The Inequality of Pleasure | A message for International Day of the Female Orgasm
Today is the International Day of the Female Orgasm (IDFO). Don’t mistake it for National Orgasm Day, which was last week. IDFO originated in Brazil, but is now celebrated globally; as it should be. The female orgasm is not given anywhere near as much attention as its male counterpart, and this has led to what is known as the Orgasm Gap.
You might be familiar with the Orgasm Gap, but for the uninitiated it’s a shorthand term for the findings of many studies into human sexual behaviour. Namely, that women in heterosexual relationships enjoy significantly fewer orgasms than their male partners. Depending on the study you reference, typically around 95% of straight men always orgasm during sex, while straight women who always orgasm during sex is closer to 60%. And those numbers are lower again if you’re looking at casual hookups; 80% of men to 40% of women.
It can be easy to read these statistics and come to the conclusion that female orgasms are simply harder to achieve. That somehow, physically, there are more barriers inhibiting women’s quest for orgasms. However this theory doesn’t stack up if you consider that 86% of lesbian women always orgasm during sex, and women who masturbate orgasm 95% of the time, and Kinsey’s reports tell us it usually happens within 4 minutes. So clearly the gap isn’t caused by any kind of physical barrier. Lesbian sex and female masturbation have one thing in common; clitoral stimulation. A study on women’s self-love techniques found that 99% of women stimulate their clitoris when they masturbate.
Most researchers have concluded that the Orgasm Gap is caused by cultural barriers, predominantly a lack of sex education around female pleasure. While jokes about men struggling to find the clitoris seem like the hallmark of comedians from the 90s, it’s actually closer to the truth than most of us would like to admit. A study of college students found that over 60% of male students believed the clitoris was located inside the vaginal canal (it’s not, just FYI). These same students also mistakenly believed that most women can orgasm from intercourse alone, when in fact less than 30% of women are able to.
It’s possible that the Orgasm Gap isn’t solely caused by a dearth of knowledge though, since obviously women who are aware of their own clitoris are capable of guiding a male partner on what to do with it. What’s considered another major contributor is that a woman’s orgasm and her pleasure simply aren’t prioritised during casual sex. Many women don’t feel comfortable directing casual male partners in ways to give them pleasure, because it’s not a dynamic that we’re presented with in most of our media. Casual sex is regularly viewed through the lens of male pleasure; it usually ends after his orgasm, not hers. Interestingly, in long term relationships, the statistics around orgasms for women are around 86%. This shows that in a committed relationship, where there is dialogue and room for communication, women have the space to educate their partners (and, hopefully, partners have the space to educate themselves), and to feel comfortable discussing their own pleasure needs.
All of this goes to further highlight that the discrepancy here is with a lack of education around female pleasure, and a socialised attitude of not placing importance on it. If the male orgasm is still considered important during hookups, then why isn’t the female orgasm? Because we are socialised to put male pleasure first, and because what we learn in sex education doesn’t cover female pleasure or its importance. When we don’t prioritise female pleasure, or place it on an even footing with male pleasure, it’s unsurprising that women are left feeling too shy or awkward about communicating what they want to their partner.
The Orgasm Gap is a physical reminder that we don’t place equal value on women’s experiences. This needs to change. We live in an age where we have access to more information than ever. We have incredible tools like OMGYes and HappyPlayTime to help educate women and men around the physiology of female pleasure. So it’s time that we started talking about women’s sexual wants and needs, and encourage men to learn the skills and have the conversations that currently aren’t happening.