Why Don't I Enjoy Sex? A New Study Shows That The Orgasm Gap Is Real AF For Millennial Women

Public Health England has just released the results of a major national study into women's reproductive health, and the results are grim. Ever thought to yourself, "Why don't I enjoy sex?" Well, you're not alone. The research from this survey revealed that almost half of millennial women lack an enjoyable sex life — a finding that even the most sexually fulfilled amongst us would struggle to be shocked at in the era of the orgasm gap.

The notion that millennial women aren't experiencing enjoyable sex is not a new one. Last year, a study released in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour revealed that women have fewer orgasms than men. According to the findings, only 65 percent of heterosexual women reported that they usually orgasm, alongside 66 percent of bisexual women, and 86 percent of lesbian women. In comparison, 88 percent of bisexual men, 89 percent of gay men, and 95 percent of heterosexual men stated that they typically orgasmed during sex. Another study released last year by The Eve Appeal, a gynaecological cancer research charity, revealed some more alarming statistics. Half of the men surveyed couldn't identify a vagina on a diagram. Half. Of. The. Men. Half of the men.

But if so many millennial women are reporting unfulfilling sex lives, what's the problem and how do we go about fixing it?

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Sex therapist Lisa Etherson believes that inadequate sex education contributes to millennial women's lack of sexual satisfaction. "There's no focus on pleasure in sex education," she tells me. "If we go down the sex positive route, and we actually teach people about pleasure, then women will know something's not quite right, and they'll be able to do something about it."

Etherson also highlights prevailing cultural myths about sex, suggesting that for millennial women to have more fulfilling sex, these stereotypical notions need to be dismantled. "We still have an issue when it comes to sex — we either have women who are prudish, or women who are sluts. Women still tend to be put into either one of those categories a lot of the time, as opposed to women being able to have their own authentic sexuality, whatever that might look like."

She adds: "We still live to a certain degree in a patriarchal society. The focus was always on male pleasure. It's never really been about female pleasure."

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Peter Saddington, a sex therapist who works with relationship support charity Relate, pinpointed stress as another reason for young women's sexual dissatisfaction. "The realistic thing is that we're not very good at prioritising ourselves," he tells me.

"We do everything we should for work, for our kids, for other family members, but actually saying, 'I need time for me' or 'I need time for our relationship, so we feel more connected', is generally the first thing that goes out the window. Anxiety and stress are quite likely to result in you not being able to relax. For a woman to achieve an orgasm, she has to be in a fairly relaxed state for a considerable amount of time."

The most common issues Saddington has noticed affecting young women are a loss of libido and the experience of painful sex. In the event of the latter, he explains, "Women are being sexual but they're not fully aroused, they're not lubricating, so it becomes uncomfortable. That starts a psychological issue where they're expecting it to be painful so it is painful, or it becomes a physical issue that actually you do start becoming sore because you're having sex when you're not fully aroused."

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If you're one of the many, many millennial women not enjoying your sex life: what do you do next? Etherson recommends sex therapy as a method of "exploring what's going on for you — what you get in sex therapy is a really good sexual education." On a broader societal level, she says, "We really need to be having more conversations about women and sex in general, so they feel like they can actually have these conversations without feeling isolated all the time." Saddington also recommends tackling day-to-day pressures that might interfere with sexual enjoyment.

"Think about things like mindfulness and stress management. Look at getting some help, and empowering yourself to take charge and do something about it."

In a society where women are still compressed into the virgin/promiscuous dichotomy, where female sexuality remains frustratingly taboo, and where half of men apparently can't identify a vagina on a diagram (I will never get over that), it's unsurprising that so many millennial women feel sexually unfulfilled. What that doesn't mean, however, is that it's acceptable; let's hope that this study marks another step towards change.