Column: orgasm gap


Have you ever heard of the orgasm gap? It describes the difference between men and women (excuse my binary writing) in the number of orgasms they have, while having sex. When it comes to heterosexual contacts, the percentage of men reaching an orgasm is much higher than the percentage of women reaching an orgasm. With lesbian sexual contacts both women get an orgasm much more often. Something doesn’t add up here! You could say that:

  • with heterosexual contacts, sex is more focused on men than on women.
  • men are more assertive in giving directions in what arouses them and what they need to reach an orgasm.
  • heterosexual sex is often focused on penetration, and although this is perfectly stimulating for men to reach an orgasm, most women don’t find this stimulating enough.
  • women should be more assertive about the things they need and want.
  • women should get to know their bodies better to know what they enjoy and what their bodies react to.
  • women, men, and people in general deserve the same amount of attention when it comes to sex.
  • everyone has the right to get aroused.

You could say all of the above – and nothing would be unrealistic or surreal – but what I also find important to stress here is that sex isn’t about having orgasms, or who finishes more often. Sex is about equality, arousal, knowing your own body, and discovering someone else’s body. Sex is about being allowed to be curious, about intimacy and love.

There is a challenge however in the orgasm gap discussion, or in the feministic movement that is fighting for the right to have an orgasm: it is extremely important to decide what part of the discussion you emphasize. Do you think it is important women and men have the same number of orgasms? Do you think women have the right to have orgasms? Do you think people have to be more assertive? That women have to know their own bodies better? Do you think that a bedpartner is responsible for a woman reaching an orgasm? And do you think sex isn’t complete until you’ve reached an orgasm?

Or would you like to see that both women and men enjoy sex equally? And people focus more on alternative ways of having sex than just penetration to satisfy female pleasure? That penetrative sex isn’t the norm any longer (which it isn’t for so many people already), and masturbation and oral sex are seen as full-blown sex.

If you emphasize the former, there is a risk of making it even harder to reach an orgasm for women who already find that difficult, because there is even more pressure on it now: apparently sex isn’t good enough if you can’t reach an orgasm. Apparently, they aren’t assertive enough. Apparently, they don’t know they bodies well enough. Apparently, their partner isn’t focused on their pleasure enough. Apparently, their partner doesn’t know them well enough. And apparently, they have failed, or they will fail if they won’t reach an orgasm the next time they have sex. No pressure, please!

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