Why Do Men Have More Orgasms?

Smiling woman leaning on manEven though many women become sexually active as young adults, it may be many years before they experience their first orgasm.  And a recent study by researchers Galinsky and Sonenstein (G&S) confirms that this phenomenon is not unusual; according to their study, men are reaching orgasm twice as often as women.

Ninety percent of the men in the study of 3,237 people aged 19 to 25 experienced orgasm as a part of sexual arousal “most or all of the time.”  But less than half of the young women experienced orgasm during sexual relations. As I looked at the results of this study, I wondered what type of “sexual relations” the researchers were referring to. You guessed it, heterosexual “pivi,” the rather whimsical acronym I like to use for penis-in-vagina intercourse.

The G&S research is longitudinal and began with a nationally representative study of students who were in grades 7 to 12 in 1995.  The current data come from 2002, when 20,475 students were re-interviewed in their homes, answering sexually intimate questions via headset and computer. The researchers filtered for young adults who had been in a heterosexual relationship for at least three months. They didn’t consider same-gender relationships, so their findings might not generalize for people in gay or lesbian relationships. That’s disappointing!

G&S found that orgasm and oral sex are “highly valued in American culture” . . . no argument there!  Many of us are downright obsessed with “the big O.”  But women are simply not experiencing orgasm as often as men.  Nine percent of women reported experiencing orgasm less than half the time during sexual encounters with their partner, while 6.4 percent said they never have one. There was no mention about how many of these women “faked” orgasm, but I suspect that the number is high.  (I’m thinking of the iconic scene in the  movie “When Harry Met Sally,” when Sally begins to moan in the diner, inciting a middle-aged woman at a neighboring table to tell the waitress “I’ll have what she’s having!”)

So what about oral sex? This they did cover—there remains a chasm between the sexes, not only in enjoyment of orgasmic pleasure during pivi, but also in enjoyment of oral sex. (My teenage clients have confirmed that both men and women often engage in oral sex several years before they turn 19.)  However, the sex gap here is not as wide: 71% of the women surveyed “like it very much” compared to 84% of men who enjoy it. But most of the women don’t enjoy giving oral sex to men. Only 37% said they like going down on their man, and 10% of the women surveyed were adamant about their dislike for giving oral sex (compared to only 4% of the men.)

The researchers wondered which psychological traits increase young people’s enjoyment of sex. They found three: autonomy, self-esteem, and empathy. Many of the 20-something women I work with are sorely lacking in the first two. I believe this explains the fact that they are relatively unable to claim and experience sexual pleasure, especially when it requires being explicit about what turns them on and exactly where and how they enjoy being touched. Many of us also are not as well acquainted with our genitals as boys are, and masturbation is far less common among girls.

I’m not so sure about how “empathy” fits in . . . or really what G&S meant by it. I hope by empathy they weren’t referring to a person trying to convince a partner that he or she is a consummate lover by feigning to have an orgasm!

Galinsky, A. M., Sonenstein, F. L. (2011). The association between developmental assets and sexual enjoyment among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 610-615.

Related articles:
7 Steps for Talking Your Way to a Better Sex Life
The Sensory Detective: Finding Sensory Integration Clues to Sexual Dysfunction
Vibrant Sex Play

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CSE, CCS, Sexuality / Sex Therapy Topic Expert Contributor

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  • jon

    February 10th, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Some women have such hang ups about sex and letting go that it is any wonder that they ever have the big o at all!

    I don’t know how they can stay so wound tight all the time and still love life! I have met far too many women who almost seem embarassed about the mere facts about sexuality!

    Why is that? I want a woman who can let loose and have fun and share the joy of sex the way that I do. But that is not something that you easily find in a lot of women.

  • stacey falkirk

    February 11th, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    @jon: has it occurred to you that they are perhaps more shy than uptight? That’s always a possibility. Take things slowly and give them time to warm more to you outside the bedroom as well as inside it and the sex will improve. Nothing’s more of turn off than feeling pressured. You sound in a heck of a rush!

  • R.M.

    February 11th, 2012 at 2:37 AM

    @jon–I think it could have something to do with the old fashioned notion that nice girls don’t have sex before marriage. We may not think we believe it ourselves but our parents and grandparents did, so that was ingrained in us. It can be hard to change such ideas that come from deep down within ourselves.

  • Maranda

    February 11th, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Mens bodies are made differently and therefore from a purely physical standpoint it is a lot easier for them to experience orgasm. Plus I think that they have an easier time of letting everything else go and not think about anything but the moment when they are having sex, wheras most women are also worrying about a million other things. That kind of puts a damper on some of the fun.

  • Georgia

    February 12th, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Women reach their sexual peak much later than men. Unfortunately that means less time to experience orgasms than men have.

  • MelG

    February 13th, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    Because most of them have been perfecting the art of it since the age of 10! ;)

  • tony

    February 15th, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    I’ve met girls who do not even want to receive oral sex, much less perform it. It is a good way to actually reach climax if regular the ‘pivi’ route is not helping in my opinion.

  • Tia

    January 10th, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Hey, there are a fair share of men with sticks up their butts, too. However, many of them can still orgasm. Don’t be so judgemental– maybe *you* were the reason the women you were with couldn’t peak?

    To address the article, I disagree with the idea that many of those women were “faking”, as you could turn around and say that the men were lying and possibly did not orgasm as much as *they* let on. You really cannot throw us all into the same box. Each woman must do what is right for her, although I would say that orgasm starts in the brain. Focus on the sex, and nothing else, and orgasms may come easier.

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