As International Women's Day approaches (it's March 8, 2017 — mark it on your calendar), I'm reminded of all the reasons this empowering, important day is necessary in the first place. For all the amazing progress feminism has made, there are still a lot of ways the sexes are unequal. And as someone who spends her time writing about all things sex, naturally there's one particular inequality that really irks me: the orgasm gap. For those of you who are unaware, the term "orgasm gap" refers to the disparity between how often straight men finish during sex compared to straight women — and it's a very real, troublesome phenomenon.
"In heterosexual partnerships, the fact is that men have more orgasms than women," Tristan Weedmark, We-Vibe's Global Passion Ambassador, tells Bustle. "To be clear, this gap is not women’s fault, nor does the blame land with men. Rather, female sexual anatomy, the clitoris in particular, is not ideally positioned for stimulation during penetrative sex. That, coupled with a communication breakdown when it comes to pleasure, leads to the infamous orgasm gap."
According to Cosmopolitan's Female Orgasm Study in 2015, only 57 percent of women have orgasms "most or every time" with a partner — but 95 percent said their partner finishes most or every time. So why the huge disparity? Weedmark says there's an "education gap": Women and men aren't taught enough about their own bodies, let alone how each other's bodies work, too. Couple that with the fact that our culture isn't taught to talk about pleasure, and it's no surprise that there are so many straight women not having orgasms with a partner (or faking them instead).
The good news? Helping to close the orgasm gap is both a fun and rewarding challenge to undertake. Here are five ways both men and women can help to close the orgasm gap, one ~happy ending~ at a time:
1. Get To Know Your Body Through Masturbation
If you want to help your partner figure out how to satisfy you when you're together, the best place to start is by exploring your body on your own and discerning exactly what does (and doesn't) work for you.
"In order to ask for something, you also have to know what to ask for, and this is where masturbation comes in," Alexandra Fine, CEO of Dame Products, tells Bustle. "Masturbation is an amazing way to explore your own sexuality, learn about what you like, and allow yourself to then talk about those preferences with others. It's also just great on its own!"
2. Communicate Your Desires
The next step is often the most difficult: You need to be comfortable saying, with words, what you like and dislike in bed. "Pleasure keeps us healthy and happy, and women deserve to get their fair share of it," Weedmark says. "We are deserving of enjoying and embracing our bodies. We need to engage our partners in a discussion about pleasure because if we don’t communicate they won’t know."
Talking about sex might not be second nature to you, but being able to have a mature, out-of-the-bedroom talk about your turn-ons and fantasies will ensure that, going forward, you and your partner are on the same page about each other's pleasure.
3. Re-Frame How You View Sex
The end goal of sex should be that both partners are satisfied — period. But because male ejaculation is often portrayed as the "finale" of straight sex (e.g. how straight porn usually ends with the guy's c-m shot) we often just think of sex as "over" when the man is done, even if the woman has yet to finish.
"To re-frame how we think about pleasure with a partner we need to stop compartmentalizing male and female pleasure and rather think about sex as a joint effort in which both people experience equal pleasure," Weedmark says. "Of all the gaps in gender equality, orgasms do not need to be one of them."
4. Use Toys To Your Advantage
Sex toys aren't just for your "alone time" — using vibrators and dildos during partnered sex is awesome, too. If you need a little extra stimulation on your clit, for example, your partner can use a vibrator on you to help push you over the edge. Incorporating toys spices things up, and allows for a wider range of stimulation to make sure everyone is satisfied.
Dame Products are specifically designed to help close the orgasm gap: there's Eva, a hands-free vibe that can be worn during penetrative sex, and Fin, a finger vibrator for even more electric skin contact. Then there are We-Vibe couples' products like the Sync and Unite, both of which will enhance pleasure for both parties. No matter which ones appeal to you most, sex toys make for better, stronger orgasms all around, and help us close the orgasm gap — so it's really a win-win.
5. Don't Forget The Clit
According to Weedmark, the orgasm gap is a cultural problem because penetration and clitoral stimulation aren't viewed as "equal" sex acts. Even though foreplay is super fun, for straight couples, all that touchy-feely stuff is often portrayed as "build up" to the main event: penis-in-vagina sex. But only 15 percent of women in Cosmo's study said they usually orgasm from vaginal penetration and no clitoral stimulation. The major anatomy lesson we all need? Don't forget the damn clit — it's a miraculous thing.
"The orgasm gap is [about] far more than an equal distribution of orgasms," Weedmark says. "The areas we need to tackle are why women aren’t speaking up about their pleasure, why we aren’t asking our partners for what we want or need and why do some of us feel ashamed of our bodies and our pleasure? ... We all need to appreciate how wonderfully complicated sex really is and learn that communicating what works and what doesn’t is going to help both partners better understand how to give and receive pleasure."
Check out the “Feminism” stream in the Bustle App throughout the month of March for more inspiring ways to celebrate Women's History Month.