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Guess What’s Closing the Orgasm Gap

Guess What’s Closing the Orgasm Gap: © Franco Vogt/CORBIS

© Franco Vogt/CORBIS

In 1994 the first nationally representative sex survey was conducted in the United States, and its results made a big splash. Among other things the National Health and Social Life Survey pointed to the existence of a sizeable “orgasm gap” between the sexes.

Seventy-five percent of men reported that they always have an orgasm with their partner, compared to just 29 percent of women. That’s right. Men were two-and-a-half times more likely to report consistent orgasms.

A lot of men appeared to be unaware of this gap, which is interesting considering how many of them overestimated the percentage of time that their female partners were climaxing. In fact, nearly half of the guys (44 percent) thought that their partners were orgasming all the time when less than one-third of women were doing so in reality!

Of course, we don’t know if that’s because these guys were simply oblivious or if their partners were fooling them by faking it. Either way, the size of this discrepancy is a bit concerning.

Flash forward a few decades and the latest sex surveys show that the orgasm gap persists, although it seems to have shrunk a bit. For instance, in a national sex study published in 2010 in which Americans were asked whether they had an orgasm the most recent time they had sex, 85 percent of men said yes versus 64 percent of women.

That’s progress, but we’re still a ways off from orgasm equality.

In light of this, a growing amount of attention has been paid to what we can do to narrow this gap even further.

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution here because research has found that there are a lot of different things that contribute to the orgasm gap. Our sexual practices are part of the issue. Women are much more likely to reach orgasm when they receive oral sex, but it turns out that women don’t receive oral sex nearly as often as men. In other words, we have an oral sex gap, too, and that’s part of the problem.

A heterosexual woman’s odds of orgasm also depend upon things like how many times she’s had sex with the same partner and how she feels about him.

However, in looking across the many factors that are linked to the orgasm gap, perhaps the biggest is an underlying knowledge gap. A lot of women and men simply aren’t familiar enough with female sexual anatomy or what brings women pleasure, likely because this isn’t something they were ever taught in school.

Sex education classes cover the male orgasm. But the female orgasm? Not so much.

Thankfully, we have the Internet — and a generation savvy enough to use it to give people the knowledge they need to close the orgasm gap once and for all.

Last year we saw the launch of a Tumblr project entitled “How To Make Me Come,” a collection of dozens of personal essays written by real women about how they reach orgasm.

Many female readers will find that they can relate to these stories, while many male readers will pick up some lessons and tips along the way.

Going a step further is a new website, OMGYES, which is introducing virtual vulvas in order to help men and women alike learn what they didn’t get from sex ed.

For a one-time flat fee of $29, OMGYES offers users unlimited access to its instructional videos and “touchable technology.” This includes simulations of actual vulvas that you can literally touch and rub with your fingers on the screen of your smartphone or tablet.

Thousands of photos of real women’s vulvas were used to create each simulation with the goal of making a product that looks extremely realistic but is also responsive to your touch. Real women’s preferences are built in, too, thereby enabling the site to provide you with audio feedback on whether your motions and movements are likely to represent good touch or bad touch.

The founders of OMGYES hope that, with a little practice, users will learn some new techniques that they’ll feel confident enough trying out with a real-life partner.

While websites and apps of this nature are undoubtedly a very positive development, I should caution that we can’t close the orgasm gap with technology alone. Virtual vulvas can only teach so much, and no amount of technology is a replacement for effective sexual communication.

Also, with all of this talk about the importance of closing the orgasm gap, please avoid the temptation to conclude that sex without orgasm is necessarily bad or that everyone “should” be having orgasms all of the time.

Yes, of course, orgasms are great, and we’d probably all be happier if we had a lot more of them, but don’t succumb to the orgasmic imperative and put pressure on each other to have them. All that does is take the fun out of sex.

Instead, relax. Build up your sexual knowledge base, communicate with your partner, and make mutual pleasure the only agenda. To the extent that you do, mutual orgasm is likely to follow.


Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.


RELATED: Full Body Orgasms Don’t Need a Physical Touch


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