learn about sex and trust that the “porn stars know what they’re doing.”
This is a big problem that may play a huge role in the pleasure gap.
Porn largely depicts heterosexual sex as penis-in-vagina intercourse only and often fails to show any other sex act that could potentially pleasure or arouse a woman. If many are getting their sex education from porn, this means they likely have no understanding of anatomy, foreplay, or consent.
The clit (the primary source of female pleasure) is basically nonexistent in porn. If it is in a scene, men are often shown aggressively stumbling around it while the woman moans like the paid actress she is.
Porn offers men a totally disillusioned idea of what women want in bed, thus, a gaping pleasure gap.
The bottom line is this: If pornography is your primary source of sex education you’ll walk away thinking that jackhammer penis-in-vagina intercourse is enough to send your partner into a writhing fitful orgasm -- but it’s definitely not.
We have a serious lack of sexual education in the US
Tbh, it’s really not the porn industry’s job to make sure their adult entertainment is reflective of a safe, fulfilling, and healthy sexual relationship.
It is however the job of our education and healthcare system.
Young adults look to pornography as a source of sex education because they quite literally have no other option. In most of the US, teens are simply taught to be abstinent. In effect, ignoring a living, breathing aspect of each and every person: sexuality.
In states where sex education is meant to be comprehensive -- they gloss over masturbation, LGBT relationships and, you guessed it, the clitoris.
A lack of comprehensive sex education not only leads to sexual shame and unfulfilling sex lives but it directly impacts STD transmissions, unplanned pregnancies, and rates of sexual assault.
What can we do about the orgasm gap?
- We’ve got to talk about it. We need people to become aware of this pleasure gap, in societies at large and within our own bedrooms.
- Ask for what you want in bed and educate your partners on what you find pleasurable. (Research shows young women in causal sexual relationships believe female pleasure is less important than male pleasure -- thus they prioritize male pleasure.)
- STOP faking orgasms. (In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, 67% of straight women admitted to faking orgasms occasionally.) How will our partners ever learn what we like if we misguide them? Faking “it” might seem like a nice jester at the time but most men would be really upset to learn their partner is faking sexual pleasure.
- Explore your own pleasure. Masturbate, and explore what feels good. Take note of what arouses you and what doesn’t. How will you be able to ask for what you want if you don’t know yourself? Try clitoral vibrators, or simply go “acoustic” as the kids say.
- Bring sex toys into the bedroom. A 2010 study revealed around 42% of couples use sex toys together. The couples who do use sex toys together showed higher rates of sexual satisfaction vs. couples who don't use sex toys together.
- Make the clit the star of the show. We all need a masterclass on the clitoris and how to honor the ways vulva-owners find sexual pleasure. Begin with trusted sources of sex education and then begin experimenting with your partner with open communication.
In Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, author Dr. Laura Mintz said:
“We've never--at any point in Western history--had a time where the majority of the population valued women's ways of orgasm as equal to a man's. It's time to change history.”
We couldn’t agree more, Laura.
Recent research has revealed that at least 35% of straight women are taking one for the team -- they aren’t consistently orgasming during partnered sex.
During first-time casual hookups, 93% of cis straight women aren’t orgasming.
A whopping 20% of cis women report never, or very rarely, reaching climax during sex.
Straight men, on the other hand, reliably reach climax at least 95% of the time. That gender disparity is what’s called the orgasm gap.
Closing this gap might be a matter of empowering sex education.