The theory goes that there are only two species which have sex for pleasure: dolphins, and human beings.
Now I don’t know about female dolphins (there’s a whole other definition of aqua-aerobics) but just how fun is sex for the women of this world?
Not-so-chandelier-swinging, it would appear. Or so implies an IFOP survey released last week, painting a dismal picture of women’s orgasms across eleven countries – including France, who (would you believe it?) scooped the trophy for least-satisfied ladies.
Yes, France, where the cinq à sept and the presidential mistress are the norm, but where 49% of Françaises do not have regular orgasms from sex and one third apparently regularly fake them.
(maybe those not having a cinq à sept?).
But other nations shouldn’t get too cocky (ho!). No other country has much to be crowing over, either. Even in the Netherlands, who came out on top (ho!) there were still a third of women who claimed regular difficulty reaching orgasm.
What’s worse is that these dreary results concern our consensual, everyday love lives. We are not talking about forced, transactional or commercial sex; intercourse intended only to get pregnant; or the recognised medical condition of being unable to orgasm (anorgasmia: will add to glossary), which is thought to affect 10% of women.
So: do these statistics not strike others as pretty grim? What exactly is the pleasure of sex without regular orgasm? Some strange altruism in watching your partner reach seventh heaven while you cannot? Feeling good about fulfilling your conjugal duty? The joys of inadvertently rolling onto a one-way wet patch in the middle of the night?
Well, mystified, and in the interests of benchmarking, I consulted my (British) female friends. To my surprise, it was my surprise that surprised them: not only were such statistics to be expected, but they were hardly catastrophic.
Sex without orgasm? (Non)-Gaullic shrug. Still good fun, they said: emotional connection, feeling close to your partner, genuine physical enjoyment.
So orgasms = a nice, but non-essential extra?
Sorry – I’m not feeling it (ho! ok, ok, I’ll stop). As enjoyable and/or inevitable as occasional good-but-orgasmless-sex might be, it just doesn’t beat regular good-and-orgasmic-sex, and that’s all there is to it.
Because these results do not a describe a one-off. If half of half of France’s population are missing out regularly on that (ok, exaggerated, but still) Meg Ryan #WHMS rendition: well, quel dommage. After all, the average person has sex 127 times a year. So should we not be trying harder to fix the stats below?
But maybe it’s not as simple as if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed. This thoughtful article summarises research suggesting that orgasms are easier for certain women (size or exact positioning of clitoris; fabled “G-spot” more likely when thinner tissue between the vagina and the urethra).
On that basis, it’s probably pointless to petition our MPs to get a woman’s right to orgasm enshrined in the national constitution.
Ok. But even if can’t sue our partners for failing at their civic duty, we can (as women, as a society, as men partnering women) make an effort to address some of the underlying issues to make an orgasm that much more likely.
Take the faking thing, for example.
All credit to Meg Ryan, but why on earth do women fake orgasms?
Well, a quick google search later, and reliable sources inform me it’s nothing to do with honing of porn actress skills, but rather:
- to avoid hurting your man’s feelings
- to not appear abnormal if not utterly delighted with all that bumping and grinding
- to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible
- to stimulate – and not simulate – a real orgasm.
As depressing as that list is, the upside is surely all of the above could be addressed by a bit of simple communication – and patience – between partners?
That, in any case, is exactly what this article argues: the chances of orgasm increase with sexual touching (foreplay, affection outside of intercourse situation, etc, rather than just diving on in there).
More time, more effort – not quite rocket science, so far. And yet those two things are not a given in any sexual relationship. Is it because men *massive generalisation warning* are pretty much guaranteed an orgasm given the design of their equipment? Are they therefore puzzled or impatient with the more complex workings of the female kit?
(guys, if that is the case, fear not: Men’s Fitness have got it covered with the elegantly-named 9 Sex Positions That’ll Get Her Off Every Time).
But there’s something else necessary, too, and that’s a woman’s self-esteem, indulgence, and willingness to define her own pleasure. We struggle with that, I think, because it’s not something our society likes to talk about – let alone encourage -against a backdrop of virginal fairy tales and religious or moral taboos about female sexuality.
Look, for example, at the success of the Fifty Shades phenomenon and the countless spin-offs it spawned (ho!) now vying for space in bookstores. How much of that success is simply about untapped need? And those top-shelf magazines or x-rated DVDs in your local newsagent: how many cater for women, visually?
But we don’t need to go that far to see how the facts are treated. Look at this nice gentle advice, for example, from a this women’s health website:
“For some couples, love making ends once the man ejaculates. Often, at this point the woman is very aroused. If this is the case, you might ask your partner to continue stimulating you with his hands or his mouth once he is finished. Some women feel uncomfortable doing this, thinking that this would be selfish or that their partner would be bored. In fact, your partner may enjoy giving you pleasure. Rather than being selfish, you are giving your partner the chance to please you.”
Hear hear. Tough job, ejaculation. Give the poor guy a break, would you?
Yeah. Alternatively, invest in a good vibrator. That way, when he’s rolled over and fallen asleep (preferably in the wet patch), you can finish the job in your own sweet time.
Failing that, you can always pack your bags (and the Rabbit) and move to Brazil, where enlightened males celebrate the International Day of Female Orgasms every 8 August.
Ok, ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But, then, I’d hate to leave you on an anti-climax.