The Orgasm Gap
The orgasm gap is the consistent empirical finding that during heterosexual sex, men have more orgasms than women do. Which is ironic, considering that people with vulvas have an anatomical structure whose only function is to provide pleasure: the clitoris. Then why is it that people with vulvas have a harder time experiencing orgasms than people with penises?
SPOILER ALERT 1: it has nothing do with people with vulvas being defective or failures, or vulvas being more complicated than penises.
SPOILER ALERT 2: we are not machines that need to be
“fixed” and sex shouldn’t -or doesn’t have to- be focused on productivity (e.g. how many orgasms did you have, how quickly did you have them, etc.).
The reason why people with vulvas have a hard time having orgasms has a lot to do the societal beliefs about sex that we have internalized. For example, many of us have learned and followed the same societal script for sex: first, we engage in foreplay, just the necessary amount of time to get the vulva lubricated and ready for penetration; second, we attempt penetration; third: the person with a penis has an orgasm, which marks the end of sex. No wonder people with vulvas are having no orgasms— or at least, fewer orgasms than people with penises! Not experiencing orgasms if there is not external clitoris stimulation is the norm rather than a defect.
And, I should add: touching the clitoris for a few minutes probably won’t cut it; the average amount of time that takes people with vulvas to have an orgasm is about 20 minutes. Although, who is counting!?
How do we start closing the orgasm gap?
If we want to experience more pleasure, a big part of the work has to do with identifying our values, attitudes, beliefs and feelings about sex and reflecting on where they come from (family, friends, religion, porn, mainstream media, etc.), which gives us a chance to take a step back and choose how we want to relate to sex. As Emily Nagoski, author and sex educator, says,
“Treat cultural messages about sex and your body like a salad bar. Take only the things that appeal to you and ignore the rest.”
How different would sex be if the script involved external clitoris stimulation, masturbation, and open communication about sex? How much better would sex be if we didn’t worry about performing and we could instead focus on exploring and being present in the moment? I can bet people would be experiencing so much pleasure that they wouldn’t have to chase orgasms; they would inevitably (and joyfully) happen!
If we want to experience more pleasure during sex, we should try to avoid thinking about achieving orgasms as a goal. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way of having an orgasm is by NOT focusing on having orgasms as a goal. It is just like the familiar expression about focusing on the journey
instead of the destination. If the journey involves exploring our pleasure, and then transferring those skills to sex with a partner by communicating our preferences, then we’ll naturally get to our destination!
P.S. I want to acknowledge that in certain cases there might be other issues that can lead to problems with orgasms: medications, mental health issues, problems in a romantic relationships, sexual trauma, etc. Especially in those instances, I would recommend consulting with a sex therapist.