The Orgasm Gap: What It Is & What You Need to Know

Note: The word ‘female, ‘woman’ or ‘she’ in this article is to be interpreted as anyone who has a vulva or identifies as female.

Hannah Warshowsky is a counseling psychology graduate student from Melbourne, Florida. She works under Dr. Laurie Mintz, the author of Becoming Cliterate: Orgasm Equality and How to Get It. I met with Hannah, who currently teaches a Human Sexuality course in the University of Florida, to talk about the Orgasm Gap. Yes, the big O. Here’s what you should know about it.

What is the orgasm gap?

It’s the disparity of orgasms between heterosexual women and men. The male is more likely to have an orgasm than she is. In one study of hookup sex, 55% of men orgasm, while merely 4% of women experience orgasm. Let’s stop and think about this: Technically, 4 out of 100 women orgasm when having first-time, partnered sex with a male. While the gap is bigger in hookup culture, it still exists in relationship sex where 68% of women and 85% of men orgasm. Much of the research is on college students, which is why there’s a lack of information on the orgasm gap in adulthood. The gap only affects heterosexual and bisexual women, Two lesbians are way more likely to orgasm during partnered sex, and this is their secret: the clitoris.

What causes the gap?

Hannah says the main reason women do not orgasm is because of the lack of clitoral stimulation. All the focus is on penetration, which is almost never works. “Very few women orgasm from penetration alone. About 95% of women need clitoral stimulation—either alone or paired with penetraton," says Laurie Mintz from Becoming Cliterate. I asked her, “Why does no one know about the clitoris?”

Teenagers often rely on the media, pornography and our friends’ anecdotes for all our sex-ed needs. Movies and pornography omit the clitoris and, overall, distort the female body. “We call everything a vagina,” Hannah said. Thanks to all the inaccurate imagery and depictions we see in movies and porn, teenagers and college students aspire to follow what Hannah says sex research calls a “sexual script” – meaning that sex with another person should only go a certain way. Have you ever seen in movies how the man and the woman climax at the same time? Yeah, that rarely happens.

Let’s be real: sex is still so taboo to this day, especially for women, that it has become a mystery where everyone must fend for themselves and learn on their own, rather than with a professional. If there is not a realistic and open conversation where sex can be freely discussed outside of the bedroom, a woman will not have the right tools to communicate with a partner inside the bedroom. Since both men and women lack communication skills when having sex, women are afraid to ask their partners to do the ~stuff~ they like in bed.

Another cause of the orgasm gap is how society views the female body. A woman who is sexually active is – in this society – slut-shamed. If the woman is feeling guilty that she’s having sex, she will not relax and will not orgasm (Tip: it’s vital for one to be relaxed to orgasm). The same goes with a woman who is insecure about her body. Movies and pornography, like I said earlier, distort the female body by showing countless images of the same body type. This negatively influences how women see themselves. However, insecurities regarding whether the woman is skinny or not are not the only insecurities women worry about – and it is foolish to think that this is a woman’s only concern. But women are insecure about their biology and their attitude during sex, too.

Pornography and the media show only a certain type of vulva and a certain demeanor in sexually-active women. This just gives women more insecurities regarding their sexual organs (something they can’t easily change) and the way they are supposed to act during sex. Self-doubts like: “Is my belly sticking out?” or “Is it taking too long?” distract a woman from climaxing.

I asked Hannah if the orgasm gap could be considered a feminist issue. She said, “Yeah. It’s about lack of equality, sexual equality.”

I find it fascinating how equality could be applied to many fields – even sex!

What can we do to close the gap?

I asked Hannah for her suggestions on what women should do to close the gap.

She said, “Talk about the clitoris. Don't have it silenced. When we’re having partnered sex, ask for what you want and need. Experiment with yourself and translate your masturbation habits to a partner, and don’t fake. Also, practice mindful meditation for relaxation, which is a huge contributor to orgasming.” Noted.

What can men do to help close the gap? “Learn about the clitoris; value it, and spend time with it,” she said. Hannah advises that there should be more focus on foreplay and communication. “Ask your partner how she orgasms.”

*Note: All of the advice that Hannah gives is from Becoming Cliterate: Orgasm Equality and How to Get It