The Orgasm Gap Dilemma

The Orgasm Gap Dilemma

Our current roman empire is Lady Gaga’s recent performance spelling out exactly what her 2008 hit song Poker Face was really about. In the 90 second clip, she is playing the piano singing the alternate lyrics, “Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face — ooo yea right there baby.” It turns out Poker Face is an anthem about faking orgasms. 

The orgasm gap is defined as “the difference in the number of orgasms men and women report during straight sex.” When asked how often they orgasm during sex, 95% of heterosexual men said they usually or always climax. In contrast, 65% of heterosexual women said they usually or always orgasm. LGBTQ+ women don’t experience the same gap. 89% of gay men, 88% of bisexual men, 86% of lesbian women, and 66% of bisexual women said they usually or always orgasm when sexually intimate. The results are in: straight women are having the least orgasms during sex. 

So why does this orgasm gap exist? First and foremost, the gap starts with bad sex-ed. Most high school sex-ed curriculums split up classes by gender and focus on teaching how a baby is made “the sperm meets the egg,” yada, yada. Do you remember ever learning what a clitoris was? I sure don’t. And considering that as of 2019, medical textbooks still inaccurately represent the nerves and vasculature of the clitoris, I guarantee that the boys' health class was not learning that it’s the pleasure center of the female body. I’m thinking this is a need-to-know for guys before they’re off to college, and certainly for medical textbooks. 

The orgasm gap begins to form well before many of us are having penetrative sex. In 2015, high school lunch tables were filled with gossip of who gave who a blow job last weekend, but I can’t remember one occasion of hearing of a guy going down on a girl before college. As teenagers we were already being conditioned to believe that our pleasure was secondary to our male counterparts. Winx Health (formerly known as Stix) recently conducted an Instagram poll asking our followers if they think oral sex is treated the same way for men and women. Ninety-seven percent of the 146 responders said no

Do you ever find yourself performing a little in bed? It’s not just you sis, this is a common problem, and it happens to be a cause of the orgasm gap. Focusing on the male gaze, instead of your own pleasure also widens the gap. If you’ve never heard of it, the male gaze is a term used to depict how women are presented as objects of male pleasure. The term was first coined by Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Mulvey argued that in film, women are typically portrayed in a way that satisfies male fantasy, often through a voyeuristic or fetishistic lens. Even Poor Things, the 2024 movie about how men view and desire to control women, seemed to do this. 

Unfortunately, because women have been conditioned to tie their worth to the male gaze, sex itself becomes a performance. We are so worried about how we look, smell and taste that we have a hard time being present at all. How are you going to orgasm when you’re wondering if your stomach looks flat enough during cowgirl?! 

The more performative sex becomes, the less connected we are to ourselves, to our pleasure and to our partners. This only entrenches our belief that not having an orgasm is just a part of the sexual landscape. Learning how to let go of performance and focusing instead on sensation, on what feels good, is an important step towards closing the orgasm gap. It opens room for authentic exploration of mutual satisfaction.

Another cause of the gap? Faking orgasms. Why do women fake orgasms? It’s often because we are worried about disappointing our sexual partners, we want to make them feel empowered, or we believe there’s something “wrong” with us because we’re not climaxing. We get into our heads and quickly give up, rather than understanding that pleasure is a journey and takes time. 

The deeper problem with faking it is that you’re sending the wrong message to your partner. Ultimately, faking an orgasm is self-sabotage. If your partner then thinks that X makes you come, they will continue to do that, you may continue to fake, and thus the never-ending cycle occurs. I was recently listening to a podcast that shared the reddit story of a woman that accidentally peed while having sex with her new boyfriend and passed it off as squirting. He became determined to make her squirt every time they slept together, and she started intentionally peeing whenever they had sex. She put on a performance that first time and every subsequent time after- it seemed impossible to stop. This is an extreme example, sure, but perfectly illustrates how women can put performance above pleasure, and f**k ourselves over in the long run. 

After all, if the best relationships are founded on strong communication, why would you lie and set yourself up for failure? And if it were the other way around, would you want your partner to lie to you about their orgasms? Even though it may feel uncomfortable, it’s never too late to start talking about prioritizing your pleasure. And if you’re with an understanding partner, they should welcome your honesty and be willing to work with you. (Though, understandably, they may be upset if they learn you’ve been urinating on them for the past year.)

Outside of communicating with your partner, it’s important to discover what you like on your own. Grab a vibrator and learn how to give yourself an O. If you know what makes you orgasm, it’s much easier to get there with someone else. And don’t be intimidated to use that vibrator in bed with your partner(s).

If there’s one takeaway, prioritize your own pleasure — with yourself and your partner. Your orgasm matters! Communication really is the key to a better O. It’s been clinically proven that talking about sex increases desire, arousal, orgasms, lubrication, erectile function and decreases pain during sex. Go forth, talk (and rub) it out — let’s close that gap!

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