How Swedish Women Are Closing The Big 'O' Gap

Here's another point for Swedish gender equality: new research shows in Sweden women love to masturbate. Like, really. Like almost as much as men. Researchers looked at students between 18-22, 1,566 females and 1,452 males. And according to Mic, approximately 98.9 percent of male participants and 85.5 percent of female participants have masturbated at some point in their lives, which is a whole lot more equal than in other countries. In the U.S., some studies have shown that nearly 30 percent of young women haven't masturbated in the past year, so Sweden is doing amazingly well, according to this study. I want to say "Hell yes!" in Swedish, but apparently that's "Oh ja!" and doesn't really have the sexy vibe I'm going for.

But I am stoked to hear this, and also not that surprised. I mean, remember how amazing it was when the Swedes coined the term 'klittra' for female masturbation— and yes, that is a combination of the words for clit and glitter, thank you very much. So I'm not surprised that the culture is pro-female masturbation in other ways.

It's not just the fact that women are masturbating that's important — there are larger benefits for women's sex lives and in terms of closing the orgasm gap. "In a culture that's more open about sexuality, we see how Sweden's positive messaging directly translates into healthy sexual expression and satisfaction," Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite Your Pleasure, tells Bustle. "In the U.S., the negative messages that have been passed down for generations, can lead to guilt and shame associated with sexuality and masturbation, ultimately robbing women of being in touch with their bodies and experiencing pleasure."

Dawn Michael PhD ACS CSC, certified clinical sexologist, AASECT certified sexuality counselor, sex educator, public speaker and author, says women may lie about having had orgasms because they feel if they haven't had one, something is wrong with them — so it's something to keep in mind when looking at studies too.

We can see how more sex positivity generally has some many different concrete benefits— including less shame and more sexual satisfaction. Here's what else the research showed about young adult's masturbation habits in Sweden, because there's a whole lot more the same than different. But first, check out our video on sex positions to last longer in bed:

1. Men Only Started Masturbating Slightly Earlier

Considering masturbation is often presented as so much more normal for men than for women, it's not a surprise I know a lot of women who were late bloomers when it came to masturbation. But in Sweden, men started masturbation at 12 or 13 and women weren't far behind at all, starting at 13 or 14.

2. Virtually All Dudes Get Off While Masturbating

No surprise here, pretty much all the men surveyed had orgasms while masturbating. But, over 81 percent of women said that they orgasmed while masturbating. I still think that number could be higher, but taking into account that some people are just more or less orgasmic than others, it's still a pretty great state. Well done, Sweden.

But what about the U.S.? Michael does a full sex history on each client she sees, so she knows the first time they masturbated and when they first experienced an orgasm. "One of the advantages that I do have is speaking to mature adults as opposed to a teenagers or young adults who may not fully understand their body," she says. "When speaking to both men and women, I found a great disparity between the sexes as far as orgasm is concerned. Men, because of the visual of ejaculation, were able to identify when they became aware of orgasm. Some did indicate that they masturbated before puberty, but more so after their first ejaculation. Women, on the other hand, did masturbate and explore feeling sensations that may or may not have led to an orgasm. A majority of the women reported that they did not have an orgasm until their 20s or if they had, they were not aware of it."

3. There Were Some Differences

There were gender splits when it came to masturbating, but it was less about the quality or quantity. As Mic explains, "more young women than men reported having used sex toys to get themselves off. But when it came to how often men and women masturbated, there appeared to be more similarities than differences between the genders." That's what I like to hear.

"The clear difference that I have seen is that for women, more so than men, there seems to be an aspect of maturity involved in their orgasm," Michael says. "It is not clear cut and most women were unable to define if they indeed did have an orgasm through masturbation in their teens. Using a sex toy for some of the women was a defining moment where they reported they were aware of the orgasm or they had one with a partner. I feel that sex education is severely lacking in this area. To this day, grown women ask me to see what an aroused vulva looks like compared to an unaroused vulva as well as wanting to watch women have an orgasm. This should be a part of sex education — to teach women about arousal and the time it may take to achieve an orgasm. It can take 20-30 minutes and that is normal as opposed to a male taking a much shorter time to reach climax."

So here's to better sex education and being a little more Swedish in the bedroom.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (3)