Female orgasms neglected by societal understanding of sex

By Natalie Russell / Columnist

Patriarchy never sleeps — especially in the bedroom. Men’s rights activists — and other embarrassments to the male gender — will tell you that a man’s orgasm is naturally more important than a woman’s because it’s necessary for procreation. I wonder how much they would respect the “laws of nature” if women just decided to stop taking their birth control pills.

Not only do women take on the majority of negative sexual side-effects — such as unwanted pregnancy, higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and the ever-looming fear of a urinary tract infection — they also get gypped when it comes to sexual pleasure. In a patriarchal world, a woman’s orgasm is secondary, if not superfluous.

According to a recent study from researchers at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, a woman’s orgasm is put on the back burner for nearly every age group. The study noted that men were overall significantly more likely to receive oral sex from their female partners than they were to give it. 

In 2010, a team of British researchers from the University of Central Lancashire found that 80 percent of heterosexual women admitted to faking orgasms during vaginal intercourse at least half of the time, and 25 percent faked it 90 percent of the time. Another study conducted at Temple University found that 60 percent of women had faked an orgasm during intercourse or oral sex. So even on the rare occasion in which a woman does receive oral sex, she’s not getting much out of it.

This is the picture of patriarchy: A woman is not only unconcerned with her pleasure enough to frequently fake orgasms, but doesn’t even want to burden her partner with the emasculating reality that she’s not enjoying it nearly as much as he thinks she is. Why is sexism relevant in this instance? (See: slut-shaming, the purity myth, unrealistic standards for sex appeal, etc.) These messages don’t exactly create an encouraging environment for female sexual expression.

Patriarchy obviously contributes to the problem of pleasure inequality in a direct way, but the phenomenon of the fake orgasm among women says a lot about its indirect influence, too. When you look at pop culture, it’s not all that surprising that sexual pleasure for men is deemed a top priority across the board. Even a scan through the magazine rack in the grocery store checkout confirms this with women’s magazines that devote half of their real estate to “pleasing your man,” while men’s magazines talk about “more important stuff” like business and Muscle Milk. 

 Beyond pop culture, the medical community is also notoriously discriminatory against female sexuality. A man experiencing sexual dysfunction related to arousal and orgasm has plenty of medicinal solutions to which he can turn, since research in this field has been so substantial. Women, alternatively, have access to sex therapy, but researchers have only recently begun looking for medicinal solutions for their sexual disorders. What’s especially interesting about the lack of research in female sex drive solutions is that women experience significantly more problems in this realm. Very few substantial studies have taken place to find treatments for women in terms of arousal and orgasm, despite the fact that both issues are significantly more prevalent in women. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 43 percent of women experience sexual dysfunction, compared to 31 percent of men. You know how scientific racism has been used to oppress minorities for decades? I’m thinking there’s some scientific sexism going on in this area that we haven’t quite named yet.

What if we were to reprioritize male and female sexuality? I’d suggest a radical new approach for the scientific, medical and pop cultural communities: Women come first.

Write to Natalie at [email protected]

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