It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) again, the day where the world comes together to celebrate the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” It’s a day to celebrate women’s achievements, for sure, but it’s also a day to address what still needs to be done to advance women’s true global equality.
So this year, let’s join in and #ChooseToChallenge pleasure inequality.
This year, join us in choosing to challenge pleasure inequality.
What is pleasure inequality, aka the “orgasm gap”?
Pleasure inequality is the fact that cisgender men experience orgasm at a far higher rate than cisgender women do––around 85-90% to 60-70%, respectively, according to recent studies. Women deserve the right to experience pleasure, intimacy, and orgasm just as much as our partners do, and the struggle is real.
Though we’ve come a long way in achieving equality, this is one area where we still lag behind. So let’s explore the factors that cause this pleasure gap, and what we can do about it.
What contributes to (and doesn’t contribute to) pleasure inequality?
Without a doubt, the biggest contributor to pleasure inequality is the patriarchy––the societal system where men hold the power, privilege, and moral authority that determines the status quo. And this patriarchal system is reinforced through the factors listed below.
Sex education failure
It starts when we’re children, being taught sex education in schools. Many of us were taught that sex was shameful or even dangerous, and should be avoided as long as possible.
And even if we were given a comprehensive overview of sex, it typically focused on biology and basic reproduction, and lacked any discussion of pleasure or intimacy. The result of this is that boys and girls learned about women’s internal reproductive organs, but nothing about the clitoral area––the key to achieving orgasm for most women. Boys, however, learned about the male orgasm––ejaculation––by default, since it’s part of the biological process in reproduction. Thus, the stage for imbalance is set before we even hit puberty.
Prioritizing penetrative sex
The pleasure gap is also reinforced via our cultural standards that prioritize penetrative sex (especially penile-vaginal sex) above all other forms of sexual activities. We only need to look to mainstream porn to see how this narrative plays out: man and woman have penetrative sex, man has orgasm, and woman does not––or if she does, she has one via vaginal or anal intercourse, not via clitorial stimulation. This reinforces the false societal narratives that 1) men’s orgasms are more important, and 2) women orgasm via intercourse often.
And what we’re seeing on screen has been verified. In recent studies of porn content, most men reached orgasm (around 75%), while only a small percentage of women did (between 15-20%). Further, only 25% of women reached orgasm through clitoral stimulation.
Women’s lack of entitlement to pleasure
When women are taught at a young age that our pleasure doesn’t matter, we learn not to expect it. We engage in sexual encounters with the bar set extremely low––if it’s not painful, it’s acceptable. Particularly during casual sex or hookups, we know that the likelihood of our partners focusing on clitoral stimulation is low, it’s not even on our radar..
Here again, the sneaky ol’ sexual double standard monster rears its ugly head: it’s perfectly okay for men to seek pleasure in casual hookups, but not so for women.
Men’s misguided sense of masculinity
Through porn and the media, men learn that it’s on them to get a woman to orgasm. If they don’t “give” a woman an orgasm through penetrative sex alone, it’s somehow a reflection on their manhood. They have failed as a sexual partner. (This may also be why women fake orgasms––to protect men’s egos and avoid hurting their feelings.)
NOT caused by biology!
An important note: the existence of the pleasure gap is not due to biological factors. Up until the last 20 years or so, society in general thought that women’s bodies just weren’t designed to orgasm as often as men were. (ikr? 😑) This is debunked by research showing over and over again that most women achieve orgasm within minutes through masturbation.
So how can we challenge pleasure inequality and close the orgasm gap?
Now that we know what causes pleasure inequality, how can we #choosetochallenge it?
There are no easy answers for such a global problem, but we have some tips to get you started.
Start by acknowledging the issue
All societal changes have started by folks recognizing that there’s a problem. To advance toward pleasure equality, we must recognize that the disparity exists. Remind yourself that you deserve pleasure just as much as your partner, and you have the right to talk openly and freely about it. It’s also important to remind yourself that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you’re unable to orgasm during partnered sexual activities.
Explore your needs to understand what turns you on
To make that elusive O less elusive, you need to understand your body and what gives you pleasure. Our mission at Emjoy is to help you do just that with resources and answers to your questions that help you connect with your sexual needs. To get started, download the app and explore the various guided audio sessions that help you tune into your mind and body. Before long, you’ll be taking that solo pleasure to your partner.
Explore sex-positive education
To counteract the falsehoods you’ve been taught, it’s important to engage in some sex-positive learning. Your pleasure is your right and responsibility! Reclaim it by learning all you can. Check out this article on sex positivity to get you started.
Reclaim your right to pleasure
Tell yourself that you deserve intimacy, pleasure, and orgasms, and expect to receive it in whichever way works best for you: be that longer foreplay, pleasure outside of intercourse, or another method.
Talk to your partner
Achieving pleasure equality shouldn’t fall solely on women’s shoulders. Talk to your partner and explain where your needs aren’t being met. Encourage them to be more understanding and open to new ways to explore your pleasure and intimacy.
And speaking of communication: stop faking orgasms! It may be easier in the short term, but in the long term it only reinforces pleasure inequality and false narratives around orgasms.
Spread the oh-so-good word!
Start talking openly about prioritizing pleasure with trusted friends, and encourage them to do so as well. Encourage them to be more open with their partners and to stop faking their own orgasms. When we talk openly about taboo subjects, we can start to break down the societal barriers surrounding them.
For more information on the #ChooseToChallenge movement and how you can get involved, see the IWD website.