The Orgasm Gap

What Is The Orgasm Gap?

Sarah Riccio

The orgasm gap is a term you’ve probably heard more in the last year than ever before (especially if you follow me on TikTok!). Even Netflix has launched a show about it. And while it’s great that awareness has reached the mainstream, the orgasm gap is not new.

On the contrary, it’s a social phenomenon that has endured for decades. Probably centuries. 

Never heard of the orgasm gap? Curious just how wide it really is? Join me as I dive deep into the gap and explain what it is, why it exists, and how we can close it, once and for all. 

What is the Orgasm Gap?

Let’s start with some cold, hard facts. 

The orgasm gap, also known as the pleasure gap, refers to the longstanding disparity in orgasms between straight, cisgender men and women. Studies about the gap have been conducted since the late ‘80s, and have produced consistent results over time.

The bottom line? Straight men have enjoyed many more orgasms than their lovers for a very long time. 

But don’t take my word for it. Look at the numbers. The percentages in this infographic show exactly who's having orgasms most often — and who isn't. 


Orgasm gap graphic

This graphic might inspire a few reactions, including but not limited to, "Wtf is going on here?” Well, the stats show that biology is not the culprit.

The reason straight men have more orgasms than their female partners is not that it’s easier for them to do so. As you can see, lesbians climax in much greater numbers than straight women, and bisexual women fare better, as well.

Having a vulva does not impede one’s ability to climax, nor does having a penis make it easier. Don’t believe me? One study found that almost 40% of women said they always orgasm during masturbation compared to 6% during sex with a male partner.

The question is, why have heterosexual women historically had less orgasmic sex than everyone else? And why is it continuing to happen? (1)

Why Does The Orgasm Gap Exist? 

We can't point to one, easy-fix reason straight men climax more than their sexual partners. When you dig into the underlying causes for the O gap, it turns out there are multiple cultural components at play. But we can examine the top three factors that have contributed to the problem, and perpetuate it today. 

The Prioritization of Male Pleasure

The first factor is the cultural prioritization of male pleasure. From mainstream porn to sex scenes in mainstream movies, the male orgasm typically takes center stage. They don't call it "the money shot" for nothing.

Notice how in most of the straight sex you see in media, the woman almost never has an orgasm. If she does, it’s usually the result of penetration, and sex ends the moment the man ejaculates. Male orgasm = mission accomplished. Playtime is over. 

Considering how sex is represented in the majority of media, it's no wonder over 50% of men say they can't fully enjoy sex if they don't orgasm, while a tiny percentage of women say the same.

In fact, 56% of men believe an orgasm isn't necessary for a woman to enjoy sex. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the male orgasm is a necessity, whereas a woman's is a bonus. And an unimportant one, at that.

And although it's true that an orgasm is not the sole purpose of sex, many men believe that while they need to climax, women will be fine either way. (2)

You may be thinking, “Well, my man makes sure I have an orgasm every time.” But remember: that's not the reality for many women. In fact, a lot of women feel upset if their male partner doesn’t climax, but don’t put the same emphasis on their own pleasure. If he isn’t prioritizing her pleasure either, then long live the gap. 

Many women also report feeling ashamed or guilty for being unable to orgasm with a male partner because they’re worried about the damage it might cause to his self-esteem. In these situations, women might fake an orgasm to preserve their partner’s confidence, which ultimately perpetuates the emphasis on his pleasure over hers. (3)

Why does the orgasm gap exist?

Anatomical Ignorance 

The second contributing factor to the gap is less about men not caring and more about men not knowing, specifically when it comes to clitoral anatomy. 

In cultures all over the world, the vulva is commonly mislabeled as the vagina. The clitoris, labia, urethra — all get thrown under the umbrella of vagina (which, not-so-coincidentally, is the part you put a penis in).

Using "vulva" and "vagina" interchangeably on occasion might not make a difference, but when vulva is routinely swapped for vagina, their unique definitions may become unknown, even forgotten altogether.

Some argue that this consistent mislabeling of terms has deeply rooted effects on a woman’s sexual agency as it reduces the vulva down to the bit that gives men orgasms and births babies

How does this relate to the orgasm gap? Well, ignoring the vulva means ignoring the clitoral network, the part body that 80% of women need to stimulate to climax. Jokes about not being able to find the clitoris might seem funny and harmless, but they actually normalize the idea that knowing how to please a woman isn’t important.

The clitoris is not a mythical organ, nor is it difficult to find with a little effort and motivation. (4Educating yourself and your partner about clitoral anatomy is a great way to promote equality when it comes to sex and pleasure. 

Learn: Read Our Bodies, Ourselves to learn about anatomy and much more!

The Myth That It’s Easier for Men to Orgasm

The final factor that contributes to the gap is the pervasive myth that it’s easier for men to orgasm than it is for women. And sometimes it is! Why? Here are some very common reasons:

He receives, but doesn’t give. Studies show that straight men are considerably more likely to receive oral sex than to give. But if you genuinely want your lady to cum, that’s not a great strategy. Stimulating your partner’s vulva before penetrative sex can be a great way to boost intimacy, make her feel comfortable, and prepare her mind and body for orgasm. (5)

He rushes through foreplay or skips it altogether. Whether it’s oral sex, fingering, or passionate kissing, there are many ways to ignite arousal and increase her chances of having an orgasm.

Arousal happens in the mind first, so take time to get her in the mood before jumping into bed. Neglecting to properly stimulate her not only decreases the likelihood of orgasm, it can also make penetrative sex feel painful or uncomfortable.

When he assumes she doesn’t need to climax. If a woman’s orgasm isn’t prioritized by her partner, there’s a greater chance it won't happen at all. Each partner should prioritize the other’s pleasure. So, fellas, if you want to help your partner reach orgasm, let her know that her satisfaction is very important to you. 

Okay now, back to the myth at hand

No, it’s not easier for men to orgasm merely because they’re male. Every body is different, we all react to stimulation differently, and there’s no blanket rule that makes certain genitals more equipped to climax than others.

The reason it might seem easier for men to cum is because greater emphasis is placed upon male pleasure, which makes it more likely for men to experience sexual satisfaction. It’s a toxic carousel ride that we all need to abandon… but how?

The Pleasure Gap

How Can We Close The Orgasm Gap?

It may sound obvious, but the first step in closing the gap is knowing it exists. Now that you do, let’s explore ways to promote pleasure equality and close the orgasm gap for good. 

Educate Yourself, and Your Partner

When it comes to the pleasure gap, knowledge is power. Keep these stats in mind, and share them far and wide.

  • Over 80% of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm 
  • 18.4% of women can orgasm from penetration alone (6)
  • 59% of women have faked orgasm (7)
  • Women need an average of 15 minutes of vulvar stimulation to orgasm with a partner, and an average of 8 minutes to orgasm alone (8)
  • Women in a relationship of 6+ months are 6 times more likely to orgasm than a woman in a first-time hookup (9)
  • Heterosexual couples who incorporate clitoral vibrators into sexual intercourse are more likely to experience orgasm (10)

There are a few things to note right off the bat. First, the vast majority of women need clitoral stimulation to cum. Whether it be from a vibrator, tongue, or fingers, paying attention to the clitoris will almost always increase the chance of having an orgasm. 

Second, a lot of women fake orgasm. It can be tough to know if your lover is being real when it comes to pleasure, so be sure to check in once in a while. Have a low-pressure, non-combative conversation and inquire about her satisfaction.

If you’re not sure how to broach the subject, here are a few conversation starters: 

  • “I really enjoyed what we did the other night and would love to please you even more next time. Is there anything you want me to do more or less of?”
  • “You made me cum so hard last night. How can I make you cum like that?”
  • “I love satisfying you. Is there anything I can do to please you more?”

Alternatively, if you feel comfortable having an open and honest conversation, you can simply ask your partner, “Have you ever faked an orgasm with me?” Reassure her that the reason you ask is because her pleasure is important to you, and you won’t be upset if she has faked it. From there, you can begin to discuss ways to build intimacy and focus on mutual satisfaction. 

Third, we can assume that women are more likely to climax with a partner with whom they’re comfortable. Orgasm rates are much lower for women engaging in first-time hook-ups because their partner is not familiar with their body yet and, while passion may be high, there hasn’t been much time to build intimacy.

If you want to do your best to ensure mutual satisfaction during a one-night stand, take it slow. Take your time. Make sure she's as comfortable as possible, and put her pleasure first. 

Finally, sex toys are your friends. Vibrators are not competition, nor are they designed to replace human intimacy. They can help tremendously in stimulating erogenous zones and bringing you and your partner closer to the Big O.

Clitoral vibrators, in particular, are tried and true toys that are ideal to incorporate into penetrative sex. Remember: most women can't climax from penetration alone, and require sustained clitoral stimulation. 

 How to close the orgasm gap

Prioritize Your Own Pleasure 

Okay, ladies — I’m talking to you. 

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, it's imperative that you prioritize your own pleasure. As we’ve learned, women have been taught to put their sexual pleasure on the back burner and focus on satisfying men.

To close the orgasm gap, actively reject the narrative that a man’s orgasm is more important than a woman’s. Period. 

Not sure how to start bringing your personal satisfaction into focus? Here are some tips to get you started:

Don't fake it. Faking orgasms with your partner will only perpetuate a cycle of dissatisfaction. If he thinks he’s making you cum, he won’t be motivated to change anything and actually make you cum. Besides, a good partner wants to know how to satisfy you. So let them know! 

Enjoy your toys. If you know you need your vibrator to cum, use it! Using a vibrator or any other sex toy during sex is a fantastic way to ensure mutual satisfaction. What it’s not is a crutch, competition for your partner, or anything to feel ashamed of. 

Masturbate. Studies show that folks who regularly enjoy solo play are more likely to have an orgasm with partners. This doesn’t remove your partner’s responsibility to prioritize your pleasure, but it can make it easier for them to get you off. (11)

Speak up. If your partner expects oral sex but never reciprocates, speak up. If they ignore foreplay and roll right into penetrative sex before you’re fully aroused, speak up. You are not obligated to please him, especially at the expense of your own pleasure. Empower yourself! 

More: Top Self-Help Books for Women 

Above all, keep in mind that you don't exist for anyone's sexual satisfaction, and any good, loving partner would agree. You're entitled to experience security and pleasure, and you're worthy of a partner who feels joy from making you a priority. 

Prepare Yourself with Pleasure Products 

Serious about doing your part to close the orgasm gap? Equip yourself with great pleasure products! 

I've put together a curated quick-start list of sex toys, lube, BDSM gear, sex education literature, and other goodies that'll prep you for giving and receiving pleasure.

Vibrators

Vibrators are ideal for targeting the clitoris, and come in all shapes, sizes, and styles.

Dildos

Looking for internal stimulation? Dildos are ideal for targeting the G-spot.

Anal Toys

Anal toys are ideal for stimulating the A-spot, also known as the female prostate. 

Lubricant

What can I say about lube? It's the special sauce that just makes sex better. 

BDSM

Explore your kinks and fetishes with some fetching BDSM gear. 

Books

When it comes to orgasms, knowledge is pleasure!

Bath and Body

Arouse your senses with massage oils and other soothing bath and body products.


Browse all Delicto products here!

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re an expert on the orgasm gap, you’re ready to go forth and do your part to promote pleasure equality. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask me (your favorite sex educator!) for tips and tricks along the way. It takes effort to unlearn the things we've been taught and I’m here to help you do just that.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow Delicto on TikTok and Instagram for more sex education, toy reviews, and pleasure product recommendations. Happy orgasms, everybody!