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Just Learning About The Orgasm Gap Improves Women's Sex Lives, Study Shows

Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
May 5, 2019

You're probably familiar with the concept of the orgasm gap, which refers to the gendered orgasm disparity between straight men and women. A whopping 95 percent of straight men orgasm almost every time1 they have sex, compared to just 65 percent of straight women. This isn't the case in non-straight sexual encounters by the way (89 percent of gay men and 86 percent of lesbians get off basically every time they have sex), and 94 percent of women typically climax while masturbating. So clearly this isn't a biology problem.

A lot of the orgasm inequality between straight men and women can be explained by a combination of (1) lack of knowledge of female pleasure, namely how the clitoris works and why it's vital to female orgasms, and (2) the male-oriented sexual scripts most heterosexual sexual encounters follow, in which P-in-V penetration is considered the main sex act, men's pleasure and orgasms are considered mandatory parts of sex (the sex ends when the guy gets off), and women's pleasure and orgasms are considered optional or incidental.

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Researchers wanted to know2 if knowledge of the orgasm gap and the unequal gender scripts contributing to it could improve women's sexual experiences. So they surveyed women before and after taking a Psychology of Human Sexuality course that specifically discussed the orgasm gap and inclusive, sex-positive sexual practices. To compare, they also surveyed women before and after taking a Human Sexuality and Culture class (which discussed sex from an anthropological point of view but didn't mention the orgasm gap or the gendered social dynamics of particular sexual encounters) and a Psychology of Personality class (which didn't discuss sex at all).

Their findings? Of the 271 women they surveyed in total, those who'd taken the class that talked about the orgasm gap saw a clear improvement in their sexual functioning. Not only did they have more and better orgasms, but they felt more entitled to sexual pleasure during sex and communicated more with their partner during sex. They were more able to advocate for their own pleasure in bed, more confident about how their genitals looked, and less distracted by performance anxiety or anxiety about how they looked during sex.

Those are some serious benefits from just a little more knowledge about sex!

Published in the journal Sex Education, these findings demonstrate that educating ourselves about how our bodies work, what gender dynamics might be in play during sexual encounters, and the importance of being confident communicating your needs in bed can make an actual difference in a woman's ability to orgasm with ease during sex. Past research3 has similarly found taking classes about sex improves people's body image, willingness to try new things in bed, health precautions during sex, and even sexual pleasure.

And by the way, sex education isn't just for kids and college students. There are tons of excellent sex classes for adults available online and in person with professional sex educators, sex therapists, and other experts. Here are a few to consider and places to look for more:

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Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter