I suppose I was aware that there was an ‘orgasm gap’ but had never really heard it being referred to or discussed before seeing it highlighted May’s 4 Thoughts prompt. Basically the term refers to an issue in predominantly cis gendered hetero-sexual couples where the focus in on PIV sex and the female partner reaches orgasm less frequently than the male partner. There are a couple of sources linked in May’s post which seem to draw similar conclusions to the reasons why this is a thing.
Lack of clitoral stimulation
Although there are a small percentage of people who regularly orgasm from vaginal stimulation, I am part of the much larger group where clitoral stimulation is what will work. For me, PIV (penis in vagina) sex feels nice: I like the feeling of being full, of being used for pleasure and enjoy being taken quite roughly in this way. It makes me wet and I get a pleasurable feeling that could almost be the build up to a good orgasm. But it either doesn’t seem to reach a climax or it doesn’t have the growing intensity that would allow it to do so. I have sometimes wondered if it is a mini-climax but I think this is my mind wanting to be able to deliver my pleasure in response to HL’s, in line with societal norms.
We do have sex in this way and don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it. Pleasure takes many different forms and within our power exchange, meeting his needs is a genuine part of that pleasure. We would tend to use PIV sex either as something on its own – my body is his and he wants to use it for his pleasure – or as the end point for play where my pleasure has already been the focus and now he wants his own – I am quivering and so desperate for him that to have him inside me is the icing on the cake. Either way, PIV works for us because of how it fits into our power exchange.
A lack of understanding around female pleasure
The Durex study finds that ‘One in five women claim that their partners are unaware of how to push the right buttons’. In addition ‘one in three men think that vaginal penetration can bring a woman to a climax; however, only 20% of women can reach orgasm through vaginal penetration’. I think that this misinformation has a lot to do with the way female pleasure is portrayed in the media. It may have started as part of the narrative of sexual pleasure that society perpetuates, but even now that we know more, it continues.
I have said before that in schools now there is education around female sexual pleasure and a focus on challenging the long held narrative that is still presented in pornography and other types of media. However, although I see this as an essential and key thing, the nature of the presentation of it makes it difficult to get the message across in a way which really changes thinking. Basically, can a couple of lessons in a classroom compete with the delivery of alternative messages in a much more sexually enticing package? I fear for most the answer will be no.
Dealing with cognitive distractions
This one is more complicated. One of the reasons cited for the orgasm gap is that women are prone to cognitive distractions which get in the way of their own pleasure. I have my own ideas of the role of cognition in my desire and arousal and have explained both the ways that is an issue, and also the ways to work with it, but there is very little explaining in general terms how this can work for others. It seems to be accepted that generally speaking women are less quick to become aroused and also that they find it more difficult to maintain this feeling but I can’t find any definitive evidence as to the reasons why.
My own conclusions have been that where for HL stimulus is focused on the physical, for me it is far more psychological. I get to the point where my body takes over from my mind, but that only happens if HL is able to direct my thoughts in the right direction. This is why vanilla sex is nice but doesn’t flick my switches in the same way. Factors such as stress, tiredness, self esteem and body image have been shown to decrease the likelihood of female orgasm, but my own experience tells me there is more to the cognitive distractions than this.
Eliminating the orgasm gap with D/s
While it won’t be for everyone, D/s has meant not just the closing the orgasm gap but eliminating it altogether. The increase in the number of couples exploring BDSM in its more mainstream variants makes me wonder if there is something wider reaching to what I have found to be the case on a personal level. However, that aside, looking at the reasons the studies show for the existence of the orgasm gap, it is the case that a power exchange dynamic will address these. I haven’t found any evidence of statistics which compare the orgasm gap for couples in a power exchange to couples having vanilla sex, but I would expect it to be much less common.
The focus in D/s of course, is in meeting the needs of the other. One partner is completely invested in understanding how the other works. The constant communication leads to a comprehensive and effective understanding of the other’s sexual pleasure and desires, as well as learning more about your own. The power exchange also means that the Dominant partner will then use this information to control the submissive partner. Often during sex (play or a scene as we would call it) this leads to playing with the sub in a way which will build their sexual pleasure. This will often involve the control of an orgasm.
Principles of a positive relationship
For many of us in D/s relationships, an orgasm is not the end point of our sexual play. It is about far more than that. It is about the pleasure of both parties, it is about pushing boundaries and exploring together, it is about want and need and desire. Done well, there are few cognitive distractions because the build up has lead your mind to be focussed and engaged on what is happening. The letting go required by the submissive means that they can respond far more on a physical than a psychological level, once that point is reached.
While the orgasm gap seems to exist in mainly cis gendered hetero-sexual couples, D/s focusses on the pleasure of the other partner regardless of gender or sexual orientation. So it is not that D/s cures the orgasm gap as such, more that the principles and practices applied mean that the elements that would cause such a gap are taken care of. Awareness of the needs of your partner (which may be clitoral simulation), the willingness to incorporate their needs into sexual (fore) play, and the understanding of how to engage them in the process means that the orgasms are free to flow.