SCIENCE

Closing the Pleasure Gap

21 March, 2022

As we close out Women’s History Month, a time when we celebrate progress and refocus on what still needs to change, we would be remiss not to discuss a vital area where women are still being left behind - the bedroom (or couch, kitchen counter, back alley, whatever you’re into). Women are having far fewer orgasms than their male counterparts.

To some, inequality in the bedroom might not seem as important as inequality in the boardroom, but we disagree. The orgasm is arguably one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it is also so much more. The orgasm is considered a sign of healthy sexuality as well as the mark of a strong intimate relationship. And out of all the gaps women are working to close, the one that is too often overlooked is the pleasure gap.

While the pleasure gap has been gaining some attention recently, and we now have studies and subject matter experts to look to for answers, too many women are still suffering - and not coming - in silence. Too many women have accepted a sub-par sex life. And too many women think the problem lies within. Well, the time has come (pun intended) to both expose and close the pleasure gap.

“Not surprisingly, the largest gap is between heterosexual men and heterosexual women. In heterosexual cisgender sexual encounters, men are reaching climax almost 100% of the time and women just over half.

What Is the Pleasure Gap?

The pleasure gap refers to the discrepancy in orgasm frequency among different subsets of the sexually active population. Simply put, some people are climaxing much more often than others. Before we get into the unsettling statistics behind the pleasure gap, we must first explain that there are actually two pleasure gaps women are dealing with:

Solo play vs. partnered play.
Queer sex vs. straight sex.

Studies show that women are far more likely to orgasm when they are alone or when they have sex with another woman as opposed to with a man. For men, on the other hand, the orgasm rate is consistent across sexual orientations. So, it appears that the issue comes into play when you combine a vulva and a penis, leaving heterosexual cis women on the wrong side of the pleasure gap.

Pause for some key definitions. “Cis-women” (or cisgender women) refers to those who identify as a female and their assigned sex at birth was female. And “vulva” is the correct term to describe all the external female sex organs, instead of the term “vagina,” which leaves out fundamental players in female pleasure (looking at you, clitoris).

How wide is the pleasure gap exactly? Well, a popular study revealed that 60% of women usually or always orgasm during solo sex, compared to only 29% during partnered sex. And when it comes to partnered sex, orgasm frequency depends greatly on sexual preference. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showed the breakdown of orgasm frequency across genders and sexualities:

Heterosexual men - 95%
Gay men - 89%
Bisexual men - 88%
Lesbian women - 86%
Bisexual women - 66%
Heterosexual women - 65%

Not surprisingly, the largest gap is between heterosexual men and heterosexual women. This means that in heterosexual cisgender sexual encounters, men are reaching climax almost 100% of the time and women just over half.

“I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that. I have a friend who’s never had an orgasm in her life. In her life! That hurts my heart.” - Nicki Minaj

What’s Causing The Pleasure Gap?

The reason for the pleasure gap is complicated. There is a lot more going on between two people during sex than the physical act itself. Everyone brings with them into the bedroom their beliefs about sex, knowledge (or lack thereof) about what elicits pleasure, and a whole bunch of insecurities and expectations. All of which can contribute to the pleasure gap.

Let’s explore three major driving forces behind the pleasure gap: culture, biology, and psychology.

Culture

The pleasure gap is deeply rooted in our culture; a culture that, according to psychologist and professional sex therapist Laurie Mintz, overvalues penetrative sex. “We use the words sex and intercourse synonymously, and relegate clitoral stimulation to “foreplay” or that which comes before the main act of intercourse,” she writes in an article for Psychology Today. “We commonly mislabel women’s genitals by the one part (the vagina) that gives men, but not women, reliable orgasms.”

This over focus on penetrative sex has resulted in prioritizing the male orgasm over the female orgasm. A recent study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal revealed that both men and women believe that men are more entitled to orgasm during sex.

Perhaps this is because, historically, female pleasure hasn’t gotten near the medical or academic attention that male sexual pleasure has received. That’s why we recently released the world’s first medical illustrations of female sexual arousal. After all, knowledge is power and we’re all about empowering female pleasure.

“The clitoris, quite possibly the most misunderstood sexual organ while simultaneously the most important to female pleasure.”

Biology

The focus on penetrative sex has also overshadowed the real key to female orgasms - the clitoris, quite possibly the most misunderstood sexual organ while simultaneously the most important to female pleasure. A study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy reported that only 18% of American women stated vaginal penetration alone could make them orgasm, while more than one-third (37%) needed clitoral stimulation in order climax, and an additional 36% said that clitoral stimulation made their orgasms better.

We simply cannot close the pleasure gap without changing focus to the clitoris. That’s why we created a pleasure serum to help relax both your clitoral smooth muscle tissue as well as your vaginal muscle tissue, allowing for more blood flow, which in turn promotes more frequent and more intense orgasms.

Psychology

Biology and cultural standards aside, the pleasure gap comes down to communication, and women just aren’t speaking up in the bedroom. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that 58.8% of women had faked an orgasm. The study also looked at the reasons women don’t communicate more with their partners about what they want during sex, so they don’t have to pretend to orgasm. The most common reason (42.4%) was they didn’t want to hurt their partner's feelings. Other popular answers were not feeling comfortable getting detailed (40.2%) and embarrassed to bring it up at all (37.7%).

Closing The Pleasure Gap

Closing the pleasure gap will take time and patience. The collective gap can only close one couple, one sexual encounter, and one person at a time. Your role in this movement is simple (albeit not always easy) - take control of your pleasure.

Here are three strategies to help you close your pleasure gap.

1. Turn Inward

A major benefit of orgasms is stress relief, but sometimes stress is what stands in your way of reaching an orgasm. Whether it’s a body scan meditation or some light yoga, find ways to center and quiet your mind before having sex.

And if you need some help de-stressing, look no further than your smartphone. There are now apps dedicated to helping you reconnect with your sexuality. We especially love the Blueheart app, but there are many others, including Coral, Ferly, Emjoy, and Rosy.

2. Tune Into Your Body

It’s important that you understand your body and what works for you. Whether you experiment with sex toys or vibrators, try our pleasure serum, or use an app that offers guided self-exploration, find a way to identify what your body likes and how you react to different kinds of touch.

“I didn’t begin enjoying sex until I started masturbating.” - Eva Longoria

3. Tune Your Partner In

When you feel comfortable, share your newly acquired knowledge about your body with your partner. Share what you like and give instructions on what you want. If you (or your partner) feel too vulnerable to do this during sex, then take the conversation outside the bedroom. Do whatever makes the most sense for your relationship.

Also, keep experimenting. Sex with a partner will always be different than self-exploration. Once your lines of communication are open, begin to try new things together. A study conducted by OMGYes and researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine uncovered four ways women can increase pleasure from vaginal penetration: angling, pairing, rocking, and shallowing.

Ultimately, closing the pleasure gap comes down to knowledge, communication, and trust. Build it with yourself first and then you can bring in your partner. Never forget that you own your pleasure, and it is a gift you choose to share.

“Never forget that you own your pleasure, and it is a gift you choose to share.”

Read Vella Voice
Your Bag