Bridging the (Orgasm) Gap

Okay so let’s talk about this orgasm gap business.

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Since you’re here I take it you are familiar with the topic at hand, but just in case you aren’t, allow me to provide a bit of context.  The orgasm gap refers to the disparity of orgasms between genders in heterosexual pairings, though there is also an orientation gap which highlights the orgasm gap between straight women and lesbians (surprise, surprise lesbians cum in first place).

Recently a conversation about the orgasm gap took place over Twitter.  Sex educators, clinicians, and netizens alike came together to discuss all things orgasmic.  Folks shared lessons, experiences, taught, learned and unpacked.  There were hashtags chronicling the discussion and several threads floated around further inspiring conversation, but of course, all good things must come to an end.  The orgasm gap made it’s way over to ashy nigga twitter and some very bitter men got a hold it.  What resulted was not a meaningful discussion of sex and orgasm related to gender roles, as it had been prior, but an accusatory rant about whose responsibility it is to ‘make women cum’ during sex.

This began specifically around an asinine tweet that claimed women need to work more for their orgasms, which hilariously presupposes women are not already trying to achieve orgasm. Here’s what’s wrong with this- on the whole, the orgasm gap exists for plenty of reasons, but one glaring reason is that sex, as many of us know it, is often deliberately designed to prioritize men’s pleasure.

If you ask people what they consider to be ‘sex’ you will very quickly find that for MANY people it boils down to penetration, penile penetration to be specific. While mainstream discussions of sex pose PIV (penis in vagina) sex as the be all end all figures from existing data show that around 50%-70% of women do not achieve orgasm from penetration alone. Au contraire, mon ami do you know who does consistently orgasm from penetration? Cis Dudes.  So what does this tell us? Our discussions seem to suggest the penis is at the center of it all!  Yet our figures tell us when it comes to getting off dick just ain’t cutting it.  How can this be? Sex is largely about enjoyment, isn’t it? Fun? Intimacy? Pleasure? All of these things are true, but we still have significant strides to make to be a sex-positive culture.  Even though sex can be fun and orgasmic,  we must ask the question- ‘for who?’
Now, I am hardly asserting that women do not enjoy sex, nor that having a penis is necessary for fun, intimacy, or pleasure.  I can personally attest that sex without penises and without penetration can be amazing.  I’d also like to clear up the idea that penises are central to masculinity or men.  Girls can have dicks and girldick can be AMAZING. It’s not the penis that makes sex one dimensional, it is the way cishet men are so often socialized around sex. What I am asserting is that sex as we know it is often not about the pleasure of women/femmes nor is it meant to be.  Collectively we are not socialized to prioritize or even consider women’s pleasure during sex apart from a lens of conquest.  This is reinforced over and over again via magazines, pornography, and other aspects of sexual media and mainstream media, for that matter.
I think it’s important to discuss conquest in this context.  Plenty of dudes enjoy the feeling of making their partner cum when it can be tied to their own sense self-worth.  Men are trained to pride themselves on sexual prowess and at times that can include their ability to make their partner go weak in the knees.  Unfortunately, when this is motivated purely by ego and does not center partner needs, things tend to go left.  I can recall partners who claimed to be all about my pleasure but expressed intense disappointment if I did not reach orgasm with them. When I would try to reassure them I’d enjoyed myself it was to no avail and what had been a fun interaction became all about them and their ego.  The experience was soured by all the emotional labor I did telling them over and over and over I had a good time.  It was clear my orgasm mattered less for its ability to unwind and relax me and more for its ability to assuage the egos of my lovers.  I am certain I am not alone in my experience with men couching their selfishness in seemingly unselfish actions. A selfish man? Go figure.
Earlier I mentioned that many people cannot imagine sex without penetration which is not an arbitrary idea.  We should ask ourselves why penetration specifically is considered the legitimizer of sex? Well, folks, it has a lot to do with gender roles and how we imagine sex ought to be.  Within the heteronormative framework where many of us are first introduced to sex, there are those who do and those who endure.   The language we’ve set around sex is often incredibly violent and describes an active agent: the person who penetrates and passive recipient: the person who is penetrated.  Throughout history, we’ve seen as notions of who is to give and
Image result for greek vase nude who is to receive have been influenced by gender, class, race, and other social constructs.  When we peel back these layers surrounding our collective sex and sexuality one the sex as something men do to women, not with and not for.  Conversely, sex is seen as something women do for men.  All of this serves to let us know that women’s pleasure is not a common goal for its own sake.
Sex educator extraordinaire @Raquel_Savage highlights that the language set around this dialogue is often incredible dehumanizing and related to patriarchal concepts of sex and sexuality.   This language reinforces the concepts of sex as an innately violent exchange whereby it is done to rather than with.  Others have similarly expounded on this concept about how heterosexual sex between men and women often feels incredibly masturbatory.  Instead of having sex that prioritizes the needs and desires of both partners women describe feeling used and as though they were a tool for their partner’s masturbation more than anything. Ascribing this issue to women’s supposed apathy and laziness is born from the same misogyny that creates this gap, to begin with.
What’s more is that people often perceive cisgender women’s orgasms as being innately more complex than cisgender men’s and use that as an excuse to put the onus of orgasm on women.  At its root, this dialogue is talking less about women and more about vaginas, which are hardly central to womanhood.  The myth that it’s harder for a vagina to orgasm than a penis is an incredibly common misconception.  People see penile orgasm as fairly straightforward, where vaginal orgasms are not.  Much of this comes from ideas surrounding our genitals specifically.  We’re told handling a dick is easy, after all, dick straightforward (pun intended). Its just a fleshy cylinder you rub, stroke, suck, or otherwise stimulate and voila orgasm is achieved.  A vagina, on the other hand, is allegedly some labyrinthian enigma able to confound even the most earnest.  To highlight these differences I have included some visuals, here’s a ‘fun’ graphic. Below a ‘male orgasm’ is represented as a ‘Bop-It’ toy and a ‘female orgasm’ as a Rubik’s cube.  this is supposed to be funny, and through that supposed humor, we are privy to a valuable lesson concerning sex and society.
Clearly, we are supposed to acknowledge some truth within these images yet I possess my very own vagina and I am able to make myself cum in 90 seconds or less. In fact, many of my vagina having friends can all make themselves cum and have been doing so for years!  Yet jokes like this are to be accepted?  When I was younger I recall hearing a joke that runs as follows “How are women’s orgasms & Superbowl commercials alike? They’re completely pointless, but fun to watch!” When folks perceive women’s orgasm as having less ‘utility’ they make that a case for why they are unnecessary.  Somehow I am supposed to believe that my orgasm is naturally more difficult because I have a vagina yet since I began masturbating I’ve been consistently able to make myself cum in under two minutes.  As folks on twitter would say ‘make it make sense!!’
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As part of the misogynistic ‘women are so indecisive they JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT’ rhetoric our society loves many men would have you believe women have no concept of sexuality apart from them and just wait for men to perform which requires we address several points:
1. Women are shamed from a young age for any pursuit or exploration of sexuality their own or otherwise.
2. Young girls are NOT socialized around masturbation the way young boys are.
3. LOTS of women cum ALL THE TIME on their own, yet this changes with men, why?
I have an idea…
Someone pointed out recently that men love to feel like they ‘finessed you out of some coochie’ which is why while many men say they want more women to be vocal about wanting casual sex there are many women for whom that has never worked.
We socialize men to be hyper-concerned with control and dominance, because of that many men don’t like and are not open to:
– Taking direction
– Asking for advice
-Anything that makes them look ‘weak’ or less than knowledgeable.
In many cases, men want to feel like THEY lead you to an outcome and like they came up with it, without that frame they are not interested.  There are plenty of dudes who actually cannot conceptualize sex without them ‘doing’ and a woman ‘taking’ that is the unfortunate outcome of posing PIV sex as the end all be all.
The idea that getting what you want and having your needs met sexually is only a matter of speaking up is not always true.  In fact, I’d say at least some of the collective push to ‘tell men what you want’ comes from men who want to shirk accountability.  Now, voice and sex is a separate issue and maybe I will write about that next.  Many partners struggle to speak up about their pleasure during sex, and yes that is gendered for many reasons (including the one mentioned above).  Do I think more women ought to be vocal about their desires and how they want to be fucked and made love to? Of course, I do.  My point remains, however, that a lot of folks pushing women to demand more have no intentions of listening once those demands are made.  Is it manipulative to tell someone to do something you know they won’t be able to/ will struggle to execute? Why, yes, yes it is; but after all, we are talking about men here and history shows us manipulation is no stranger to them.  Beyond this, we have a society that deliberately and consistently cultivates women’s encouraged silence.  Entire systems are predicated on feminity occupying absence.  If we understand how society encourages women to remain silent we cannot divorce their lack of demandingness from it, nor should we.


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