Pop-culture imagery has fed me a ton of lies over the years about how sex looks. (Like, why is everyone on TV so okay with breaking lamps and running into walls in the heat of the moment?) The most enduring and wildly incorrect one, though, is that if you’re a woman having penetrative sex, after three thrusts, max, you’ll orgasm. This boils my blood because in reality, fewer than 20 percent of women can orgasm from penetration alone.
Welcome to the orgasm gap! Typically, the concept points to how during the sexual encounters of heterosexual men and women, 65 percent of women report reaching orgasm versus 95 percent of men, according to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. But, since that’s based on the sexual encounter of penetrative sex, we need to widen our understanding of what constitutes sex in the first place and then make those practices the norm. Because while that low statistic isn’t the most confidence boosting, other research has found that only about 5 percent of women report never being about to climax ever.
“The main contributing factor to the orgasm gap is that for most women, penetration alone is not the primary source of pleasure,” says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, licensed sex therapist. “Society contributes to this problem by defining ‘sex’ as ‘penetration.'”
It’s worth noting that experts say people with vulvas who are in non-heteronormative relationships tend to have more orgasms, and one reason for this is because they know that sex has more than one definition. Of course, many other factors can contribute to a decrease in orgasms (body image issues, a distracting desire to satisfy your partner, a lack of sexual communication, and sexual shame, to name a few), but broadening the very definition of what constitutes sex is a great place to start.
So if you think you may be lost in the gap, keep reading for a few tips on getting yourself out of there.
1. Try to think outside the box in bed
“You can’t will an orgasm into existence, but you can practice different types of stimulation that can help trigger an orgasm,” Dr. Chavez says. “If more women felt comfortable masturbating and all sex involved adequate clitoral stimulation, the statistic would be even higher.”
2. Do not forget foreplay
Though movies tend to cut from a 10-second scene in which a couple passionately mauls each other to another scene in which both parties are curled up in bed, satisfied, and strategically covered by sheets from the shoulders up, that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal. Foreplay isn’t meant to be a speedy means to an end.
“Redefine how you look at foreplay and define sex. Focus on pleasure, and not performance or goals in sex. Be mindful and in the moment, and let go of the outcome,” Dr. Chavez says. “Most women orgasm during foreplay activities, such as oral and manual sex, and friction-based activities, like grinding or dry humping.”
3. Share what you like with your partner
And not during sex (though dirty talk is great). Rather, to give proper instructions about what you like, share in an educational sense—and not when you’re in the middle of the act. “It’s more challenging to explore in the moment when you haven’t had any conversations about what you enjoy,” says Dr. Chavez.
“Masturbation is a crucial way to prime your body for sex,” Dr. Chavez says. “When you self-stimulate, you condition your body to be more responsive to pleasure. You feel more comfortable and confident with your body so you can communicate what you like to a partner.”
Or, you can incorporate them in exploration process if you feel comfortable doing so. “Try mutual masturbation, where you get to watch and be watched to learn about each other’s pleasure. Incorporate new positions, techniques, and activities into partnered sex.”
5. Take your time during sex
It’s not a race to the finish. You may need more attention and time than your partner, and knowing that is part of winning the battle against the orgasm gap.
“Don’t rush through or worry that you are taking too long,” Dr. Chavez says. “It takes an average of 20 minutes for a woman to orgasm. The average time of ejaculation after penetration is five minutes.”
Now go forth, and find your pleasure.
Is sex starting to feel like a (consensual) chore for you? Learn about how to address and resolve guilt sex. And grab the tissues, because crying during sex is definitely A Thing…even when it’s loving and enjoyable.
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