The "elusive female orgasm" really isn't that elusive at all—just ask lesbians.
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According to a new study published last week in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, lesbians confirm the so-called "elusive female orgasm" is really not that hard to find.
There's plenty of research literature and women's magazine articles that suggest men orgasm more often than women. A team of researchers from Chapman University and the Kinsey Institute, however, took their investigation into orgasm frequency a step further by seeing how often gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, in addition to straight men and women, report climaxing. (It's only the second study on orgasm frequency to recruit a large sample of gay, lesbian and bisexual women. The first focused on singles, whereas the current study focuses on people in a relationship.) They also aimed to understand what behaviors and practices were potentially linked to orgasm frequency.
More than 52,000 people participated in a survey posted on NBCNews.com. The sample included 26,032 men and 24,102 women who identified as straight, 452 gay men, 340 lesbians, and 550 men and 1,112 women who identified as bisexual. In addition to gathering information about personal characteristics—including ethnicity, education, and number of children in the home—the survey inquired about sexual behavior. Participants were asked about frequency of receiving and giving oral sex; whether or not they'd ever talked about sex with their partner; and if they'd engaged in a variety of specific sexual activities, ranging from a massage, taking sex-enhancing drugs, and wearing lingerie to spanking, recording the deed, and having a threesome.
Researchers also wanted to know specifics about the last time participants engaged in sexual behavior: if either partner had done anything to set the mood, such as talk dirty or play music; what activities took place (from gentle kissing to anal); and how long the session lasted.
"A major goal of the study," the authors write, "was to create a profile of the attitudes and behaviors of people who orgasm frequently versus rarely."
After analyzing the data, the results confirmed what's been described as the "orgasm gap": Men were found more likely to come than women. What was interesting, however, was the difference between heterosexual and lesbian women and how frequently they reported orgasming during sex. Eighty-eight percent of lesbians said they usually or always came when they were intimate, compared to 65 percent of straight women.
Eighty-eight percent of lesbians said they usually or always came when they were intimate, compared to 65 percent of straight women.
The results of this study suggest "that part of the orgasm gap between heterosexual men and heterosexual women could be closed," says David Frederick, lead author on the research and a health psychology professor at Chapman University. "There are thousands of magazine articles and self-help sex books that give advice on what makes women orgasm. One goal of this study was to look at which specific acts were most strongly linked to orgasm frequency in women. Not all women necessarily want more frequent orgasms, but for those who do, understanding the gender differences can point to ways to close that gap."
According to the study, some of the behaviors that "most strongly differentiated women who orgasmed frequently from women who did not were: asking for what they wanted in bed, praising their partner for something they did in bed, calling or emailing to tease about doing something sexual, wearing sexy lingerie, trying new sexual positions, anal stimulation, and talking about or acting out sexual fantasies, engaging in sexy talk, and expressions of love during sex."
The best predictor, however, of how often a woman orgasms is how often she receives oral sex. "Women who orgasmed more frequently reported receiving more oral sex, having sex for longer durations, and being more satisfied with their relationships," the study states. "Of particular importance for women was incorporating oral sex along with other activities during a sexual encounter."
But surprisingly, Frederick says, "oral sex is only somewhat common. Fewer than half of couples usually to always incorporate oral sex when they are sexually intimate."
For many women in their survey, he continues, "vaginal intercourse wasn't necessary [to climax]. Eighty percent of heterosexual women who had genital stimulation, deep kissing, and who received oral sex said they usually-always orgasm."
The combination of these three moves is called the "golden trio," says Elisabeth Lloyd, an affiliated faculty scholar at the Kinsey Institute and co-author on the study. She says from a woman's perspective, one of the biggest takeaways from their research was the confirmation of the effectiveness of these actions to increase a woman's likelihood of reaching orgasm with a sexual partner, if she can't climax through intercourse.
The study's findings that a gap between the percentage of lesbians and heterosexual women having orgasms in bed suggest "there's something to be learned" from women who have sex with other women, Lloyd says. "We found that these activities, which are very often what lesbians do in bed, are transferable to what heterosexual couples could do in bed if they really wanted the woman to have an orgasm."