When it comes to feminism seeking equality for the sexes, what are the first things you think of? Closing the gender wage gap? Crushing harmful stereotypes?
How about equal orgasms?
But many women are now calling for orgasm equality — the idea that women should always expect to have an orgasm from sex with their male partners. This idea first came into the forefront in the spring of 2015 when rapper Nicki Minaj, in an interview with Cosmopolitan, said that during sex, “I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that.”
The internet erupted, with many feminists praising Minaj and agreeing that equal orgasms should be a right. Even esteemed feminist writers like Jessica Valenti praised Minaj for bringing this movement to the forefront.
According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour, about 75% of men reported having an orgasm every time they had sex. This contrasts to 64% of women who reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual experience.
I distributed a survey to 100 of my peers collecting their thoughts on orgasm equality, and the results rendered were similar to those of the NSSHB. Out of the men who responded, 85% of them reported orgasming most of the time during sex. When it came to women, the responses were all across the board, but it averaged that women climaxed about 65% of the time during their sexual experiences.
Even though this is only a very, very small portion of the population who are sexually active, the results from this survey mimicked those of larger studies.
So, why is it that men orgasm so much more often than women?
Kae Brunet, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, has some ideas.
“I think it has to do with the culture around sex,” Brunet says. “The male orgasm is dominant and the female body is used for pleasure as opposed to an equal partner or an equal person seeking out their sexuality.”
Brunet believes that some of this may stem from mainstream pornography, in which the male orgasm is often the determinant of sex. The “money shot” is when he ejaculates, and this usually marks the end of the sexual interaction.
Alex Friedman is a student at Concordia University in Montreal. She self-identifies as a sex-positive queer feminist and aspiring sex educator. Alex runs a Twitter account called @SexActually, which she uses to educate followers about sex and sexuality. She also agrees with Brunet that mainstream porn is problematic for educating people about sex.
“It can be great for the purpose of getting off, but it shouldn’t be the only source of information we access about sex” she says. “The ‘money shot’ adds to the visual appeal, because those types of orgasms are the ones we can see. Orgasms that don’t result in ejaculation or squirting don’t have the same marketing appeal.”
The NSSHB found that 85% of men reported that their female partners had an orgasm in their last sexual encounter. However, seeing as females didn’t report as high of a number, it’s obvious that men believe their partner has an orgasm, even when she may not. As Friedman says, since female orgasms aren’t often visual, it could be difficult for men to gauge whether or not their female partners climax.
One of the questions I asked on the survey I distributed was whether or not men and women feel like they let their partner down when their partner doesn’t orgasm. Although the majority of both men and women responded yes, in another question they also said that they still consider their sexual experience meaningful and successful even if they themselves do not orgasm, citing enjoying the experience for what it is as the main reason.
Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher are New York based comedians who make up the comedy duo “Sorry About Last Night.” Together, they release a weekly podcast entitled “Guys We F*cked: The Anti-Slut Shaming Podcast.” Their candid discussions of sex, dating and relationships promote a sex-positive world where women can openly discuss anything — and everything — that they want to.
While Hutchinson thinks that women should expect to orgasm most of the time during sex, she understands the barriers that may affect why women aren’t orgasming as frequently as their male partners.
“I think women who were taught to be polite have a difficult time with this, me included,” she said in an e-mail. “I always thought sex was about the other person and how I looked [or] came off to them during sex. With the focus on that, I wasn’t even thinking about coming. It wasn’t until I had a sexual partner that loved pleasing me that I realized my priorities were backwards.”
Fisher believes that the most important thing to expect from your partner during sex isn’t an orgasm, but the feeling of being safe and respected.
“Women should be comfortable enough with their bodies and sexuality to confidently seek orgasm, but very few of us will come every single time, and that’s ok,” Fisher says. “That’s what hands and mouths are for, to rebound that ball and toss it back up towards the net.”
Brunet echoes the sentiment that there’s much more to sex than an orgasm, and says that “a sexual connection doesn’t have to end in an orgasm. It doesn’t mean that it’s not sex if you don’t orgasm.”
What seems to be missing between men and women is the lack of communication. As Friedman says, “your partner isn’t a mind reader. Communication is always number one in sex — and in relationships in general!”
Amanda Smith, who asked that her last name be changed, has had both male and female partners, and now is in an exclusive, monogamous relationship with a woman. She says she’s climaxed more with her female partners due to the check-in that she finds happens more often with women. “Every time I’ve been with a female partner, she has made sure to continue with sex until orgasm and check in at the end that I fully climaxed. Female partners tend to be more selfless lovers in my experience.”
While Amanda has had sex with men that sometimes ended in both parties climaxing, this isn’t the case for all women.
Sarah Jeffery, who also asked for her name to be changed, is 23, has never had an orgasm from penetrative sex. She thinks it’s due to the fact that she feels orgasming is a very vulnerable thing, and she hasn’t felt comfortable enough with a partner to allow herself to face that vulnerability. “I think a female has to be comfortable with her sexual partner to allow herself to relax enough to reach that O,” she says.
What advice does Friedman have for women who may find difficulty in climaxing? “Masturbate! Learn how your body responds to different forms of touch, learn what works for your body when you’re the one in total control. Then share that knowledge with your partner.”
The majority of men and women I surveyed said that they didn’t think the entire “point” of sex was to climax, since they enjoy sex regardless.
Hutchinson says, “I certainly don’t think sex is unsuccessful unless you come, I think being present should be the first goal. I don’t need to come to enjoy sex, and often I need to know someone well in order to let myself go enough to to come.”
Fisher agrees with her Guys We F*cked co-star that sex can be enjoyable even without the big O. “I have had good, loving sex during which neither party came, only my partner came, and even instances during which I came and my partner did not — SHOCKING, I know!” She says. “Sex isn’t just about an end result, it’s about the whole experience. If your only goal is orgasm, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just masturbate. While I think it’s important for women to be vocal about their want to come and to communicate to their partner what exactly can make them come, we have become obsessed with orgasms when there is so much more to sex — ya know, like the most intense form of human connection.”
The important thing for men and women to understand is that every body is different, and there are a variety of different reasons why a woman may not orgasm, and it doesn’t always have to do with her partner. Friedman says, “Many factors could contribute to someone’s difficulty in having orgasms, including physical disability, depression, medication side effects, trauma, among others, so orgasm may just not be a realistic option for them.”
According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, some women can have an orgasm without even knowing it. This is due to not feeling their pelvic floor muscles contract, however they reach a peak of arousal which makes them feel very relaxed afterwards — the same feelings associated with orgasms. Also, women who get aroused but do not experience the intensity of an orgasm can feel uncomfortable pain in their pelvis and feel on-edge.
Although orgasms, when they happen, are a wonderful experience and shouldn’t be an unreasonable thing to expect in any sexual relationship, they also shouldn’t be the main objective of sex. The idea of orgasm equality is a great step forward in acknowledging women’s sexuality and equal desire for pleasure, however it shouldn’t centre on “demanding” anything from your partner. The focus should be on communicating with your partner, enjoying the experience, and respecting your partner’s needs and wants. When all these pressures are taken off sexual partners, we’re that much closer to both parties climaxing, and achieving true orgasm equality.