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.