Why Aren’t Women Orgasming As Much As Men? Let’s Talk the Orgasm Gap.

By Gabrielle Alexa
Originally Published on the I Am Woman Project

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Of the myriad of ways that gender inequality manifests in our daily lives, the orgasm gap is one that doesn’t get enough coverage.

Yes, as if dealing with a gendered pay gap and interpersonal sexism wasn’t enough, we don’t even benefit equally in the bedroom. While one study reports that 39% of straight women are orgasming consistently versus 91% of straight men, and another claims that 57% of straight women are orgasming consistently versus 95% of straight men, the point is that women aren’t orgasming nearly enough.

There are a few common misconceptions that exist to explain the gap. My male partners have told me that women’s bodies are just too complex, that we’re not as sexual as they are, that we’re more difficult to bring to orgasm. I think some men believe women don’t even enjoy sex like they do, regardless of their individual efforts, and women certainly aren’t encouraged to challenge that narrative.

Fortunately, research proves that women have powerful sex drives too, especially considering lesbian women orgasm 74.7% of the time during partnered sex and experience more orgasms during solo sex than with a partner overall. These are indicators that the gap isn’t because women just have weird, complicated body parts, but because there are cultural and sociological barriers to us having more fulfilling sex lives.

Of the myriad of ways that gender inequality manifests in our daily lives, the orgasm gap is one that doesn’t get enough coverage.

Honestly, sex education fails to focus on pleasure. We learn sexual shame, abstinence, and that the male orgasm is a vehicle for creating life, but there are almost zero details about the female orgasm. Education on queer sex is either avoided or condemned. In Alabama, for instance, sexual education is mandated by law to include: “an emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that ‘homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.’” This leads to a cultural prioritization of heterocentric penetrative sex, even though female sexuality encompasses a wide array of sexual behaviors outside of that.

There are so many clear examples of this: we use the word “sex” almost interchangeably with the word “intercourse,” we diminish other forms of partnered sex by calling it “foreplay” alternatively, and we consider virginity in terms of when someone enjoys penetration for the first time. It diminishes the non-penetrative sex I have with women as if it’s merely a half-baked mimicry of “more real” straight sex, a belief I once accepted myself. Plus, it suggests that other forms of partnered sex between men and women aren’t “real” sex, and therefore aren’t intimate or complete. Are lesbian women theoretically virgins for their entire lives? Are women who only have oral sex with their male partners not sexually active? No, and yet that’s what our language suggests.

Meanwhile, some women simply don’t enjoy penetrative sex, some women never have it, and only 15% of women can even cum consistently from it. Direct clitoral stimulation, which is essential to the female orgasm, is often rushed or skipped over between heterosexual partners. In 2009, 3D sonography provided us with the landscape of the internal clitoris. It eliminated the distinction between vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms because we learned that all orgasms, even ones achieved via penetration, were the result of clitoral stimulation.

How can we expect men to successfully make women cum when they’re operating with false information?

It’s crazy that we only achieved this understanding eight years ago, and that we continue to pass on narratives that ignore it, but we do. We still behave as if vaginal orgasms exist, although the vaginal walls lack most of the sensitive nerve endings that are housed in the clitoris. We talk about squirting as if it equates to female ejaculation when it doesn’t. And then we treat men like the pioneers of our vaginal canals, tasking them with finding a G-spot that doesn’t exist. How can we expect men to successfully make women cum when they’re operating with false information?

Of course, no amount of education on the female body can offset the fact that we culturally do not prioritize the female orgasm. Heterosexual sex seemingly imitates the structure of pornography, which captures an orgasm gap as well. Women either don’t orgasm, or their orgasm is ambiguous, meaning we can’t even be sure that it happened. Men on the other hand always close the show by ejaculating somewhere that may or may not make cleanup inconvenient—the infamous money shot. If women’s orgasms are equally as important, which they are, sex should end when both partners have finished, not primarily after the man has. This is truly the key to bridging the orgasm gap.

I refuse to be a secondary participant in sex.

For me, that means seeking partners who make oral sex a priority. It means we both perform it equally and that we don’t speed through it in favor of penetration. It means that if he orgasms from penetrating me, but I don’t, that we follow-up with oral sex (or some other similar form of direct clitoral stimulation). I literally never want to hear the phrase “foreplay” because direct clitoral stimulation can happen before, after, during, and in between penetrative sex. Sometimes, it is the sex. Taking steps to prioritize my orgasm also means talking about my needs with my partner. It’s a terrifying thing because as women, we’re taught to be passive and accommodating, especially during sex. We learn that men have fragile egos and that we must tread lightly around them, to even fake orgasms if it maintains the intimacy between us and them. Telling a man that he isn’t pleasing me, therefore, feels like I’m doing a disservice to the womanhood I was taught.However, I refuse to be a secondary participant in sex. I push myself to communicate my needs and desires even when it’s uncomfortable. It has led to greater and more frequent orgasms when I do have partnered sex, and empowers me to unlearn the sexual shame that is inherently a part of female sexuality. And trust me, it’s a lot more fun.

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The I AM WOMAN Project is a community empowering women to elevate, motivate and celebrate themselves through shared narratives. We showcase and celebrate women’s true power by sharing their stories, wisdom and inspirational insights across video, audio, and digital

Gabrielle Alexa is a writer, passionate feminist, and cat mom.

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