By Dr Amy Jones, Ob/Gyn
July 31 is National Orgasm Day! Ok we know that there are a lot of forced holidays on the calendar, but as always, we revel in any opportunity to spotlight sexual wellness. So we're here celebrate the orgasm!
Everyone deserves a fulfilling sex life. Being with a partner with whom you can freely communicate is an important element in achieving mind blowing orgasms because there are some important conversations to be had. One of those conversations must address the orgasm gap. So let's talk about it. Multiple validated studies reveal that women are having far fewer orgasms than men. In fact studies have found that only 39% of women regularly orgasm during sex compared to 91% of men. Why is this?
The orgasm gap was a term coined to describe the disparity in orgasms between couples. Also known as orgasm inequality, studies have used it to measure sexual satisfaction among different demographics. Of course, a good and healthy sex life can’t be measured purely by how many orgasms people are having. However, studies have found that there’s a considerable difference between the number of orgasms men and women are having.
The orgasm gap doesn’t just exist between heterosexual women and men. It has been found that lesbian and bisexual women have significantly more orgasms than heterosexual women. Similarly, there’s an orgasm gap between women when they’re alone and when they’re with a partner. A study found that 39% of women said they always orgasm when they masturbate, compared to 6% during sex.
Sexual intimacy is so much more than a physical act. It’s a way to connect with other people and to connect with and explore your body. Conversations about pleasure have become more commonplace over the last few years but female genital anatomy, female masturbation and female pleasure are still taboo. This taboo is fueled by a lack of conversations and truthful information.
Silence surrounding parts of your body and sexuality can have serious health implications. It creates a culture of shame and guilt attached to something that is in actuality very healthy!
We're all about furthering the conversation about sex and intimacy. So let's dig a bit deeper into the root of this orgasm gap.
One leading theory as to why this gap might exist is a lack of knowledge and comfort surrounding female anatomy, implying we don't really know where things are, what they are called, and how they work. While this may be true to an extent, it rings a bit overly simplistic. Ok maybe we don't know the correct medical term for all our parts, but I think we've come a long way toward knowing which of our parts give us pleasure, and knowing how we like to be touched and where and how gentle or rough we like it. So there has to be more to this issue.
We know that our sexual instincts are just that...instincts. They are innate and have been born into us from the very beginning of our single cell ancestry. In nature, animals engage in sex solely for the purpose of reproduction. As the most evolved species on the planet, we've thankfully discovered that sex is also pleasurable and has endless benefits beyond furthering the species. But while we may have come a long way in understanding the that sex has multiple positive benefits for our physical and mental health, our sexual psychology seems to be lagging behind on the evolutionary trail. Time to get a little bit meta. I'm using sexual psychology to refer to how we think about sex, what we are trying to accomplish, what we are ultimately aiming to achieve when we have sex. These subconscious forces may be pulling more strings than we realize. In the wild, the purpose is singular: to combine male and female gametes (sperm with egg). To do this the male, with several creative exceptions, has to deliver his sperm to the female. To achieve pregnancy, the male necessarily has to climax, but the female does not. The goal is to help the male ejaculate. Do you see where I am going with this? Perhaps this primitive approach to intimacy has carried forward more than we would like to admit. Maybe we aren't as sexually evolved as we would like to believe.
Are we perpetuating this close-minded approach to sex? Is our primary goal to help the man ejaculate? Online porn sure seems to support this theory. The male orgasm is more, shall we say.. tangible?, than the female orgasm. We know when the task has been completed because it produces a specific product. The female orgasm leaves more to the imagination and does not, again with some creative exceptions, produce the same type of measurable product that a male orgasm produces. Therefore it can be doubted, overlooked, and even faked.
We all know that women fake orgasms for all sorts of reasons. We aren't here to judge the validity of a woman's reasoning. However, if some of those reasons include self doubt, not feeling worth the effort, not knowing what your body is capable of, not believing in your body's capacity for pleasure.. these deserve to be challenged. Some women have expressed uncertainty in their ability to achieve orgasm so they simply stop trying. Sex becomes about deriving secondary pleasure from their partner's orgasm. Don't get me wrong, seeing your partner derive so much pleasure out of your touch can be a massive turn on! But don't deprive your partner of the same experience. We have to strengthen our sexual psychology so that equal importance is assigned to both the male and the female orgasm. Both should be seen as necessary to completing the sexual act. Now of course we don't always have to climax to have a fully enjoyable sexual experience, but neither do men!
Let's circle back to the anatomy theory as it certainly shares some of the responsibility. The female anatomy, while not necessarily more complex than a male's, is certainly more covert. But all the more reason to set aside time for exploration. Masturbation is like research. We must explore all the nooks and crannies of our bodies to discover our perfect pleasure formula. Think of it as a scientific obligation to further the evolution of our species. Ok, that may be a bit much. Think of it as a personal obligation. If we don't believe in our right to sexaul pleasure, what other personal rights might we be forsaking? We've come a long way on our sexual journey as a human race, and for that we should be exceedingly proud, but we can't slow down now. A new frontier is always out there, waiting for a brave new sexual pioneer. Happy trailblazing!