The Orgasm Gap

We all deserve a fulfilling and enjoyable sex life. Being with someone with whom you can communicate your needs and desires is quite the aphrodisiac. And we know that a good, healthy sex life is not *just* about the number of orgasms you have. But studies show that there’s a notable difference between the number of orgasms men and women are having in heterosexual relationships. 

What is the orgasm gap? How has it become so prevalent? How much is it about knowing the female form? What can we do to bridge the gap and enable more consistent female pleasure? 

‘The orgasm gap’ refers to the disparity between men and women experiencing orgasms. It is also referred to as ‘the pleasure gap’, as great sex shouldn’t  just be focused on reaching climax, but pleasure during sex doesn’t always factor in the straight female experience.  

This disparity between the frequency with which men versus women orgasm, sits at roughly 30%. While 95% of men report reaching orgasm during heteronormative, partnered sex, only 65% of women do. That latter figure drops to just 18% when women have casual sex.

Consider this contrast; during masturbation, 95% of women orgasm compared to 39% of women during heterosexual sex, so it’s something all women can and should enjoy more! 

Studies have found that Lesbian and bisexual women have significantly more orgasms than heterosexual women, and it could be down to a lack of understanding when it comes to female anatomy and the vulva. 

YouGov carried out a survey, which showed that Britons are worryingly uninformed about female genitalia, and that women are almost as unaware as men. Those surveyed were asked to label a diagram of female genitalia to the best of their abilities. 59% of men and 45% of women could not even label the vagina. It’s an eye-opening report and well worth a read.

With these sorts of figures in mind, it’s alarmingly clear how much we need to push female anatomy into education - for everyone’s sake. Imagine the benefits in the long term. Brittney McNamara, Teen Vogue’s Identity Editor couldn’t have put it better:

“Closing the pleasure gap should be a priority for so many reasons. It is, of course, important that we recognize that people of all genders have the right to feel good, but making pleasure more equitable is also about removing stigma, educating ourselves about our own bodies, and exercising our own agency. The more we understand what does and doesn’t make us feel good, the more prepared we are to make healthy and educated choices in all parts of life — including our sex lives. The process of that education isn’t shameful, it’s necessary.”

From a commercial aspect, the fact that the sexual wellness industry is now worth over £25bn and is set to be worth more than £65bn in 5 years is an undeniable reason for many people to really pay attention to the business of sexual wellness and female pleasure, dispelling any scepticism about how important sexual wellness is. But we are talking about an endemic societal narrative going back generation after generation. It’s not just going to be fixed by the FT saying it matters.

Laurie Mintz Ph.D. wrote about the Orgasm Gap for Psychology Today  and said: “I am not blaming penises for the orgasm gap, nor am I blaming the men who own them. I’m also not blaming the women who have sex with the men who own them. The orgasm gap is a cultural problem.”

When you add the undeniable value and impact of the porn industry into the mix, it’s hard to ignore what a role it plays in sex education. 95% of porn films are focused on male pleasure and more people use Pornhub than Google. Children are watching porn at an increasingly younger age to discover and learn, unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. This use amongst children and young adults is leading to a worrying lack of female pleasure. An increasing number of porn outlets now have a category or filter to show ‘female pleasure’ as a search term. Although this could be considered a move forward, the fact that female pleasure is considered a niche is still pretty shocking. Because really, what feels better than mutual, intimate satisfaction with a partner?

We respect male satisfaction in just about every walk of life, and as the generations before us, we have been brought up to recognise and respect the importance of male pleasure - it’s inherent in our culture and society. To give the same respect and attention to female pleasure would be a direct balancing act towards an equal footing for us all. 

So what do we do about this gap?

Surely we are ready for the societal benefits of this equality? We can certainly speak for ourselves as women more than ready to balance the playing field.

“If our pleasure was treated with the same respect, if our bodies were given as much care, and less of a blatant objectification, I genuinely believe we would see a kinder, more considered and generally more pleasant society.” 

Lucy Litwack, Owner and CEO, Coco de Mer.

So, we talk about it. Education is key. Communication in all forms is vital. 

Empowering children to know their equal and individual worth from the beginning plays a huge role in future mindsets. We need to normalise female pleasure as much as we do male pleasure, from family talks, to school rooms, to Hollywood. Those cult teen films? We need them to empower the heroines, just as much as they do the heroes.

In 2020, Teen Vogue and Case For Her collaborated to create ‘Play for Pleasure’ a brief for the New Blood Awards, encouraging the next generation of creatives to bring the pleasure gap to light in an evocative way. The results were incredibly inspiring and well worth a look. 

Sex education in schools has improved but it needs to keep pace with trends in sexual practices in order to safeguard young people’s health and to support them in increasing their sexual well-being. So much is focused on the negatives - don’t get pregnant, don’t get a STI - or the basics of ‘managing’ a female body - periods, tampons, all the fun bits.

But it gets better. Secondary school pupils are starting to receive classes on relationships and sex, including education about the ‘catastrophic’ damage caused by FGM, the risks of sexting, online grooming, domestic violence and forced marriage. Pupils will be told that FGM is illegal. The benefits of this approach are seen in the nation’s economy beyond birth rate statistics. Improved gender dynamics, less domestic violence, increased sexual health and well-being, and less depression are all benefits. 

It can be really hard for parents to know how to approach sex ed, most people will remember those teenage talks and shudder slightly, no doubt. But having an open conversation, making children feel that they can discuss anything paves the way for further education at school - and ensures that self respect is taught from a young age. Boys need to be taught by their mothers - you disrespect any girl, you disrespect me. And fathers need to support that actively.

How does one make the shift in an adult relationship?

On a basic level, we all know the difference an orgasm makes to our mood, not to mention the undeniable feeling of intimacy. The flow of endorphins has a clear impact on our physical wellness, an increased heart rate is always a bonus…

Our hard rule? NO FAKING IT. 

Partners aren’t mind readers. If they think you liked it, they will do the same again. By faking it, you can feel like it is the socially more honourable thing to do, especially those with a people pleaser mentality. In popular culture, faking orgasms are often portrayed as comedic, a hilarious inside joke between women, but more fool you ladies, you haven’t got the pleasure you deserve. A lack of pleasure is not funny!

It can be hard to tell someone what you need when you are not even sure yourself. Knowing what works for you is a great starting point for you and a partner to expand your sexual boundaries and explore new sensations together. Knowing the stats on masturbation and the notable success rate, introducing masturbation, and toys, to your regular sexual activity can see a real difference in your level of satisfaction. Loving yourself is the first step to a happy and satisfying relationship with a partner. 

Make a list of the things that bring you pleasure; set your sights on something you want to experience. Set your own goals, be it trying something new, honing your orgasmic experiences, or even just being more open with your partner. Don’t be scared of being judged, or worry about being embarrassed. Insecurities can block pleasure, but confidence and desire is sexy, so embrace the complexity of sexual pleasure. 

A few ways we would suggest closing your pleasure gap and enjoying a more mutual intimacy…

Take time to play

Self discovery is key to it all. Lean into what feels good for you... Try things, don’t be shy - it’s amazing what you can discover with a little curiosity - and have fun! Your partner will take so much pleasure seeing you enjoy yourself.

Female arousal is an all-encompassing event. We are sexually aroused by multiple stimulations - auditory, olfactory, touch and emotion. Take a look at our Sensory Pleasures piece for more inspiration on this.

Toys can help you embark on the extraordinary journey to experiencing pleasure. Our range of toys will delight every sense, with indulgent textures, different forms of vibration and suction, non-vibrating glass or silicone, intimate jewellery - all of the most luxurious quality. 

We have a specific curation of couple’s toys online, perfectly curated and expertly designed for elevating those experiences with a partner. 

Take note

The perfect erotic indulgence, our bespoke salons are designed to teach you (and your partner) to make discoveries, explore your desires and embrace the complexity of pleasure in an environment that is welcoming, empowering and indulgent. Each focuses on a different topic, some educating students in the skill of spanking and others in the fine art of fellatio or the mysterious delights of female ejaculation. Our Pleasing the Petals Salon is specifically dedicated to the pleasure of cunnilingus and how to provide the most pleasure to a woman. Book in now and feel inspired like never before.

But remember, no faking it. Pleasure is power.