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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

The year was 2003. Britney Spears had just become the youngest female musician to have a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, Greta Thunberg was born, and the Concorde took its last flight. Among the numerous events and stories from 20 years ago, one stands out to me. Outkast released their signature song ‘Hey, Ya!’, blessing the world with the lyrics ‘I don’t want to meet your mama, just want to make you cum’a.’ Unfortunately for us, though, the year is now 2023, and—despite best efforts from Outkast—the orgasm gap is here to stay, and heterosexual women are still not being able to ‘cum’a’.

The orgasm gap, which is often referred to as the pleasure gap, is a term which describes the inequality in the percentage of people who consistently and successfully orgasm during sex; unsurprisingly, it shows significant disparities in gender and sexuality. According to the International Academy of Sex Research, 95% of heterosexual men say they orgasm every time they have sex, compared to 65% of heterosexual women. Furthermore, 89% of gay men orgasm during intercourse, as well as 86% of lesbian women. So, what is causing this phenomenon? Why are heterosexual women statistically orgasming substantially less than everyone else?

One of the main reasons, which cannot be emphasized enough, is the miseducation and often complete disregard of any education on female pleasure. The female orgasm remains a topic of shame and taboo, illustrated by it often being described as the ‘female’ orgasm, not just the orgasm like men’s orgasms are described. Professor Elisabeth Lloyd, a biologist at Indiana University and author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, describes how ‘the general public has been actively misinformed by Hollywood about how women have orgasms.’ Everyone wants to believe simple penetrative sex causes an orgasm straight away, and that’s the end of the story. This is simply wrong.

As sex therapist Tanya Koens so perfectly describes it, ‘If we look at movies and porn – we’re talking about heterosexual sex here – it looks like you put a penis inside a vagina and then the woman will automatically cum, and it’s a few thrusts and then everyone’s happy. […] For a lot of women, they need clitoral stimulation in order to have an orgasm.’

Unfortunately, these media portrayals are often some of the only forms of sex education we receive, with the deficient school curriculum continuously letting us down. Meaning, not only are straight women not learning the different ways in which achieving orgasm is possible, but also feel ashamed if they may not be able to reach it. Dr Laura Jarvis, a sexual health doctor in Scotland observes that many of her patients who claim orgasming is impossible ‘don’t have a physical problem – nerve damage or something to do with their anatomy […] So many things can impact on you being able to relax and enjoy sexual pleasure for yourself.’ Among these many things are shame, embarrassment, past trauma, past poor sexual experiences, or even if you’re just feeling insecure that day. The best way to overcome this is by having some aloonnneee time with yourself. Yes girls, it’s time to masturbate.

Jarvis continues by emphasising that ‘We’re so comfortable with men doing that [masturbation]. With women its still seen as a bit naughty. It’s really important to take that guilt away. Women need to learn how to pleasure themselves.’ As the words of many Facebook posts with a stitch picture of a minion have said over the years, to love someone else you must first love yourself. And, if you don’t know where to start, that’s okay! The wonderful thing about the internet is that despite its often and frequent spreading of miscommunication, you may find some tips from other women struggling in the same situation. You might try (ethical) porn, a smutty book, your fingers or even a toy – you can find these in your local Boots or Superdrug, or online. As Koen previously stated, don’t forget the clitoris. It gets dismissed enough in science for you to forget it too. Its only function in the female body is sexual pleasure, so act like a boss and make it work.

Then, when you feel like you know yourself a bit more intimately, it’ll be easier to tell your partner what you want and you shouldn’t be ashamed to do so. You’ve done the research; you’ve got the qualifications. Remember, only 28% of women can orgasm from penetration alone, so, unless you are one of the lucky few, it’s okay to do and ask for other things.

The only way for the orgasm gap to go away is for proper sex education in schools. In the meantime, however, no matter what gender or sexuality you are, take matters into your own hands (figuratively and literally) to figure out what works for you. Sex is supposed to be fun for all involved, so prioritise your pleasure – especially if the other person isn’t seeming to. And, then, maybe Outkast’s 2003 classic hit will hit just a bit different, on just the right spot.

she/her I'm Charlotte, though most people call me Charli. I am currently studying English BA.