Earlier this year, we highlighted six ways to bridge the orgasm gap (aka the pleasure gap – the disparity between men and women having orgasms during partnered, heterosexual sexual encounteres), primarily from a woman’s perspective. While individual responsibility for pleasure is crucial, it’s essential to remember: intimacy is a two-way street. Today, we’re shifting the spotlight to focus on how heterosexual men can actively contribute to leveling this intimate playing field.
Understanding the Pleasure Gap
Although women have gained greater sexual agency during the 20th and 21st centuries, disparities persist. The International Academy of Sex Research, in a comprehensive 2017 study, showcased that 95% of heterosexual cisgender men frequently achieve orgasm during sexual interactions. In contrast, only 65% of heterosexual cisgender women said the same. (The study centered on cisgender participants, so data about transgender individuals’ orgasmic experiences remains elusive.)
You might think your wife, girlfriend, or lover had an orgasm during your last romp together, but you could be wrong. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, a nationally representative US study of nearly 6,000 adults, men frequently misperceive whether their partner achieved climax: 85% of male participants told the survey team that their partner had an orgasm during their last sexual event. But how many women actually reported having had an orgasm during their last sexual event? Just 64%. And a different study found found 43% of husbands misperceived how often their wives were experiencing orgasm.
Why You Should Care
Sexual satisfaction isn’t a trivial matter—it can make or break relationships.A 2018 survey by One Poll suggested that an average of 4.5 unsatisfactory sexual encounters could signal the end of a relationship. And what’s the main complaint from women? An overwhelming 44% pointed to a dearth of orgasms, and 57% lamented the lack of foreplay.
Bridging the Gap: Steps Men Can Take
1. Educate Yourself on Female Anatomy and Pleasure
And no, porn does NOT count. According to a study by the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, as many as 44% of college men could not identify the clitoris, a number that coincidentally (and suspiciously) resembles the percentage of women who don’t orgasm regularly during partnered sex.
To get good at giving your partner orgasms, you have to start at the basics. Here are some resources to get you started:
- She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner
- Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Dr. Emily Nagoski and her podcast by the same name
- Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters–And How to Get It by Dr. Laurie Mintz
- I [Heart] Female Orgasm by Marshall Miller & Dorian Solot
2. Deprioritize Orgasms and Prioritize Foreplay, Exploration, and Pleasure
Savor each intimate moment. Most sexual encounters whizz by in just 7-14 minutes. With such limited time, are we truly allowing ourselves to explore the vast landscape of pleasure and connection?
Taking the time to explore your partner’s body and engage in kissing, touching, sensual massage, or other forms of foreplay is going to help relax your partner and get her there, since women take longer than men to become fully aroused.
And while it might seem counterintuitive, focusing on her orgasm as the goal might actually be counterproductive and make it harder for her to achieve – especially if you make her feel like it’s about your ego. Orgasms, while a delightful crescendo, shouldn’t eclipse the entire symphony of intimacy. At the end of the day, the goal should be shared pleasure.
3. Focus on External Stimulation
Let’s talk the magic of oral sex and clitoral stimulation. Study after study consistently underscores the importance of both in women achieving climax. Ensuring your partner gets hers before you ever get to penetration will 1) keep you from a situation where you’ve finished and want to doze off, but she’s stuck with blue balls, and 2) make penetrative sex more pleasurable for both you and for your partner. And in case you didn’t know: jumping straight to penetration without the right warm-up can be a buzzkill. Even the slickest lubes can’t always save the day.
4. Stop Looking for Advice Online
Okay, I know that’s a litttttle hypocritical as I write this piece. But trying to get the internet to tell you what the best position is for women to climax, or how to perform oral sex, isn’t actually useful. There is no magic skeleton key to the Kingdom of Orgasmia that works for all women.
That’s because sexual pleasure isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. Everyone’s desires and responses are distinct. Instead of solely relying on online answers or generic advice, the foundation of genuine intimacy rests on clear communication, mutual understanding, and a willingness to explore together.
Your best bet? Observe, communicate, and learn your partner’s body, desires, and preferences. Have them masturbate in front of you to show you how they touch themselves. Glean insights from your partner’s reactions, and cultivate open channels of communication about desires and boundaries. Every individual is unique; understanding your partner’s pleasure cues is more beneficial than generic online advice.
Closing the orgasm gap is a shared responsibility. Men can play a pivotal role by educating themselves, prioritizing foreplay and focusing on their partner’s pleasure before their own, and deprioritizing goal-oriented sex. By focusing on education, communication, and genuine connection, we can make strides towards bridging the orgasm gap, fostering healthier relationships in the process.