COME ON - How we can f*ck the orgasm gap
It's 2021 and NASA's rover is tweeting from Mars that it has discovered a previously unseen rock on its discovery tour. Wow. Meanwhile on Earth, people are still having a hard time figuring out how orgasms can happen for women* as often as they do for men*. Sadly, too little is tweeted about this needed discovery, so here's a plea for recognition of the vulva!
Luckily, there are studies not only focused on Mars, but now also on the so-called orgasm gap. The orgasm or pleasure gap is the difference between the frequency of orgasms in men/people with penises and women/people with vulvas. This doesn't give us the magic formula for orgasms yet, but at least we've got some numbers to work with:
A study of heterosexual people found that three-quarters of men/people with penises always climax during sex, but only one-third of women/people with vulvas do.
One fifth of women/people with vulvas even never or rarely come. We guess that we have to accept that there will be no NASA rover on planet Vulva tweeting us new discoveries - but everyone who claims "women's orgasms* are simply more complicated from a biological point of view" are welcome to continue living on the dark side of the moon. In fact, the number of orgasms doubles during lesbian sex and 90% of women/people with vulvas come "easily and regularly" when they masturbate. So it's not because of biology. But then what is it?
On the one hand, women/people with vulvas often grow up without a proper term for their private parts, while on the other hand they are introduced to words that are used as swear words. Not exactly the best start for a friendship with our bodies! Instead of discovering and becoming comfortable with one's own vulva, clitoris and vagina, most people only learn that "you must always keep it nice and clean." If you still don't feel insecure after all this, you'll always cross your legs after seeing a mocked camel toe (drawing of the vulva through the clothes), a standardized porn pussy and general vulva shaming.
Ladies and Gentlemen: It's time for a hand mirror and a date with your sex organ! No matter what you believe or have been told, your vulva is beautiful and absolutely unique. Check it out and the pictures from thevulvagallery afterwards, or have your precious vulva made into a statue at vulvacasting.com. Even if you think now, "this is all totally exaggerated and weird", these are not always your own thoughts. It's time to view and treat the penis and the vulva as equal sex parts.
Take matters into your own hands!
The fact that men/people with penises orgasm more often is also because they usually know exactly how to touch their private parts or what to do with them to achieve a pleasurable experience. And how did they figure that out? Through self-learning, practice and society's permission to be sexual. Unfortunately, it is also a consequence of history that women/people with vulvas are granted less sexual liberation. Their orgasm has been lost in history as being complicated to non-existent. The historian Thomas Laqueur writes in his book "Making Sex" that prior to the Enlightenment period, it was still believed that a woman’s* orgasm was necessary for her to become pregnant. It was also believed that the best way to get pregnant was for a man* and woman* to come at the same time. Meaning that there manuals were published with tips on how to not arouse a woman* too much so she wouldn't climax before the man*. Today, nobody needs this manual anymore – it's quite the opposite. The orgasm with vulva must be rediscovered.
If you want to know what pleases you or your partner, you must find out and learn. In cooperation with the Indiana University researchers from the Kinsey Institute surveyed over 20,000 women/people with vulvas between 18 and 95 for a study on masturbation. The preferences that emerged from the study, such as circling, rocking up or down, as well as breathing and tension techniques, can be viewed on the website OMG.yes with real women/people with vulvas. Time to explore the vulva game in a new way.
The important thing is that it's not about optimizing your performance so that you come as some porn stars. It's about discovering your own pleasure - just for yourself. Without pressure to succeed, without comparisons, without shame. If you have a good experience with yourself, you can share it with your partner. Emphasis on "with" not "for". Viva la Vulva!
De-normalize your sex!
Most of the time, sex comes in three acts: foreplay, penetration, man* climaxes. To close the orgasm gap, this script urgently needs an update. Because sex does not equal penetration. If that were true, only 18.4% of people with vulvas would even have a chance at orgasm. Because this is the number of women* who can reach climax through pure penetration.
Sounds complicated, doesn't it? It's actually quite simple: pure penetration (or inserting a dildo, for example) stimulates only one part of the vulva - the vagina (nope, they are not the same thing). With some “ins and outs” you only reach a small part of the approximately 8,000 pleasurable nerve endings of the clitoris, which are in the inner and outer areas of the vulva. And this clitoris plays the main role when it comes to the vulva orgasm.
So now we've read through the vulva anatomy profile and swiped right. But what do we do about it when we go on a first date? Talk about it! To not fall back into old patterns, it's necessary to establish new rules. For example, no orgasm cat fishing. If you fake orgasms (20% of women/people with vulvas do) to avoid hurting your partner's feelings or ego, you'll end up back at "Dinner for One". A classic everyone knows, but one that always delivers the same jokes.
Agree that you want real sex with each other and not a halfway convincing "Yaaaa, oh my God, wow!" in your ear.
Real sex doesn't divide pleasure into foreplay, main act and the finale. We're in your liberated brain and not in a script writing workshop. Here, sex starts as soon as you want it to. Melanie Büttner hosts the sex podcast "Is that normal?" by Die Zeit and suggests replacing the old script with the principle: "First you, then me." Whoever's turn it is to give pleasure focuses entirely on the other person's desire. You can include as many repetitions as you like and always ask or communicate what you're in the mood for in the next round.
Ok, and now as a little reminder - your brain is a badass organ. Enter the search term "sex" up there and scroll through all the fantastic results that have been waiting for their big day. As you do so, you'll notice: your fantasies rarely just imagine the orgasm. The same applies in real life, the journey is the goal.
by Jakob Leitenmeier (he/his)
Founder of TAMTAM - A unisex label that celebrates periods.
(And likes to talk about sex).
*With the terms women and men, we include all people who identify with this gender. Because our sources for this text often refer to cisgender people and their sex organs, we have added the term, people with vulvas / penises. In literal speech, we use the terms woman/man because these citations intentionally refer to cisgender identity and their role models. The term heterosexual is used in reference to the sources to refer to people with cisgender identity.
"The Origin of the World", Liv Strömquist, Avant-verlag GmbH, 2017