The Orgasm Gap: A Societal Symptom

Woman s Hand Squeezing Bed Sheet

It is (sadly) old news that women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn. Despite being equally capable, diligent and hard-working, our employers, colleagues and elected officials still believe women should earn less and continue to perpetuate the reality that is today’s gender wage gap.

Unfortunately, unequal pay isn’t the only reward discrepancy between men and women in our society. There exists an additional gap between heterosexual men and women (no pun intended) – the “orgasm gap.” Women are earning less cash, and fewer orgasms.

According to a recent study, women experience one orgasm for every three orgasms a man enjoys during sex. Often times, this gap is explained through three false assumptions: men are better wired for orgasm, women take longer to orgasm, and women’s primary source of satisfaction during sex is emotional intimacy rather than sexual pleasure. In order to close the orgasm gap, it is imperative to debunk these harmful assumptions about women’s pleasure and sexuality.

Women are not inferiorly designed for orgasm; rather, they are superiorly capable of climaxing when compared to men. In the early 20th century, sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson proved that women are not only multi-orgasmic, but actually enjoy their second, third and fourth orgasms during a single sexual encounter more than their first. Additionally, research shows that women who have sex with other women achieve the same rate of orgasm as their heterosexual male counterparts. Women are powerful sexual beings, capable of achieving immense pleasure at the same, if higher, rates as men.

The stories society tells itself about the female orgasm make this supposed elusive phenomenon almost impossible to achieve. One of these fictions is the notion that women take longer to orgasm than men. On the contrary, studies show that women who masturbate climax in four minutes, which is the same amount of time it takes for a heterosexual male to climax during partnered intercourse. By maintaining this false assumption, we label the female orgasm as a practically unattainable rarity, and allow ourselves to believe that women will be empathetic to the challenge, rather than invested in achieving their own satisfaction in addition to their partners’.

Possibly the most agitating of all is the assumption that women are purely emotional beings, placing greater emphasis on cuddling, eye contact and the opportunity to be physically connected to the men they love (regardless of whether that physical connection results in mutual orgasm), and act as the more passive gender when it comes to initiating sex. In his book, What Do Women Want, Daniel Bergner dives into extensive research and conducts dozens of interviews with experts within the field of sexology, attempting to disprove the notion that women are less libidinous than men, having greater tendencies toward emotional intimacy and reproductive desire. Instead, women are highly sexual beings, serving as the key initiators – and even deviants – across a variety of species, including human beings. As long as we continue to confine women to sexist standards and false notions about their sexuality, we will continue to place women’s orgasms on a lower priority scale than men’s.

These assumptions are, in fact, false, but if you could be so lucky as to sit down for a cup of coffee with our beloved (NOT!) Sigmund Freud, he would tell you that women who cannot orgasm are sexually inept. In 1905, Freud stated that the clitoral orgasm was an act of adolescence, and that a mature, sexually developed woman would achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. Let us not forget that Freud’s patriarchal statements and assumptions about female sexual response were backed by zero scientific research.

Despite being unsound, Feud’s false (and phallic!) statements were pervasive enough to be harmful, and still affect the general assumptions on which our society operates today. The belief that women should be able to achieve orgasm vaginally has left many women feeling helpless and sexually inadequate. The subsequent reliance on vaginal penetration means that more and more women will not have an orgasm during sex. Research has proven that 75 percent of women are not capable of achieving orgasm through vaginal penetration alone.

While we surely lament the passing of Freud, his myths about female orgasm continue to prevail, polluting two of the most powerful medians through which we gain information: mass media and education.

Consider the last time you watched a television show or movie during which a male and female engaged in sexual intercourse. The scenario is fairly predictable. Two highly attractive, heterosexual individuals begin passionately kissing. The male sensually removes his female partner’s dress, unbuckles his belt and suddenly, without foreplay, is inside the woman. Within seconds, the female is overcome with pleasure at the absolutely joyful penetration she is receiving, erupting into an orgasm that leaves the audience wanting more.

While these scenes are certainly sexy, they tell an inaccurate story about the stages of sexual response, and completely overlook what is actually involved in female pleasure. The media we consume teaches men and women that foreplay and clitoral stimulation are both optional, rather than crucial, steps to a woman achieving orgasm during sex.

Even worse is our failing approach to sexual education. Young boys and girls are taught the mechanics of sex through a purely reproductive lens, focusing on male erection and ejaculation, with little to no focus on female sexual arousal, orgasm or the clitoris. This absolutely crucial piece of the female anatomy, pleasure and orgasm is completely ignored within the majority of sexual education curriculums. This omission considered, it should be no surprise that 30 percent of women and 25 percent of men are incapable of identifying the location of the clitoris. The unfortunate result is that the female orgasm is deemed reproductively insignificant, and therefore optional.

The frank reality is that women are capable of, and entitled to achieving orgasms. Closing the orgasm gap will require our society to speak more openly about women’s pleasure, rather than treating it as a taboo within media and education. Heterosexual men will not only need to address their own ignorance about female anatomy and various sources of female pleasure, but women will need to begin more heavily advocating for their needs during sexual encounters. Women can no longer approach their sexual satisfaction with passivity and resignation.

Ultimately, we must recognize that the orgasm gap is not a biological reality, but a social symptom that marginalizes women’s pleasure. By addressing this social symptom and eradicating the archaic views that fuel it, we will be one step closer to achieving orgasm after harmonious orgasm.



9 thoughts on “The Orgasm Gap: A Societal Symptom”

  1. Interesting article.  There were a few things I wanted to point out.  Sorry for the long post.
    Regarding the pay gap, while women earn less than men as a whole, it’s important to note that in the United States White women actually make much more money than Black men and Hispanic men and other men of color.  The gender gap is largely tied to race, and if you take minority women out of the equation, women make the same as men.  Your fact is still true, but it should be put in context, because the pay gap affects minorities and many other groups as well–groups that aren’t affected by the orgasm gap.  And White women, the largest group of women in this country, are making more money than EVERYBODY, with the exception of White men.  But I digress.
    It should also be noted that a according to several studies the orgasm gap almost entirely disappears in long-term heterosexual relationships.  It’s highly inflated by short-term or casual sex relationships.  This is because those partners often have no real investment or incentive to ensure their partner’s satisfaction, as it’s often casual sex, done as a form of self gratification and/or expression.  If the partners have no intention of seeing one another again, they’re less likely to be concerned with their partners reaching orgasm.  The woman is often at a disadvantage here, because oral sex (the way women most frequently achieve orgasm) is less likely to be given to a short term or casual partner, both for health reasons (everyone hates dental dams, and without one you’re playing herpes roulette), and because of the inconvenience of having internal or non-protruding sexual organs.  In other words, if guys are getting blowjobs left and right in cars and movie theaters and behind bushes etc, this will inflate the 3 to 1 ratio of orgasms achieved during sexual encounters.  I assure you, if my clitoris could extend 6 inches beyond my body I’d whip it out every time the lights dimmed. But that’s biology for you.
    Speaking of biology, you mention society placing women’s orgasms on a lower priority scale than men.  I think that developed because the male orgasm is essential to the existence of mankind, and the female orgasm is not.  That’s evident because women’s orgasms have been neglected for millennia and the species has still thrived.  Many women who’ve had several children have sadly never received an orgasm from her partner. While a female reaching orgasm MAY slightly increase the odds of fertilization (and even that’s still debated), and encourage women to have sex more frequently… without women having orgasms, life will continue so long as men achieve orgasm.  If men stopped achieving orgasm during sex the species would die (without some sort of technological intervention).  But the emphasis on the male orgasm over the female orgasm is a matter of existence vs non-existence.  There’s no getting around that.
    There’s also a learning curve for women that is noticeably absent (almost entirely) in men.  Women have a vast array of what is required in order to achieve orgasm.  Some like internal, some just clitoral, others like g-spot orgasms etc.  Some need fast constant speed, others slow and gentle.  Some like to be touched certain ways around their body while being stimulated clitorally etc etc.  Some have gotten used to massagers cranking out 350,000 WATTS of unparalleled vibration.  Some need 30 minutes of foreplay, some 45 minutes, some 2 minutes.  Some can not bring themselves to orgasm, so it’s unfair to expect their partner to be able to.  Meanwhile, in an unscientific study of everyone I’ve boned and every friend I’ve polled… I’ve determined that 95% of penises can get rubbed one way for five minutes and will achieve orgasm… with or without foreplay.  I know personally I take a lot more, as do many of my female friends, with a broad spectrum of variation.  I never have to learn with a new male partner what they like in order to orgasm, because penises are relatively easy.  I’ll learn what they prefer over time, but it never impedes on their orgasms either way.  When I had my first lesbian experience I was shocked that she didn’t like it exactly how I liked it.  It took me some time to learn what she liked.  That learning curve barely exists when a penis is in the equation.
    Lastly, when a man orgasms he is flooded with sleep hormones.  This doesn’t happen nearly to this extent for women.  Meanwhile, as your article notes, women can orgasm many times with very little refractory period.  This means that once a man orgasms the likelihood of him bringing a woman to orgasm is greatly diminished as he sometimes fights to simply stay awake (and even stay aroused or interested).  That turns sex into a situation where women often need to achieve orgasm first, before their male partner ejaculates and gets drowsy.  If I reach orgasm before my male partner, he can still get off through PV sex, even if I’m barely moving (as I recently found out), because I can physically continue to have sex.  Women don’t have this issue of feeling the need to get their partner off before being allowed to orgasm, but the reality is that sometimes a man will reach orgasm before a woman.    If sex were a business transaction that’d be completely unfair, but sex is about more than counting orgasms.
    You mention that heterosexual men need to “address their ignorance about the female anatomy,” yet point out that more men than women know where a clitoris is.  I think more women need to take responsibility for their own orgasm, and the other things you mentioned about educating women and not focusing on the male orgasm in school/media are true.  But the “Orgasm Gap” is not some debt owed to us by men.  It’s not a business agreement.  Women’s bodies are all different and it can take time to learn how to give a new female partner an orgasm.  I’m sure men wished it was as simple as “rub, rub, rub,” for every woman without fail, but as I mentioned above that’s not so.
    If you’re partner’s not concerned with your orgasm he (or she) is selfish and you should probably move on.  But take responsibility for your orgasm. Learn what you like. Communicate with your partner what it takes to get off.  And if you can’t enjoy sex without an orgasm, and he (or she) can’t get you there, then get yourself off and let them watch and learn.

  2. Very well put. Few thoughts. It is totally surprising to be that more women couldn’t find a clit than men. Like how could that even be! Also, I’ve had one partner who I was in a relationship for about 7 months, and she had never reached orgasm in her life, whether through masturbation, intercorse, cunnalingus or anything else. She still received incredible pleasure from all those activities, but when talking about the orgasm gap, maybe sometimes a woman’s physiology is also a factor, because I’ve never ever heard of a man not being able to reach orgasm (although I’m sure its out there). It seems to be a problem I have heard of more than once, although I only have a single first hand account. What do you think? Happy cumming! -Evan

    1. Hey Evan!

      There certainly are physiological factors that interfere with women’s orgasms. Absolutely. However, the study only focused on women who HAVE been able to reach orgasm, so the orgasm gab is defined by that population.

      As far as the clitoris is concerned. Men are more likely to watch porn, and their faces are often right up in there… haha. Many women are afraid or ashamed of their own bodies, hesitant to explore. I don’t have any research to back it, but I bet you a lot of women have never looked at their own genitals through a mirror. As men you can stand in front of a standing mirror and check it out. As women we have to dedicate a good 15 minutes to exploration… and since our anatomy is neglected in so many conversations about sexuality and reproduction, our own bodies remain a mystery to us. These are just my speculations, of course.

      Thank you for commenting!


  3. Hey there,

    Thank you very much for the reply. I agree with what you had to say about the wage gap, and it’s an issue that should definitely be elaborated on and clarified more. That is something I will keep in mind moving forward.

    Overall, I agree with what you have to say about the female orgasm being complex. I realize that my article may come off as exclusively blaming men, but in fact, society as a whole has stigmatized the exploration and self-advocacy needed for a woman to orgasm.

    Thank you again so much for commenting!


  4. The orgasm gap is something that my wife and I have been dicsussing for a while now. I suffer with premature ejaculation myself and have been struggling to please her in the bedroom. I always end up finished way before her and it leaves me feeling like less of a man. I have tried a number of creams on the market but all of them seem to either make me go to “numb” or transfer to my girlfriend and cause her discomfort.
    I use Promescent and I have been extremely happy with it. It’s a spray rather than a cream and you are able to personalize the number of sprays to your individual needs (I stated with 4 sprays then dialed it down to 3 sprays). If anyone out there is in my same situation, i recommend checking out Promescent. – Best of luck

  5. This is satire, right? Everyone knows women come more than men. And if they don’t know that — like this writer — they’re probably in their early teens or 20s.

  6. The average female orgasm lasts 20 seconds. The average male orgasm lasts 6. So actually women are in a state of orgasm more than men are. Men need to close this gap.

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