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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

The Orgasm Gap Is Real & We Talked To Experts About It

You don’t need to tell me: we’ve all watched a movie where the woman experiences a mind-blowing, toe-curling, screaming-out-for-the-gods-above orgasm, but never experienced the same. Or, maybe, you’ve faked it for a partner who was enthusiastically enjoying themselves… even though you weren’t. Contrary to what you may think, missing out on the big O is not your fault or your partner’s (well, for the most part), it just proves the existence of the orgasm gap. 

The orgasm gap is the idea that, in the bedroom, cis-gendered men orgasm more than women. And no one knows this quite like college women.

“Most of the time, I don’t find sex satisfying,” says Madisen Buonaiuto, 19, a student at North Carolina State University. “Honestly, I feel like I’m only having sex until my partner’s able to finish instead of both of us enjoying sex together — I’ve only ever orgasmed during sex a few times in my life, so at this point, I usually expect not to finish. I just have really low expectations for sex and think that if I won’t make myself orgasm, it’s not going to happen at all.” 

But the orgasm gap isn’t just a word-of-mouth deal: it’s something that’s been studied for quite some time. In a 2017 study published in the Archives Of Sexual Behavior, heterosexual men, on average, orgasm about 95% of the time, while straight women only experience orgasm about 65% of the time (that’s at least a 30% difference in orgasm frequency). Yet, lesbian women orgasm about 86% of the time during partnered sex. Additionally, a University of Kansas study even showed that 12% of women aged 17 to 28 have never experienced an orgasm.

So, how do we overcome the orgasm gap? Is there any way to actually close it, and have the great sex we all deserve? I chatted with Dr. Laurie Mintz, a professor at the University of Florida and author of Becoming Cliterate, and Gigi Engle, a London-based sex therapist, about the phenomenon of the orgasm gap, and how we can start working to close it.


THE ORGASM GAP #fyp #foryou #informational (info from Healthline and Psychology Today)

♬ original sound – Chloe Bush

Pop culture is somewhat to blame.

Most sex scenes in pop culture (and porn) exclusively show sex through a specific lens: P in V, heterosexual jackhammering with zero foreplay. That same kind of sex (penetrative) is usually the only kind of sex discussed in sex-ed, along with the additional fear-mongering that all sex will end in pregnancy or disease. 

But what these sex scenes don’t show is the number of pleasure points there are outside of the vagina. The nipples, inner thighs, the nape of the neck, and even the arch of your feet are proven erogenous zones (meaning, you can feel sexual stimulation in these places). The clitoris, which sits right above the vagina, is considered one of the most sensitive pleasure points in the body — it has over 8,000 nerve endings.

Despite this, when we’re taught about sex, these pleasure points are almost always left out. “The clitoris does not exist in sex-ed. Women’s pleasure does not exist in sex-ed, sexual communication and consent are rarely talked about,” says Mintz.

The lack of sex ed about the clit means that both men and women don’t always know where it is or what it does. In a 2019 survey by YouGov, it was found that only 71% of women could identify the clitoris on a diagram of female genitalia, while only 69% of men could do the same. 


Do YOU know where the clitoris is? We asked more Berliners where it was, with some mixed results. 😅

♬ original sound – Clue Period Tracker

The lack of knowledge also leads to a lack of confidence in women as they are conditioned to bring the misogyny of a patriarchal society into the bedroom. 

“When we call our entire genitals the vagina, we linguistically erase the part of ourselves that gives us the most pleasure,” Mintz says. “We call our entire genitals by the part that’s more sexually useful to men than to ourselves.” 

In the bedroom, communication is key.

So, how does one jump the gap? The key to good sex and orgasms is empowered communication. 

This starts with enthusiastic consent and excitement about sex. Engle recommends having conversations about sex while considering “timing, tone, and territory.” She recommends chatting at a time when both partners are relaxed in a natural territory, where you don’t have sex, like the kitchen table. 

“If you go into sex thinking that [penetrative] sex is the only kind available to you, you’re going to wind up with pretty disappointing results as a person with a vagina,” says Engle. “Really conservative estimates say that 30% of all vulva owners can orgasm from penetration alone, but really, it’s thought but it’s more like 5% because there needs to be some kind of external clitoral involvement.” 

So, introduce a vibrator in tandem with penetrative sex. Find a position that stimulated your clitoris, nipples, or any erogenous zone that feels good to you. And, if you didn’t get off, communicate that to your partner.

“There was a study that showed that young women or college women say that asking for a partner for clitoral stimulation is pushy,” says Mintz. “No, it’s not pushy. Why is it pushy to say ‘this is what I need?’”

“Use your words, if you don’t like it, say, ‘hey, let’s do this,’ and move their hand where you want it to go,” she added. “We know that communication during sex enhances pleasure, you don’t have to have a full-blown conversation. But you can offer brief instructions and feedback.”

Closing the orgasm gap is a work in progress that’s worth working for.

But communication goes far past words. In the bedroom, use your body language to show what you are enjoying, and let yourself enjoy it. “If it’s really good moan, groan, tell your partner that feels good,” says Mintz. 

Still not feeling like your partner is understanding? Show them, or suggest different positions or new things you might want to try to satisfy your fantasies. Your partner is not going to be less attracted to you because you want to experience the same level of pleasure during sex with them. And if they are? Maybe it’s not the right fit.

Sex in a relationship is more than just an action for pleasure, it builds trust, connection, and emotion between partners. “If you can communicate about sex, you can probably communicate about other difficult topics. And I think when somebody really cares about you, and during sex, it reaffirms this idea that they have a lot of empathy for you. They really care about you as a person,” says Engle. 

Regardless of what’s below the belt, you deserve a toe-curling orgasm. Communicating with your partner (or latest Tinder hookup) all the things that turn you on or get you off can make mind-blowing orgasms happen for you.

Julia is a national writer for Her Campus. While she writes for all verticals, her focus is the wellness section, bringing you everything you need to know about relationships, astrology, and the best ways to get down and dirty. Julia is a grad student at Syracuse University where she studies communications. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University, where she studied journalism with a minor in women's studies. During her time at SBU, she was a VS PINK campus rep, and an active member of Her Campus @ SBU. When she isn't writing, you can find Julia reading a smutty romance novel, hitting up her local crystal shop, or thrifting with an iced oat milk latte in hand. She's a Capricorn (but you probably already knew that) and a practicing yogi.