The Tricolour Sex Column: The Orgasm Gap vs. the Pleasure Gap

The Kinky Scholar talks about how we should stop talking about the orgasm gap and instead discuss the pleasure gap

Equating orgasms with sexual pleasure is just not how sex works.

The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the experiences of a brown Queer Muslim cisgendered woman whose upbringing included poor access to sex education and reproductive healthcare. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all women. Please read with caution and kindness.

If you haven’t heard about it by now, ‘The Orgasm Gap’ is the concept that some folks, depending on their gender or sexuality, are more or less likely to achieve an orgasm during sexual encounters with one or multiple partners.

When we study the orgasm gap, because we have such oversimplified perspectives on it, we often don’t study it well. We examine heterosexual relationships, sometimes Lesbian ones, but we don’t look into how the gap is impacted based on whether a person is cisgender or transgender. Nor do we ever touch on the complexities of how intersex individuals may achieve orgasm.

The orgasm gap, from a women’s perspective, encapsulates how our sexual pleasure is prioritized—and usually it gives us the idea that our pleasure, in most cases, simply isn’t a priority at all.

When we sleep with men, we’re much less likely to achieve an orgasm than our partners. When we sleep with women, we’re generally more likely to achieve an orgasm, but even this perspective neglects tons of complexities.

Sleeping with a Lesbian woman, for instance, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically achieve an orgasm. It’s also not a guarantee that a woman will understand your needs better, whether or not they have the same genitalia as you, if you’re not communicating what you want.

READ MORE: Navigating the orgasm gap

More importantly, when we use the orgasm gap to discuss sexual pleasure, we’re equating orgasms with sexual pleasure, and that’s just not how sex works.

Speaking as a cis woman, I’ve had terrible sex that resulted in an orgasm and spectacular sex that didn’t result in an orgasm. An orgasm hasn’t ever been a marker for me of whether or not I’m gaining something from sex, and for a lot of people an orgasm—whether vaginal or clitoral—may not even be possible.

When we make these unfounded connections between the orgasm gap and sexual pleasure, it’s often because we’re trying to make the point that, in general, straight men make much less of an effort to please their sexual partners than women do.

We should be able to talk about that very real phenomenon without calling it ‘the orgasm gap.’ 

This is why many sexologists have started talking about 'the Pleasure Gap.' The fact is, whether or not women are achieving orgasms with the men they have sex with, they often have a difficult time expressing their sexual needs and desires because of their gender.

Without venturing into the ways consent may be violated due to this fear, many women are stuck having bad sex because they’re afraid of hurting their partner’s feelings, or even being attacked, if they ask for the things they want in the bedroom.

On some level, that’s a problem women themselves should start tackling. You probably shouldn’t be sleeping with someone who doesn’t prioritize your pleasure. If you are sleeping with someone who wants you to have a good time, you should also try to communicate what you want so they’re not wasting their time on a move you don’t really like. 

More importantly, men need to be less selfish when they’re having sex with women, and they need to stop seeing the moment they finish as the end of sex. Women are not sexual objects. Just like we please you, you should be asking what we need from you to please us. Otherwise, you should stop having sex with women altogether.

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