So Who's Having the Most Orgasms?

Plus how to level the playing field.

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Feb 22 2017, 11:34pm

Frank Kebschull / EyeEm / Getty Images

You've probably heard of the pay gap, but what about the orgasm gap? Sad fact: Men have more orgasms than women and experts have known this since the '50s. But researchers at Chapman University and The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University wanted to know more about how sexual orientation might be linked to orgasm frequency, so they asked more than 50,000 people how often they came as well as what they tended to do in the sack, how they communicated with their partners, and how satisfied they were with their relationship.

For their study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, the team analyzed data from a national, online survey of 52,588 adults who said they had sex in the past month. The anonymous respondents had to identify their sexual orientation and gender and the sample was made up of 26,032 heterosexual men, 452 gay men, 550 bisexual men, 340 lesbian women, 1,112 bisexual women, and 24,102 heterosexual women. The average age of men who took the survey was 37 and for women it was 42.

They were asked how often they orgasmed during sex in the past month and the options were never, rarely, about half the time, usually, and always. Can you guess who said they usually or always orgasmed? It's straight men, because of course it is. Ninety-five percent of them said that was the case, followed by gay men (89 percent), bisexual men (88 percent), lesbian women (86 percent), bisexual women (66 percent), and, in dead last, straight women (65 percent).

These findings sound like a giant bummer for bisexual and hetero women and their well-meaning partners, but the researchers say the silver lining lies in the fact that they gathered data about people's sexual practices and habits and compared them to orgasm frequency. The result is basically a list of things you can try if you're a woman or someone who has sex with women.

Women were more likely to orgasm if their last romp included a buffet of sex acts, like vaginal intercourse, oral sex, manual genital stimulation, and deep kissing. But intercourse is more like icing on the cake in this situation: Adding it doesn't seem to help. They wrote: "Most heterosexual women who combined oral sex, manual genital stimulation, and deep kissing reported usually-always orgasming (80 percent), as did women who added vaginal intercourse to that combination (77 percent)." It's possible that the figure is lower in women who reported doing all four sex acts because intercourse was the finale; their male partner came first and they called it a day. If you're really pressed for time, the researchers point out that just receiving oral makes women more likely to orgasm regardless of how many other types of business they get into.

Women who orgasmed more often had sex for longer durations (at least 15 minutes), were more likely to ask for something they wanted in bed, praise their partner for something they did in bed, try new positions, engage in "sexy talk," wear lingerie, talk about or act out sexual fantasies, and express love during sex. They were also more likely to sext their partner and were more satisfied in their relationships overall.

The main limitation of this study is that the survey was posted on the site of NBC News, so it only includes people who read that site and chose to take a survey on "sex and love." It's a widely read national publication, but respondents are not necessarily representative of the US population. (Though other sex researchers have used this site to conduct surveys.)

The authors noted that, socially, there's a stigma against women having sexual desire and enjoying sex as well as pressure on men to take an active role during sex and these factors might prevent couples from doing the things that make women more likely to orgasm (like a woman asking for what she wants). Or it could be that since men typically want to have sex more frequently than women, some hetero couples might be doing it without a "tit-for-tat" expectation of orgasms. If that works for you, great.

So why do lesbian women have orgasms almost as often as men do—is it because these gender roles don't apply to them? Maybe, but the authors said that one obvious possibility is that women better understand how things like oral sex and clitoral stimulation feel and how they build toward orgasm (and that intercourse rarely leads to orgasm). Lesbian women may also be more likely to embrace a "turn-taking culture," that is, an equitable approach to sex where you don't stop until both partners are satisfied. The authors conclude their paper by writing: "The fact that lesbian women orgasmed more often than heterosexual women indicates that many heterosexual women could experience higher rates of orgasm." Ah, the sound of hope.

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