One possible reason the orgasm gap exists/persists: The widespread assumption that men simply preferred sex to women, for whom intercourse played a biological role and fulfilled some kind of gendered obligation. ("Please your man" and similarly bullsh*t directives.) Most reasonable people would, I hope, now agree that all parties have an equal stake in sexual pleasure, regardless of gender or orientation. Even so, the tendency to prioritize the male orgasm means women who identify as heterosexual climax less frequently than women who identify as bisexual or lesbian, and of course, less often than men.
An intuitive but still notable new study suggests one simple fix: Sleep with conscientious people.
Published in the Journal of Sex Research, this latest investigation into the orgasm gap looked at data from 964 German couples which included participants of "all sexual orientations and genders," lead author Julia Velten of the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany tells Bustle. Still, she adds, "The overwhelming majority identified as heterosexual."
Velten and her team examined sexual function (using two questionnaires: the Female Sexual Function Index and the International Index of Erectile Function) alongside the big five personality traits, which include extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and of course, conscientiousness. Women with sexually inhibited partners had lower sexual function, while women with conscientious partners reported better sexual function.
So far, Velten says, science has tended to ignore conscientiousness in analyzing sexual outcomes, focusing instead on things like emotional stability, how outgoing a person is, and how open they are to new experiences. While she believes those traits, as well as a lack of inhibition, promote better sex, she still suspects "that conscientious individuals are more inclined to see sex as a responsibility (for oneself, the partner, and/or the relationship) and are therefore more likely to dedicate some time for sex in advance."
"Most of our participants were somewhat middle-aged and in long-term relationships," she says. "For these couples, it might be important to make sex a priority and not something that might happen if both are in the mood for it."
On top of that, common sense suggests a few possible explanations: Conscientious people may simply be more likely to take their partners needs into account in bed. We know, for example, that people with clitorises often need that spot stimulated if they're going to orgasm: In one 2017 study, only 18 percent of vagina-having participants said they could climax through intercourse alone, while about 37 percent reported needing clitoral stimulation, and 36 percent said that having their clitoris involved improved orgasm. While about 95 percent of men report reliable orgasm from penetrative sex, a 2013 study asked female college students about their sex lives, and found that receiving oral sex doubled their odds of climaxing during a hookup.
Compare that data to a 2016 study out of Canada, which found — brace yourselves for a shock — that straight men receive oral sex far more often than they give it. Taken all together, available data suggests some straight dudes may view cunnilingus as some incredibly generous luxury bestowed on the women they date. That attitude does not smack of conscientiousness. It makes perfect sense that thoughtful people who consider their partners' pleasure may be more likely to help those partners to climax.
It also seems logical that these types may enjoy sex more themselves, and indeed, the study found that conscientious people reported better sexual function. Perhaps because sex is always better when everyone is actively enjoying themselves.
Interestingly enough, men with conscientious partners did not fit the pattern. As noted in Velten's previous research, cisgender men may initiate sex more often than cisgender women do, and it "might be that a men's conscientiousness has a greater impact on the sexual lives as they pursue sexual activity more diligently," she says. "This is in line with our finding that couples with conscientious male partners have sex more often than other couples."
To my mind, it also seems noteworthy that — for people with penises — orgasm from penetrative sex may feel closer to a given. We do not often hear, for example, of the "elusive male orgasm." Of course, for people with erectile dysfunction, climax is no guarantee, but those who don't live with that condition may well feel less compulsion to take care of their partners' needs, if they are selfish in bed. And so I say again: Seek out the giving people, and dump him if he won't go down on you.