Why can many women not orgasm (Part II)

AG: Hi! So last week we starting answering this question, talking about some of the anatomical things that make it harder for women to have orgasms. This week we’re going to discuss some of the social factors that are also at play here.

RC: Last week, AG mentioned that the way we are educated about sex, sexuality, and relationships often contributes to the orgasm gap. There is significant variance in the ways that different communities choose to address sex education, if at all. Historically, sex ed, if offered, focused on pregnancy-prevention, STIs, and anatomy, from a cis and heteronormative perspective. Today, many communities have updated their curricula to include concepts like mutuality, respect, and pleasure.  

AG: In the communities with more comprehensive curricula, students are introduced to thinking about sex as a component of a relationship rather than something that exists in isolation. This means that young people are able to start thinking about the ways that aspects of their relationship(s) are reflected in their sexual interactions.

RC: One of the things I really appreciate about the conversations that AG has as part of the SexualLiteracy team is that they remind us that “relationship” can mean anything, ranging from a person’s relationship with themself to a hook-up interaction.

AG: One thing that some comprehensive sex education programs try to do is break down embedded ideas about gender norms, especially in the bedroom. In Western culture there are a lot of deeply-seeded notions about sexuality, many of which are incredibly gendered. An example of this is that women ought to be pursued while men ought to be the pursuers. Or that women should be restrained in communicating about their sexuality while men are encouraged to be more expressive.

RC: In the context of sexual interactions, this means that people who have been socialized as women are often discouraged, by both internalized and external factors, from communicating about what they enjoy and what they don’t.  This might mean that it can be harder for the partner(s) of female-bodied people to collaborate towards both achieving orgasm.

AG: Yes, exactly! It’s also important to remember that women are constantly fed messages about the importance of their appearance and the ways that it may be judged by others. These messages can easily be internalized and get in the way of a woman enjoying sex without worrying about how their partner(s) perceive them. This thought process actually works as a “brake” and can create a disconnect between a female-bodied person’s mental desire and their physical experience and/or arousal.  

RC:  I think this sets us up really nicely to mention the ways that power dynamics also can trigger that “brake” mechanism.  Often, in relationships involving more than one person, power is dynamic and unequally distributed at any given time.  While many relationships balance this distribution over time, some relationships are characterized by one person holding more or less power than the other(s) consistently.  This may be due to personalities, may be due to identities, and, in Western society, is often, at least partially, due to gender.  In some relationships, this uneven distribution of power is mutually agreed upon and wanted.  For example, in some BDSM relationships, a partner holds the power and authority while the other(s) are submissive.

AG: These (unwanted) power imbalances manifest frequently in sexual experiences. For example, in heterosexual sex, blow jobs are almost an expectation for foreplay, whereas it’s much more uncommon for a man to go down on a woman. Additionally, the sexual interaction often stops entirely after the man has had an orgasm. Sometimes this means that women don’t orgasm as frequently (especially, as mentioned last week, because on average women take longer to have orgasms than men).  

RC: While this all might feel like a lot and hopeless, one of our favorite lines is “Masturbate, Communicate, Negotiate, Incorporate (feedback), and Orgasm!”  There are many resources out there than can help with each one of these awesome concepts.  On our Resources page, there are a number of links for anyone interested in exploring more.  Thanks so much for asking!

AG

Student

Ramsey Champagne

Community Advocate