Orgasm inequality: Why the gender gap is about more than just a paycheck

Photo by Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash

Think gender gaps exist only in the workplace? Turn on the symbolic bedroom lights. You’ll see it exists in sex as well. In recent years, feminists have called for the end of the wage gap. Naturally, the next step: lessen the orgasm gap.

When it comes to heterosexual encounters, women reach climax less often than men. How do we know? The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that 91 percent of men said they reached orgasm during sexual encounters compared to 64 percent of women. If you find this surprising, you may be in the same mindset as the 85 percent of men who said their recent sexual partners had reached climax, which is way higher than the percentage of women who said they reached climax in the same study. The numbers don’t line up, meaning that men think their sexual partners had orgasmed when they probably had not.

These findings run parallel with the jokes and cultural understanding we have with the term “faking it.” Usually exclusive to cisgender women (men can’t exactly fake an orgasm), faking it makes men think they have done a good job, but they actually haven’t even clocked in, so to speak. The concept of faking an orgasm may stem from not wanting to hurt a man’s ego or not making someone’s partner feel bad. Whatever the reason, faking it may be hurting more than helping. It may be why the orgasm gap exists in combination with the historical taboo of female pleasure and lack of knowledge of the female anatomy.

When it comes to sex, it seems that female sexuality and pleasure is an afterthought. Take a trip down memory lane and reminisce during the pubescent times of preteen and high school years. Usually, boys outwardly talked about sex, while girls kept quiet about their affairs. This difference may not seem like much, but it sets us up for the way we think about sex and its purpose. When female sexuality is not taken seriously, the purpose of sex shifts toward a male-dominated approach. In health class, ejaculation is framed as the end of sex. There’s nothing much to say for the sake of women. Once again, this may seem like such a small detail, but it shapes the way we think about sex when we are first being introduced to it. If the sex storyline being taught is told in terms of the male’s endgame, it is hard for women to see their pleasure as equally important.

Lack of knowledge of female anatomy may be another part of the orgasm gap. Almost everyone knows the joke of, “Where is the clitoris?” But, these jokes have good reason with nearly 30 percent of college-aged women who are unable to label the clitoris if given an anatomy test. To close the climax gap, it would be helpful to know the female body part with the sole biological purpose to produce sexual pleasure with its 8,000 nerve endings.

The way we teach and talk about sex matters because it sets up societal norms individuals sometimes use as a starting point for sexual encounters. In recent years, there has been a surge of talk about orgasm equality and what can be done to reach it. Jokes surrounding “faking it” and “can’t find the clitoris” are funny, but they also bring to light the issues that people might have been too afraid to talk about in recent years. Now, these topics are starting to come out in the open. Talking about orgasm inequality and what can be done to lessen it reframes the way we think about sex, which will be helpful to everyone in future generations where, hopefully, the orgasm gap does not exist.

Jackie DeFreitas is a UF journalism junior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.