The orgasm gap: Women climax a third less than their male partners, but why?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Women have a third fewer orgasms compared to their male partners. [Photo: Getty]

We often hear about gender inequalities in the workplace or in the domestic sphere, but less about one that happens between the sheets.

Yet, if you are a woman in a heterosexual relationship, it’s likely there’s an orgasm gap at play, with your male partner “coming first” in more ways than one.

In a large-scale study, 95% of heterosexual men in relationships said they usually or always climax during sex, compared to just 65% of women.

Interestingly, this is not the case for women in same sex relationships, with 86% of lesbian women claiming they regularly orgasm.

Based on these results, it would appear most women are at least capable of having regular orgasms – so why aren’t they having them?

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Many women do not orgasm from intercourse alone

A lack of understanding around clitoral stimulation is partly responsible for the widespread “orgasm gap” in heterosexual relationships, according to Amanda Major, sex therapist and head of clinical practice at relationships charity Relate.

“As a society, we have a tendency to place too much emphasis on penetrative sex - a lot of women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and find it difficult to achieve through vaginal intercourse alone,” she explains.

A lack of foreplay

Not just a cliche, couples skipping foreplay before sex is a key reason for the orgasm gap. In fact, in a survey conducted by Illicitencounters.com, 74% of women said men’s biggest mistake in bed was forgoing foreplay for the so-called main event.

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“Biologically speaking, women often take longer than men to become aroused, which is why foreplay is so important,” Major explains.

Pain during sex

For many women, intercourse might be associated with pain rather than a mind-blowing orgasm, with three quarters saying they have experienced pain or discomfort during sex, according to research from Durex.

Worryingly, only one in five would actively stop sex as a result. Instead, it looks like women are prioritising their partner (and their partner’s orgasm) over their own pleasure, with one in 10 saying they have faked an orgasm as a result, and a further 15% saying the experience made them rush their partner to climax.

Women aren’t asking for what they want

“Some women find it difficult to ask for what they want or place too much focus on their partner’s pleasure, explains Major.

She recommends women to get to know their body and what works for them through masturbation or sensual exploration, and then showing their partner what they like.

Sarah Berry, a sex and relationship therapist, agrees that orgasms are a two-way street.

“It isn’t just up to a partner to “give” someone an orgasm, is the partner up for working with partner to help them orgasm?, she says.

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“Maybe the non orgasming person could show them how they like to be touched.”

The idea sex stops when a man orgasms

Sex doesn’t have to finish when the man “finishes”, says Berry – yet so many men and women alike believe this should be the case.

“Heterosexuals have been somehow conditioned to stop sexual activity when the male comes.

“It’s how we’re used to watching sex play out most of the depictions of sex we see - everything from blockbuster movies to porn.”

How to close the orgasm gap

So, now we know some of the reasons why women aren’t orgasming, but what can we do about it?

Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, provides her top tips.

  • Use sex toys: “Adding toys such as vibrating rings to play could greatly enhance her chances of orgasming as well as him.”

  • Kegel exercises: “Focus on clenching your pubococcygeus (PC) muscle by using a kegel exerciser - this is a great way to extend your orgasms. By undertaking kegel exercises every day you will create a more powerful sensation during arousal, a tighter vaginal canal and bigger, better, longer orgasms for all.”

  • More foreplay: “For many people, foreplay is real sex, so don’t cut it short. The pleasure is in the journey, after all.”

  • Keep it fresh: “Try hot wax play. Invest in a massage candle, use it to set the mood and when the wax has cooled pour it on your partner. The temperature change will awaken your nerve endings making them more responsive to your touch.”

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