What is the Orgasm Gap? Why It Still Exists & How to Close It
Hey friends – it’s been a while! But today we’re coming at you with a biiiig topic, and one that we’re pretty passionate about: pleasure equality. Or in other words, we’re teaching you about the orgasm gap: what it is, why it’s so important, and what we can be doing to close it. We’re big advocates for equal access to pleasure for everyone, so we hope you enjoy learning about the pleasure gap and why we care about it so much!
What is the Orgasm Gap?
Simply put, the “orgasm gap” is a term that portrays the discrepancy between how often people with penises are experiencing orgasm in heterosexual relationships compared to people with vulvas.
In layman’s terms: how many more orgasms penis-owners are having than vulva-owners.
How big is the orgasm gap, really?
There have been a ton of studies & surveys done to get a real look into what the orgasm gap looks like in relationships based on sex, gender, and sexual orientation – and the numbers are staggering.
One study done by the International Society for Sexual Medicine, surveyed a sample of nearly 3,000 heterosexual singles (close to a 50/50 spread of males & females). They asked participants what percentage of the time they experienced orgasm when having sex with a familiar partner (meaning not just a one-time hookup), and the mean rate of orgasm was 62.9% among single women versus a whopping 85.1% among single men.
I mean – if those numbers don’t speak for themselves, I don’t know what will. This is a gap of nearly 25% between how often single males & females experience orgasm, and if you ask us, that is WAY too high!
Another study, done by Laurie Mintz (a leader in the field of human sexuality!) for her book Becoming Cliterate, found that while 91% of men say the had an orgasm the last time they had sex, only 64% of women said the same – and 50% of women ages 18-35 said they usually have trouble reaching orgasm with a partner. This further shows just how substantial the difference is between the pleasure that heterosexual women & men experience in their sexual relationships and how big the gap is!
Is the orgasm gap higher/lower in different types of sexual relationships?
This is a great question and one that is super important to look at when it comes to learning about the orgasm gap. When it comes to heterosexual relationships, the gap is far larger than the orgasm rates of women who masturbate and women who engage in lesbian sex as opposed to heterosexual sex.
The same study we mentioned above, found that the mean rate of orgasm for lesbian women increased to 74.7%, compared to the 61.6% rate for heterosexual women. This means that women who were in a lesbian relationship experienced around 13% more orgasms, which is significant when you look at the fact that the rate of heterosexual male orgasms was 85.5%, a number that barely differed from the rate for gay men, which was 84.7%.
Now why is the orgasm gap higher in heterosexual relationships than in lesbian relationships, you may ask?
It’s simple: heterosexual sex tends to have a focus on penetration and an expectation for women to orgasm from penetration alone, while lesbian sex tends to focus more on the clitoris & incorporating external stimulation as well as internal. People with vulvas tend to know what feels good about the clitoris and the levels of pleasure it can bring, so when they engage in lesbian sex, they’re more familiar with the anatomy of their partner and what’s most likely to bring them to orgasm.
Want to learn more about sapphic (“women-loving-women”) sex & how to have it in a way that’s safe, AND feels good? Check out our Sapphic Sex 101 blog post!
Why is the Orgasm Gap So Important?
The orgasm gap is such an important topic when it comes to sexual empowerment not only because it relates to the unfortunate pleasure inequality between heterosexual partners, but also because it reflects the gender gap as a whole in our society, as well as the way that mainstream media portrays heterosexual relationships.
Think about it: in most movies (especially throughout the 70’s-early 2000’s), sex scenes between a man & a woman usually show the woman being brought to orgasm solely through vaginal penetration. Same thing in most mainstream porn – women are most commonly experiencing orgasm via penetration alone. And the combination of this portrayal across media and in the world of porn makes for such a misrepresentation of female pleasure that it would be nearly impossible for the orgasm gap NOT to exist!
When men are only seeing examples of women experiencing orgasm through penetration, then they assume that their female partners will no doubt experience orgasm through penetration, too. It may not even cross their mind that there’s another way to do it, or that many women actually can’t be brought to orgasm through penetration alone – hence why it is so important to get familiar with the clitoris AND to break the stigma around actually talking about female pleasure. If it were talked about more, chances are that more women would feel comfortable telling their partners that they’re not orgasming from penetration, and need stimulation to their clit, too!
And when women a) don’t believe they deserve pleasure, b) don’t know how to use external stimulation to help bring themselves to orgasm, and/or c) aren’t comfortable telling their male partners that they’re not being brought to orgasm through penetration, the gap continues to increase.
Many adults have been taught to believe – be it through media, religion, or past experiences – that male pleasure should be prioritized. Oftentimes, men have also been conditioned to believe that it’s somehow their fault or the fault of their penis if their female partner doesn’t experience orgasm from penetration – and that is far from the truth! The ego can get in the way here, big-time. If men were taught just how few women actually experience orgasm from penetration alone, they would know that it’s through no fault of their own, and that they are no less “masculine” (thanks, toxic masculinity!) – and that it’s pretty dang normal for a woman to need external stimulation, too.
How You Can Work to Close the Orgasm Gap
Now that you know what the orgasm gap is and why we care so much about it, let’s talk about how you can find ways to close it in your own life & sexual relationships.
Spend time discovering what feels good to you
First and foremost, the best way to close the orgasm gap is for everyone who is sexually active to figure out what they enjoy! If you’re having partnered sex or are interested in having it in the near future, you can use masturbation as a tool for helping you discover what you like, what you don’t like, what you love, and what you hate. Finding what feels good to YOU is the only way you’ll be able to communicate to a partner how they can make you feel good, and you can start closing that gap little by little.
The orgasm gap comes into play when we (most often, people with vulvas) don’t know what we like or what type of play can even bring us to orgasm – or when we do, but our partner doesn’t put any care or effort into wanting to make us feel good. So by engaging in some solo play, where you feel fully safe & comfortable to try things out, you can start to understand what you enjoy most and can bring into future sexual relationships to make sure both you AND your partner have a good time!
If you’re interested in incorporating some toys into your playtime (be it solo or partnered), but aren’t quite sure where to start, we’ve got just the thing for you! Check out our guide to How to Pick a New Toy for all of our best toy-shoppin’ tips.
Our personal favorite when it comes to exploring clit stimulation with a vibrator? The classic Magic Wand Vibrator, of course! This thing has been around FOREVER and is iconic for a reason – we even did a little digging to find out more about the history of the wand in culture + society, and put together a fun blog post about How the Magic Wand Came to Be: What’s All the Buzz About?
Remove the stigma
Despite all the forward progress that our society has made in terms of female sexual empowerment, we’ve still got a LONG way to go. There’s still quite a significant stigma around the female orgasm and female pleasure, so we have to work to remove that before we can truly close the gap. Talk about pleasure with people in your lives that you feel comfortable with, or continue your own journey by reading books, listening to podcasts, or watching media that helps you feel more comfortable around the idea of pleasure. It’s no secret that women can orgasm, too, but for some reason, it’s not as “okay” to talk about as the male orgasm, or how sex benefits men. Little by little, we can break down those barriers that are keeping the topic so hush-hush still in many parts of society!
Know that you deserve pleasure
Yes, you DESERVE pleasure! This is not an affirmation you’ve probably ever heard, but say it with us: I deserve pleasure. I deserve to feel GOOD. If you’re in a partnered relationship, you deserve pleasure just as much as your partner does, whether that means experiencing orgasm or just feeling good in your own body during your sexual experiences. Society has conditioned people with vulvas to believe that pleasure is only for the part of the population that has penises, but that is simply false – and, simply, so outdated.
One of the best ways to learn more about pleasure and feeling good in your body is to read books about empowerment, female pleasure, and healthy sexual relationships, written by experts! Here are some of our personal faves that we have at WinkWink:
Practice voicing what you want, and affirming what you like
Once you’ve started on your journey of finding what you enjoy & what makes you feel good, it’s time to practice voicing it! If you’re in a relationship with a partner you feel safe, comfortable, & familiar with, you can tell them (outside of the bedroom, when you’re not in a super vulnerable state) that you want to work on voicing more of what you want when you have sex. Or just start doing it! When you start to EXPECT pleasure because you know you deserve it, you’ll probably gain the confidence needed to ask for it.
The orgasm gap became a thing in the first place because people with vulvas didn’t feel like they had a right to pleasure, and therefore – simply didn’t ask for it. But when you realize that you DO, absolutely, fully, 100% deserve pleasure, you can step up and ask for it. And when your partner does make you feel good, it’s important to affirm that and tell them that you’re enjoying it! Same with if they’re doing something you don’t enjoy – voice that to them just as clearly so they can learn what you don’t like.
It’s allll about communication and opening the floor up for honest conversation in order to make your sexual relationship BETTER, and more fun for the both of you!
Okay, now can we get to finally closing the orgasm gap already?! We hope you enjoyed learning about what the gap even is, why it matters so much to us as pleasure advocates, and how you can work to close it in your sexual relationships. If you loved this blog post, we’ve got a few more linked below that we think you’ll enjoy, too!