Things that make you go Oh!

Anna Lyons unpacks the truth behind the female orgasm

An orgasm is the moment during sexual activity when feelings of sexual pleasure are at their strongest. While we can put a dictionary definition on the term orgasm, an abundance of questions still remain: How does someone know when they’ve had an orgasm? What is the difference between a male and female orgasm? Why do people feel the need to fake them? And, how do they differ between heterosexual and same-sex relationships? 

Orgasms are brain-triggered events, and they are subjective experiences in all genders. However, the male orgasm is often associated with ejaculation, and a woman’s orgasm is commonly seen as an abstract, illusory concept which is less achievable than a man’s. There is so much ambiguity and general lack of knowledge for what an orgasm is for any non-male person, and why sex is often deemed as over once the male orgasm is reached. It seems that once again, women are drawn the short straw, and that the orgasm gap is just as real as the wage gap. 

Evidently, this misrepresentation of male and female orgasms in porn can perpetuate unrealistic ideas and expectations of sex for everyone.”

I think that the portrayal of sex in media is largely to blame for why sex is such a male-centred act; this blame can be placed in particular on the porn industry. Scientists from The University of Quebec looked into PornHub’s 50 most watched x-rated films, and what this meant for the orgasm gap. The main finding saw that only 18% of female orgasms in these films were real, and the other 82% were faked, while men experienced real orgasms 78% of the time. Evidently, this misrepresentation of male and female orgasms in porn can perpetuate unrealistic ideas and expectations of sex for everyone. Once again, we see that the majority of porn is not illustrative of real-life sex, and this leads to the issue of people not knowing how to qualify any orgasm that isn’t a male one. 

What about mainstream media? How is the orgasm portrayed on social media, in films and music? Of the top films in 2021, only 8% are directed by women, so evidently there is a lack of female insight and an increasing androcentric presence in films and media. A lot of Gen-Z would have grown up watching raunchy comedies like American Pie, 21 Jump Street and Pitch Perfect, where women are often portrayed as one-dimensional, sexual objects and the male protagonists often only exist in pursuit of sex. This is bound to have had an impression on us as a generation. While men are encouraged to explore their sexual desires, women have been taught to suppress them. Luckily, attention is being increasingly given to this issue with movements such as The Clit Test (@clit.test), an Instagram page which describe themselves as a campaign to raise the bar for the sex we see on screen. Movies such as Call Me By Your Name and series such as Sex Education and Euphoria have been praised by the campaign. 

As a result of media, porn, and, yep, the patriarchy, are women taught that an orgasm is simply out of reach for them?”

Another problem which has arisen as a result of the general misconception of sex is the faking of orgasms. Studies have found that up to 80% of women have faked orgasms. While the patriarchy plays a large role in this shocking statistic, I also believe that from a young age, girls internalise the idea that they should sacrifice their needs in favour of a man’s. When asking some female friends who have had sex with men, it seems to be the general consensus that girls fake orgasms with guys a lot. As a result of media, porn, and, yep, the patriarchy, are women taught that an orgasm is simply out of reach for them? Girls do this when they’re bored of bad sex, and don’t want to make him feel bad. Porn and media also influence this, as well as a lack of knowledge about orgasming. So many men do just think that sex is over once they’ve orgasmed. However, when talking to female friends who have experienced relationships with women, the opposite is actually true; they have more orgasms and feel the need to fake them less. 

I wanted to discuss a bit more what an orgasm means for people in the LGBT+ community, and how the drastic misrepresentation of any orgasm, apart from that of the straight male, affects more than just women in straight relationships, and how the orgasm can vary. I got chatting to some friends who have experience with same-sex sex, as well as to others who have orgasmed from both same-sex and inter-sex intercourse. A prime point to take away, which I suppose is no shocker, is that porn is grossly misrepresentative of sex of any kind. With sex education in our school systems being so bad, it means that porn is often someone’s first form of sex education, and this is especially bad for people in anything but a heterosexual relationship. Mainstream porn is curated for the male gaze, and even lesbian and gay porn is often made with a straight man in mind. This misrepresentation leads to apprehension, fear, and blurred lines as to what sex is, especially in same-sex relationships. 

If men are able to over 90% of the time in same-sex relationships, so should 90% of women.”

However, while there is a considerable lack of education when it comes to sex in the LGBT+ community, it seems that perhaps there is more space for discussion in same-sex relationships. Women are often more comfortable asserting themselves and having sex with themselves as well as their partner in mind. For same-sex couples, as someone I was talking to about the topic put it, “Because you understand the anatomy of your partner better than someone with a penis, you’re more likely to know what to do and therefore are more likely to bring your partner to orgasm.” In reality, women should be orgasming just as much with women and men however, lesbians seem to have more satisfying sex. It has been found that while less than 60% of straight women orgasm most of the time during sex, over 90% of straight men, bisexual men and lesbian women orgasm. So women aren’t to blame for the orgasm gap. If men are able to over 90% of the time in same-sex relationships, so should 90% of women. 

As always, there is so much room for improvement in our sex lives, but understanding the basics of an orgasm might help. Maybe it’s time to question yourself: where did you get most of your knowledge about sex from? Do you really think straight men talking to straight men about sex, who have all taken their knowledge from porn and misinforming media, is your most accurate source? Maybe it’s time you talk to some women and people in the LGBT+ community in your life and stop stigmatising talking about sex. Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to share. This article has only scratched the surface on a topic which is so fundamental to a lot of people, and through open discussions like this we are able to create a safe space in which everyone, no matter their experience, sexuality or gender, can talk about sex.