Wellness

Orgasm goals: How to talk to your partner about your sexual satisfaction

Experts share communication strategies for a better time in bed.

Experts share communication strategies for a better time in bed

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

This article was originally published August 29, 2018.

The orgasm gap is still alive and well — a 2017 Durex survey estimated that 61% of Canadian men orgasm every time they have sex compared to only 24% of women. Another recent study of 1,683 heterosexual newlywed couples (in which 87% of husbands were self-reported to be consistently having orgasms, compared to 49% of wives) found that 43% of those husbands believed their wives were having more orgasms than they actually did. So, not only is there an orgasmic disparity, but a big chunk of the male population might not even realize it and, therefore, won't be narrowing down the differential any time soon. What causes this gap in the first place and how can we begin to close it? We talked to three experts and, as you can imagine, there's a lot going on when we get it on.

A skewed perspective

Sexologist Shannon Boodram is quick to highlight that culturally we most often consider sex from the male perspective. "Society in general has a male-dominated depiction of sex", says Boodram. Sexologist Stephen de Wit futhers that point, telling us that "women have been socialized to think that their sexual needs come second to their husbands", which leaves them open to be completely misunderstood or ignored. We don't have to look too hard for examples of this either. A 2017 study analyzed the 50 most-viewed videos on the pornographic site PornHub and found that 78% of men were shown achieving orgasm, compared to 18.3% of women. Furthermore, the majority of female orgasms depicted came from penetrative sex when, in reality, it's estimated that only 18% of women can actually achieve orgasm from vaginal penetration. Boodram believes that this one-dimensional view of sex is harming males as well, hypothesizing that there is an underreported number of men who orgasm better through stimulation other than penetrative sex (such as the prostate) and that they are similarly afraid to explore this for fear of going against the norm.

The fake factor

Regardless of what is causing the orgasm disparity, why do men think their female partners are having more than they are? There may be some faking going on. A survey of both Americans and Europeans found that 68% of women have falsified their achievements in the past, compared to 27% of men. The reasons for this are varied. Boodram uses the comedy club analogy — "you laugh because everyone else is laughing" — as a suggestion that some women may just be going through the motions that are expected of them. Dating coach Chantal Heide told us that some women may not even be sure they're having an orgasm, so they "err on the side of 'yes'", until they actually have a real one. Another possible reason that Heide brings up is that men can easily take certain indicators, like heavy breathing and moaning, to just assume his partner is having one (the ego can be a fragile thing). As de Wit notes, orgasms are also "easier for women to fake", as they often don't have as obvious a conclusion as the male ejaculation. Another motivation for faking it could be to keep your partner's feelings intact or an easier way to bring about the end of a consensual but unwanted sexual experience.

What's orientation got to do with it?

The numbers suggest this problem might be strictly a heterosexual one. A survey of over 50,000 adults found that 89% of gay men and 86% of lesbian women claimed they usually-to-always achieve orgasm, compared to 65% of heterosexual women. "When you've got the plumbing yourself it's easier to understand how it works", says Heide, while de Wit believes that because gay and lesbian couples have been (and continue to be) marginalized based on who they love and have sex with, "Part of that experience for many is really looking at sex and talking about it and exploring it as it is, not something that is discussed and talked about in mainstream culture. This shared experience creates an environment for better communication and, thus, sex." It's that concept of better communication that could actually close the gap for good.

The secret recipe

Better communication can level the playing field, but it may not be easy. It may seem too forward in a new relationship and it may be hard to break old habits in a long-term one — but it can be done. The first step is to get to know yourself - you can't tell someone what you like if you're not sure yourself, and getting there requires exploration and analysis. Boodram likens it to a "secret family recipe" that you need to know the ingredients of in order to share and points to OMGYes, a collection of analysis and discussion on female pleasure, as way to not only better understand your sexual preferences, but also communicate them effectively.

In terms of passing along these preferences to your partner, Boodram suggests saying "I had a dream that…" might be a smooth way of instigating the conversation. But, counters Heide, "there are no absolutes when it comes to communicating sexual pleasure, so it does help to really know your partner and read them well." Heide suggests to prepare for a few hiccups along the way "and never be afraid to start over from scratch. Sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, and like all complex games it can take a few turns around the board before you're clear on all the rules."

But make no mistake, people can become very touchy when it comes to discussing their sexual performance, why is why de Wit believes "[what] is missing most in conversations is a safe context set to actually talk." de Wit prescribes the LITA method of first sharing what you Like about your partner and relationship, sharing what's Important to you about them, then bringing up the Topic of what you'd like to discuss and then Asking if they're open to having that conversation right now and, lastly, if they have any thoughts or feedback to share with you. Keeping the conversation considerate in this way creates an open and honest dialogue without veering off into shame or defensiveness, especially when the root of the problem is not sexual performance but a mutual miscommunication. 

The most important advice de Wit imparts is "To just do it. It might not be pretty, you may not get it perfect but respect the reality of what is going on and talk about it. Communication is lubrication. No one died saying 'Geez I had too many orgasms'".

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