How Do We Close the Orgasm Gap?

by Violet

on Aug 16, 2022

When it comes to having an orgasm during sex, men and women are far from equal. Learn what has caused this orgasm gap and what we can do to start closing it.

kurt-francois-GJNLYb3U1-k-unsplash

What is the orgasm gap?

The orgasm gap is the term used to describe the disparity between orgasms experienced by heterosexual men and heterosexual women. Studies have shown that when having sex together, men are far more likely to have an orgasm than women are. In fact, one study has found that men orgasm 91% of the time, compared to women orgasming just 39% of the time - that’s a 52% gap.

It gets worse, though.

While a survey of 3000 men and women showed that sex with a familiar partner can result in more female orgasms, one-night stands or ‘hook up sex’ results in the largest orgasm gap of all: women report having orgasms only 32% of the time.

What’s interesting is the orgasm gap doesn’t affect all sexual orientations and is a uniquely heterosexual problem. Women who have sex with women have significantly more orgasms than straight women. However, men who have sex with men report having the same number of orgasms as heterosexual men.

So, what is going on?

Closing the Orgasm Gapframe 1 (2)

Why do we have an orgasm gap?

We haven't been able to determine a single, specific cause for the orgasm gap, but we do have some good evidence to support the following reasons why it may be happening.

1. A general lack of sexual education

For most vulva owners, orgasm can only be achieved via direct clitoral stimulation. However, a study found that 30% of heterosexual men think the best way to help a woman orgasm is through penetrative sex acts. This disconnect and lack of education surrounding female pleasure could be prime reasons for the dreaded orgasm gap.

Further studies have shown that it’s not just men who need a biology tune-up. When surveying all genders, YouGov found that 58% of all people surveyed couldn’t describe the function of a urethra, while 47% didn’t know what a labia was.

2. As a culture, we overvalue penetrative sex

Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to setting unrealistic sex expectations. How many times have you watched a leading couple jump into penetrative sex with zero lube and zero foreplay, only to orgasm moments later in perfect unison?

It’s just not realistic.

Thanks to short-sighted portrayals like this, plus our culture’s habit of labelling anything but penetrative sex ‘foreplay’ (suggesting it’s merely an amuse bouche before the main event), we as a culture have subconsciously learned that sex = penetration.

However, data from Debby Herbenick, a research fellow and sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute, found that out of 1,055 women only 18% reported orgasms through penetrative sex alone. This means that over a whopping 80% needed more stimulation in order to orgasm with their partner.

If we continue to overvalue penetrative sex and undervalue the power of other sex acts, such as oral play, we risk robbing women of their sexual happiness and furthering the orgasm gap.

3. Only male orgasms are prioritised

For a healthy, happy sexual relationship each person’s orgasm must be seen with equal importance. As much as we love a male orgasm, in heterosexual sex they sometimes have a habit of taking over.

For example, it's not uncommon for sex to end when the male partner has climaxed, even though that doesn't happen when the genders are reversed. If a woman orgasms before her male partner, she's expected to continue until the male partner also climaxes.

Again, the media, especially porn and erotica, can be a huge source of misinformation when it comes to how we view the male orgasm. While a pearl necklace or a wonderous cum fountain may look great on film, if your female partner is missing out on the climax she wants then your party just isn't over yet.

Some will have you believe that a penis owner is completely useless after blowing their load, that their only option after orgasming is rolling over and going to sleep. However, this is simply not true. If you or your lover is guilty of this habit, then it may be time to have a chat.

Closing the Orgasm Gapframe 2 (1)

How do we fix it the orgasm gap?

We don’t have to simply accept the orgasm gap. At Lovehoney we believe that part of feeling sexually empowered is advocating for your own pleasure and working to make sexual experiences more equal and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Whether you’re a vulva owner who’s tired of missing out on your big O, or a penis owner looking to improve sex with your partner, we have a few ways to help you close the gap.

Talk it out

Part of solving a problem like the orgasm gap is admitting we have a problem in the first place. What we absolutely don’t want to do is ignoring a potential problem and hoping it sorts itself out. And what we definitely definitely won't be doing is faking orgasms in order to cover up the issue.

Being open with our sexual partners is essential. While you may worry you could be hurting your lover’s feelings when addressing the orgasm gap, in the long term you really are doing them a favour.

Once you and your lover are on the same page, you can work together to make sure you both know exactly how to get each other off.

Get to know the clitoris

The clitoris is an integral part of pleasure when you have a vulva. It's absolutely packed to the rafters with nerve-endings and is said to be the only human body part purely evolved for pleasure.

If you are struggling to bring your vulva-owning lover to orgasm, clitoral stimulation is your best bet for success. Rather than trying to push them over the edge with internal stimulation, why not try licking their clitoris, or stroking it with a few lubed-up fingers? Or better yet, treat them to the sensual buzz of a clitoral vibrator.

Vulva owners, you aren’t off the hook either. If your lover is struggling to get you off, rather than get frustrated it’s important to try to guide them and educate them about your body. This may mean doing a little homework and really exploring your own clitoris. Takje a look at our guide from sexologist Chantelle Otten to learn more about masturbating your vulva.

See sex toys as friends not foes

Bustle's sex surveyof 500 millennial women found that 18% are hesitant to bring a sex toy into the bedroom because they are worried it will bruise their partner's ego. Unfortunately, we hear this kind of rhetoric a lot in the sexual pleasure industry.

In order to level the playing field when it comes to coming, we all need to let go of the idea that sex toys are our sexual rivals. No matter how crazy good they get, at the end of the day sex toys are just tools, tools which can make our lives easier.

While it's fantastic when our lovers can bring us to orgasm with just their fingers, this climax is no better or more impressive than one brought on by a vibrator.

Do yourself a favour and make friends with your lover’s sex toys – you're on the same team!

Toys for her pleasure

Introducing toys, such as clitoral suckers or vibrators, into your fun could be the answer to closing the orgasm gap. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or seeing a range of partners it’s totally cool to whip out a vibrator when you’re hooking up – just make sure it’s squeaky clean first.

Fancy adding extra spice to reverse cowgirl or doggy style? Add a wand vibrator into the mix, by holding it against her clitoris while you have sex.

Or, put all the focus on her by inserting a rabbit vibrator into her vagina. Not only will the firm shaft massage her internal hot spots, but the ingenious bunny ears stimulate her clitoris, upping the chances of achieving that big O.

Closing the Orgasm Gapframe 3

Discover some of our best-selling toys for her:

Together we can close the orgasm gap

While we may feel far away from closing other equality milestones between men and women, like the wage gap, the orgasm gap can be fixed. We just need to be upfront with the problem.

Whether you identify as a man or a woman, you have the power to do your bit to close the orgasm gap once and for all! It all starts with communication and advocating for your own and your lover’s pleasure.

Remember, if you or your lover are struggling to reach orgasm there is nothing to be ashamed of. You may just need to change your tactics, invest in some sex toys or introduce yourself to the mighty clitoris to achieve that satisfying sexual climax.

For more sexual advice, check out our advice guides. We also have a whole podcast about the orgasm gap, which you can listen to here.

Violet

Written by Violet. Lovehoney Editorial Team
Violet joined Lovehoney's writing team in 2019 as our lingerie aficionado.
Violet is also an avid sex toy collector and co-host of The Sexual Happiness Podcast

Originally published on Aug 16, 2022. Updated on Aug 15, 2022
Share