wellness·4 min read

theSkimm on the Pleasure Gap — and What You Can Do About It

people holding sex toys over a fissure
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Dame
Feb 15, 2022

You’ve probably heard that women get paid 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. And that the gap is even wider for BIPOC women. At the same time, women often pay more for basic products (hi, pink tax). But the inequalities don’t stop there. Research shows things are unfair in the bedroom, too. 

Add it to the list. 

Here are the stats: 95% of heterosexual men reported usually or always orgasming when sexually intimate in a recent survey. While 86% of lesbian women and just 65% of heterosexual women could say the same. But wait. There’s more. Other data shows men are more than twice as likely than women to orgasm every time they get down and dirty with a partner. 

Women may also feel pressure to pretend they’re having more fun than they really are. In fact, almost 60% of women admitted to faking a big O in a 2019 study. If you’re thinking ‘guilty,’ you’re clearly not alone. The gender pleasure gap is very real.

Soooo why does the pleasure gap exist?

Society has viewed men’s and women’s sexuality differently for literally ever. Case in point: Anthropologists have found evidence that women were shamed for having sex during their periods in the Paleolithic Age. Aka tens of thousands to millions of years ago. And in the 15th century, ‘experts’ published guides claiming that only witches had clitorises. And *surprise* they were punished for it. Even as time went on, many cultures policed women’s pleasure. Or just ignored it. And centuries of sexual sexism can be hard to shake. 

Someone must have noticed how messed up this is. 

It took a long time. But in the last 80 years, several sexual revolutionaries have looked into what really gets women off. Like the pioneering (albeit controversial) sexologist Alfred Kinsey, who published some of the first scientific data on women’s habits around masturbation and orgasms. 

Or feminist and sexologist Shere Hite, who in the 1970s published a groundbreaking 600-page report about women’s sex lives. She was one of the first researchers to show that orgasming during penetrative sex doesn’t always come easy (pun intended) for women. 

The concept slowly made its way into the mainstream. And pleasure advocates like Betty Dodson wrote books, gave talks, and ran workshops to help women put some of the eye-opening science and research to use. 

And we still can’t get it right? 

Even today, hetero porn tends to position male orgasm as the climax. And there are myths about women’s sexuality that just won’t quit. Like the (false) idea that it’s inherently harder for women to orgasm. In reality, women do just fine — especially on their own. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women, on average, reach orgasm six minutes faster when they’re masturbating than they do during sex with a partner. 

But education can help clear up a lot of these time-honored misconceptions. Aaaand help even the playing field. Example: Sexologists estimate that the overwhelming majority of women need clitoral stimulation to get up, up, and O-way. But a lot of people couldn’t even tell you where the clitoris is. Which, honestly, tracks. Especially since though most American teens get some level of formal sex education, only 18 states require sex ed to be medically accurate. 

There’s also a huge range in how comprehensive that sex ed is. In some states, the curriculum covers everything from contraception to personal boundaries and consent. In others, it focuses on abstinence and…not much else. 

Where do I come in? 

There’s no one solution for closing the gender pleasure gap. It’s going to take societal changes. But you can help narrow the gap by increasing your chances of having regular orgasms in your own life. Fun assignment, no? Some ideas…

  • Explore your body. Masturbation can help you figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Bonus: Researchers have found masturbating on the reg can lower stress. Psst…Dame has products that can help with that, like a suction toy that mimics tongue movements. And a plant-powered arousal serum that stirs nerve endings (clits have twice as many nerve endings as penises, btw).

  • Open up to your partner. Strong communication has been linked to desire, arousal, and overall sexual function. That can look like in-the-moment suggestions or dinner table talk about pillow talk. Another way to step up your partner play? Incorporate some other Dame products, like this wearable vibrator that provides hands-free clitoral stimulation. 

  • If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor. More than 40% of women report some level of sexual dysfunction, ranging from arousal issues to pain during sex. But a doctor can help by prescribing certain medications, checking for underlying conditions, and referring you to a sex therapist. If you’re into that kinda thing. 

theSkimm 

Women are on the wrong end of too many gender gaps. But there are things you can do to help close the pleasure one. Think: advocate for comprehensive sex ed and have open convos about sex with friends, partners, and medical professionals. And when it comes to your own sex life, remember that you should be the one in control.

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