Many have heard of the pleasure gap. Sometimes referred to as the orgasm gap, the o-gap, and orgasm inequality, all address the same issue. Statistically, women experience orgasm less than men, especially cis heterosexual women. There is still much to learn about sex, and it is no surprise to many that the pleasure gap exists. Unfortunately, it often presents itself in relationship dissatisfaction and self-doubt. The little changes that it fosters on an everyday basis in each of our lives compounds to lifestyle and health inadequacies; it makes the world a little duller and a little less fun. To become aware of such a difference in experience for some would be to observe its trail through society and do something about it. Because here's the deal: the pleasure gap is a cultural phenomenon, not a biological one.
Historically, female sexual pleasure has been dismissed far and wide. This dismissal is reflected across social and health sciences. Although scientists and philosophers have questioned female pleasure since the beginning of history, from ancient philosophers to Freud, it wasn't until the mid-20th Century that we started to question the physiology of the female reproductive system, and consequently, pleasure.
Luckily, medical professionals examined the representation of female anatomy. One is a Melbournian professor of urology Helen O’Connell, who initiated and led the world-first comprehensive study of the clitoris, and found it to be the opposite of a pea-sized anatomical structure. Dr O'Connell stated in 1998 that the anatomical descriptions of female human anatomy at the time were inaccurate. Because female anatomy has been misrepresented for so long, it’s no surprise that female sexual pleasure is historically marginalised. Our collective perception of female sexual anatomy as insignificant perpetuated the idea that female anatomy only served the purpose of reproduction. This contributed to the development of inadequate sex education curriculums that built ambiguity around sex, sexuality, and gender. It’s even evident in the misrepresentation of women in media and pornography, and retail that is centred on male sexual pleasure. (And yes, we’re trying to change that.)
It may be hard to find the path forward in closing the pleasure gap. How do we attain pleasure equity? It starts in our own lives with open conversations about sexuality and pleasure. Learning about pleasure is a deeply personal process, where exploring intimacy is at the core of the experience, however that looks for you. For some it could be through consuming non-mainstream pornography, for others it could be through seeking comprehensive sex education or even finding tools to assist in the experience of pleasure.
Although we still have so much to learn, we hope to see an educated, equitable world sooner rather than later. Here is to striving for better pleasure.