Why do men have more orgasms than women in heterosexual relationships?

The author is a researcher-analyst for the Sex in Canada Project at McMaster University and the SUMMIT Project at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario.

Sexuality researchers have found that men have more orgasms than women in heterosexual intercourse.

This is called the orgasm gender gap, or orgasmic gap. There are many myths and speculations as to what explains this difference. Some of the most common include that women prolong orgasm, that they don’t care to have an orgasm, that making them cum requires more work, and that they are harder to please.

But does female orgasm really take a lot of effort, and if not, why is this belief so widespread?

Canadian Sexuality Research

I recently published, in collaboration with sociologists Tina Fetner and Melanie Heath, a study that challenges these assumptions about women’s ability and desire to achieve orgasm.

We used data from our nationally representative Sex in Canada survey to see that there was a gender gap in orgasms – 86% of cisgender men said they had an orgasm during their last heterosexual intercourse, compared to 62% of cisgender men who women.

What can help reduce the gap in our sample? Oral sex.

Women’s need for clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm has been documented by many sexuality researchers, but it is unclear why the orgasmic gap persists even when this information is known.

To better understand the situation, we conducted in-depth interviews with adult men and women across Canada to examine the beliefs and feelings that prevent couples from engaging in the types of sexual activity that allow women achieve orgasm more easily.

gender essentialism

One of the main myths that help maintain the orgasmic gap is that there are natural differences between men and women in what they seek in sex. Women naturally desire emotional connection, and men desire physical release.

Thus, it is considered that, for a woman, to feel emotionally connected to her partner and to achieve orgasm can be the same, a look away from the new.

This view stems from what social scientists call “gender essentialism,” that is, the belief that there are natural, biological, and physical differences between men and women.

Essentialist beliefs are used to justify various inequalities between men and women, such as perpetuating the idea that women’s place is at home and men’s place is at work.

If one takes an essentialist look at facial value, one would argue that women don’t want to reach orgasm because they value emotional connection more than sexual pleasure. But is it true that they don’t want to orgasm when they have sex with a man?

Our research suggests that female orgasm myths have less to do with women’s inability or lack of desire to orgasm than how gender expectations are shaped and limited.

The role of heteronormativity

The orgasm gap is not only about gender, it is also about heteronormativity. Our participants described a “normal sexual relationship” as entering the vagina through the penis, meaning that their sexuality was centered on arousing the penis rather than the clitoris.

Our study showed that heteronormative sexual intercourse means that other sexual acts that provide the privilege of arousing the clitoris — such as oral sex — are considered complementary to the primary act.

This means they are seen as special, requiring more effort, time and even more of a challenge, even if they increase a woman’s chances of reaching orgasm.

Negative view of a sexuality that satisfies women

The belief that fornication is a matter of “emotional connection” for women and the definition of “fornication” as entering the vagina through the genitals has the effect of limiting women’s sexual acts. It also influences their perception of other sexual acts.

For example, some of those interviewed described other sexual activities, including oral sex, as unnatural, evil, or unclean.

This is what one of our participants, Kathy, said: “I don’t engage in oral sex. It may be very nice, but not good, I feel dirty. »

The reluctance of women to perform sexual acts that give them more physical pleasure shows the strength of the double standard of sexuality that makes women more harshly judged than men and educated. to control their desires, and their sexual nature.

Sexuality is on the agenda of the struggle for gender equality

Beliefs about women’s bodies, what they want from sex, and even what it’s all about sex can help justify why women can’t reach orgasm when they have sex with a man. .

The struggles for gender equality challenge and reject many essentialist views. But the enduring orgasmic divide suggests that essentialist ideas still influence the course of heterosexual intercourse.

The Orgasmic Gap highlights how gender inequality is even in the most intimate and personal moments of heterosexual relationships.

As with other forms of disparity, it is important to go beyond individual explanations to understand that the orgasm gap is a form of gender inequality.

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