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01/18/2018 10:26 EST | Updated 01/18/2018 10:48 EST

Get Yourself Off: How Women Can Close The Orgasm Gap

According to Planned Parenthood, as many as one in three women have trouble reaching orgasm when having sex.

I didn't have my first orgasm until I was 21. It surprises some people when I break this story out, because I'm seen as a very sexual person among my circle of friends.

I was in a coffee shop with my friend Clara. We were talking about sex. I'd been sexually active for five years already, since 16. But I'd never had an orgasm, and no guy I'd been with had ever seemed to think twice about that. While it's true that I hadn't yet been in a long-term relationship, I'd had lovers and one-night stands galore. Ok, fine, mostly one and two-night stands. But still.

She looked at me, jaw dropped, and I laughed, appreciating her shock and outrage on my behalf. Then, my dear friend asked me a simple, life-altering question.

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"How on earth do you expect anyone to be able to make you cum if you can't make yourself cum?"

I looked at her.

"Good point," I said.

"Once you know, you can do it anywhere, anytime," she continued. "You could be sitting right here at this café and give yourself an orgasm under the table."

We laughed madly.

And then Clara did the unthinkable: she drew me a diagram. I knew where my clitoris was. I knew where it all was. It wasn't the location I had issues with. And it wasn't an inability to pleasure myself. I had been touching myself liberally with intent (and effect) from a young age. But when it came to follow-through, to getting over that hump, I was clueless. Kind of like starting a creative project and abandoning it.

So she drew the diagram, and explained the mechanics: different ways of moving fingers, hips. Different shapes that motion could take. It was poetry, really. And philosophy. But when I got home and followed one of her simple prescriptions, lying on my bed with my feet leaning up against the wall, I had a mind-seizing orgasm for the first time ever. In under 10 minutes. And so then I had another five.

What blew my mind the most was that it was not complex. I had simply never been taught how my own pleasure centres functioned. And this coming from someone with extremely sex-positive parents.

The orgasm gap

According to Planned Parenthood, as many as one in three women have trouble reaching orgasm when having sex. According to Cosmopolitan's 2015 Female Orgasm Survey, only 57 per cent of straight women usually have orgasms when they have sex with a partner. The same women said their male counterparts orgasm 95 per cent of the time.

There's more: 50 per cent of women said their partners were really close but just couldn't bring 'em home; 38 per cent of women felt they weren't getting enough clitoral stimulation; 35 per cent said they weren't getting the right type of stimulation. If these numbers don't represent a serious gap, I don't know what does.

Mechanical issues

Simple as it may sound, many women's orgasm problems can be chalked up to bad mechanics, just as my own inability to bring myself to climax was. These stats are really not surprising when you think about the crucial role the clitoris plays in helping a woman achieve orgasm. Even though statistics and percentages are only so accurate, experts say that most women need to have their clitoris stimulated in order to orgasm; only about 8 per cent of women have reliable, unassisted orgasms during penetrative sex, while nearly all men do.

In a 2005 study of 833 undergrad students, women and men were just as likely to misidentify the clitoris on a diagram! So I guess in spite of my lack of skill at the tender age of 21, I may have actually been ahead of the game. How disturbing.

Lack of attentiveness

In the same study, while 78 per cent of women believed their partners cared about their orgasm, 72 per cent still experienced a time when their partner climaxed but did not attempt to help them finish. While leaving a woman gasping and yearning may come from a lack of mechanical know-how, the orgasm gap also illustrates how cultural views of men's pleasure differ from views of women's pleasure.

For example, even though it takes longer on average for a woman to orgasm (up to 20 or even 40 minutes, some experts say,) the status quo understanding is that sex ends when a man comes. Mainstream porn often reinforces this.

More from Bellesa:

Closing the orgasm gap

There's no quick fix for anything worthwhile (unless it's a good friend with killer diagram-sketching and lecturing skills,) and closing the pleasure gap is no exception. But come on y'all. Strides are being made. For one thing, Bellesa is all about unpacking those questionable assumptions. Hell yeah.

Other things you can and should do if you haven't already:

  1. Know how to please yourself
  2. Practice what I like to call radical honesty with the men (or women) in your life. Don't be afraid to say what you like or what you need. Your orgasm depends on it.

This article was originally published on Bellesa.

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