The orgasm gap is a subtle but powerful form of oppression

Gaps in equality have always been a problem. The gender pay gap, the gap between the rich and poor, and power gaps are decidedly terrible. But there is a lesser-known orgasm gap, which seemingly doesn’t actively seek to oppress women – but it exists.

Mostly heterosexual men – the same type who harp on about the non-existent friendzone – assume that vaginal penetration alone can give a woman pleasure, but a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour gives insight into just how bad the orgasm gap actually is.

Of those surveyed, 95% of heterosexual men reported that they orgasmed during sexual acts with a partner, whereas just 65% of heterosexual women did so, with heterosexual women faring the worst out of any category. The study included straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women aged between the ages of 18 and 65. Of all the heterosexual women surveyed, only 35% reached orgasm by vaginal stimulation alone.

Unlike the male orgasm, which is pretty straightforward TBH, the female orgasm has been seen as this elusive thing, that some men seem to think doesn’t even exist. The above study being published on social media garnered comments such as, “Women don’t need to orgasm,” and, “Someone please remind women that orgasms are for guys [and would] distract them from making us sandwiches”.After a slew of raging responses, a few of the said posts have been deleted, but the sentiment is out there and it’s ubiquitous. Men don’t value the female orgasm.

There was a furore a year ago about this article on Feministing, which depicts a scenario in which a man and woman have sex, he orgasms, and she doesn’t, and he rolls off to sleep. Pretty standard for some sexual encounters. Its criticism says not to blame it on patriarchy, because women have agency.

It’s not so black and white.

Gender and sexual ideologies, like other oppressive ideologies, are ingrained in us from a young age, and it’s from the beginning of puberty – and sometimes even before – that we are exposed to the idea that male sexuality is a pleasurable conquest, and female sexuality is a minefield of pregnancy, STDs, and *gasp* damaged reputation.

Young women are taught methods to keep away from male assailants rather than education focusing on teaching men not to target women. Men are encouraged to think of themselves as sexual beings with desires. Conversely, women are discouraged from this in favour of thinking of themselves as the object of men’s subjective desires. Even some sexual slang is geared towards indicating that men have the control – men do the “banging” while a woman is “getting banged”, and a woman “puts out” or “gives it up” whereas a man “takes” either the sexual pleasure and/or virginity.

Basically, the idea of women being objects being there for the taking is the prevalent narrative, while the pleasures of men – the active ones being there to take – are prioritised. Getting lucky isn’t focused on women because we’re too busy pandering to the fragile male ego by either faking it (which has its own set of connotations) or just not saying anything at all.

Human biology and evolution are complex. We don’t know why women orgasm. For men, it’s reproductive. Women get aroused in order to let reproduction happen. It’s simple science. Regardless of why, the fact is women do orgasm, and it’s incredible. And – newsflash – there are many ways to achieve it.

Yes, women have agency. But sometimes it turns out that a woman ends up in bed with a man because she’s too afraid to say no. Yes, this is a reality and will be further delved into at another time. Sometimes, men are just selfish in bed. It happens more often than we think. This is not because they’re just selfish humans; it’s that men are conditioned to think that their pleasure is more important and that women are mere conduits for said pleasure. And women are conditioned to think that they need to be desirable for a man to fulfil his pleasures with her.

Yes, sexuality is complex and is multi-layered in its nuances. There is so much more at play when it comes to consensual sex, and the power relations add more convolution to an already intricate dynamic. We cannot possibly explore every single aspect of it in one go.

This conditioning and acting out accordingly is inherently oppressive, and even though we cannot undo the misinformation we have learnt since childhood, we can unlearn it. So let’s. Because, let’s be honest here, when it comes to frivolities, there is not much better than a woman in pleasured ecstasy. It’s possible. Trust me.