“The orgasm gap” is a buzzy term that describes a harsh sexual reality: women don’t experience an orgasm during sex as often as men. Only 65 percent of straight women (compared to 95 percent of heterosexual men) reported climaxing “always” or “usually” when having sex with a familiar partner, according to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. While there’s no single solution to bridge this particular divide in sexual pleasure, Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, LELO sexpert and NYU professor of human sexuality, says that staying open-minded about anal sex could be promising for the future of female gratification.
The orgasm gap affects women of all sexual orientations, though not equally, according to Dr. Vrangalova. “It is especially true for heterosexual and bisexual women. Lesbian women have higher rates of orgasm compared to women of other sexual orientations—although still somewhat lower rates than men of all sexual orientations,” explains the sexuality expert. Research suggests that anal sex, partnered with the other acceptance-driven acts that come along with it, could pave the way for inclusive orgasms in the future.
Dr. Vrangalova points to a study that looked at the kinds of sexual acts participants had engaged in during the most recent time they had partnered sex. Researchers then asked the 1,931 adults how often they orgasmed. Those who engaged in a diverse range of sexual behaviors during encounters achieved orgasm at a higher rate; the more individual sexual acts, the more likely the orgasm.
While the data provides a compelling suggestion about how anal sex could help close the orgasm gap, Dr. Vrangalova says that a broader look at the study’s findings offers a better roadmap.
“There is certainly physical pleasure that comes with anal play that contributes to women’s likelihood of orgasming during those encounters, but I don’t think that this means that anal sex in and of itself is the holy grail of orgasms for women,” explains Dr. Vrangalova. Instead, she argues that sexual experiences including anal likely tend to last longer, have greater variety, and are imbued with open, intimate communication.
“Yes, I think anal play can play an important role in closing the orgasm gap, but only if done right,” she says. That means consent, compassion, and a whole lot of questions like, “How does that feel? Is that okay?” If you’re curious, don’t shy away. Try opening the front doors, back doors, side doors, and well—all the other doors—of pleasure.
“[Anal] is also an activity that anyone can engage in (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) because we all have butts with nerve endings that feel good when stimulated,” says Dr. Vrangalova. “Yet it is something that a lot of people shy away from because of various fears and insecurities—pain, mess, morality, implications for their sexual orientation—all of which are either unfounded or can be mitigated by doing anal the ‘right way.’”
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