Recently we learned that just on a purely live-tonight-sold-out, standing-room only hookup-basis, women are less likely to get off than men. Most of us were like, no duuhhh. But the question I want answered is how much do we actually care? This is not a trick question.
For her piece, Kitroeff interviewed several young people, and also explored recently published studies from the Kinsey Institute and NYU that came to roughly the same conclusions: 1. That women are two times as likely to have an orgasm when they're in a relationship as when they're not and 2. That when thousands of college students were interviewed about the last hookup they'd had, 42 percent of women had had an orgasm versus the 80 percent of men who had.
Bonus fact: 74 percent of women had had an orgasm the last time they'd has sex while in a relationship. "We attribute that to practice with a partner, which yields better success at orgasm, and we also think the guys care more in a relationship," said one researcher.
Another said, "We've been sold this bill of goods that we're in an era where people can be sexually free and participate equally in the hookup culture. The fact is that not everyone's having a good time."
One: define "good time." Two: Look, orgasms are weird. They're great, but they're weird. For women, they are often more elusive. We also have more to unpack culturally about sex. But whether our greater difficulty in getting off is strictly about anatomy or strictly about culture, or like nearly every other hang-up we've ever had, a product of some weird, insidious blend of the two, seems hard to tease out.
In other words: If you don't care about having an orgasm with every sexual encounter, is it because you simply value other aspects of the experience more, or is it because, like some expensive makeup you can only buy every once in a while when you get your tax return, you've learned not to care about every-time orgasms because you know that's not your life?
Maybe it's both?
I think it's both. Here's the deal:
When you're younger and experimenting, if you are dabbling from your available pool of same-aged peeps, it's unlikely you're going to meet tons of vastly skilled lovers who are going to just blow it all out of the water for you in a hot whirlpool of satisfying lovemaking. In other words, you're likely to be matched up with other people who have about as much experience as you do. That doesn't mean you aren't enjoying yourself: Inexperienced sex can still be great (especially when it's all you know), and very passionate, but also kinda bumbling. It's supposed to be bumbling! It's where you're learning. This leaves men and women to figure each other out at speed, but we're not working with the same equipment or cultural messages.
Men are encouraged to go out there and get some; women have a batshit mountain of messages to ignore/work through to even be in this room hooking up without thinking we are dirty whores. Seems easy enough to me to figure out why generally speaking (and yes, I'm speaking generally), it's easier for men to show up, get off, and not think too much about it, while women who may be just as enthusiastic and eager to have a sexual experience may still be more hesitant to demand sexual pleasure — especially when that pleasure comes with more work.
This Hairpin response piece to the orgasm study titled "I am So Sorry You Probably Didn't Have An Orgasm That Time We Hooked Up," offers a guy's jokey response to this idea of women everywhere being left unsatisfied. It's really funny in parts — I know I shot out of your apartment like a superball out of a tailpipe. But I was pretty sure I had pleased the pants right off of you. I mean, your pants were still on. But still. — but it focuses more on the New York Times being dumb about sex, and then kind of ends with a plea for you (women) to ask for the things you want in bed. And then, it implies, you will get the things you want.
If only it were that simple. JUST ASK! That's the stuff of campaign slogans to help more women have orgasms. JUST ASK!
But isn't that weird? Why do I have to ask? Why isn't the default that we both get off? Whoever said I didn't want to? Hint: I want to. You don't have to ask to get off, it's implied in the having of the sex that you want to, because it happens. Pretty much without fail. If orgasms could be had then they should be had by everyone, yes? (Yes, I know it can be more complicated than that all around, but I'm going based on the general idea that no one is too drunk to get off and everyone wants to.)
Also, what if I ask you to do it and then you can't do it? And I don't mean because you couldn't mind-read, like, because you're inexperienced. Sometimes you get the feeling during a hookup that the person you are with does not really know what they are doing. In these situations, you'd much rather get to the part where you are back at home watching Veep again. It's just not worth all the effort.
Then, there are the time when a woman just can't turn her brain off. Because for whatever reason she can't. For a lot of women, you have to be "trying" to have one. Meaning, you have to make some kind of deliberate effort. You will never see (that I'm aware of) a movie scene in a late-night comedy where a woman, overcome with desire, accidentally comes too fast when trying to get it on with a dude, thereby ending the encounter.
So, given that most women are probably used to not getting off every time, and that merely asking to get off doesn't guarantee dick, and that it probably takes more effort than orgasm for a man, I have to wonder if it's more an attitude of resigned defeat when the hookup doesn't result in orgasm and the woman is meh about it. Or, if it's that those women really do enjoy sex for a number of reasons — companionship, warmth, making out, nakedness — beyond getting off in the simplest sense.
Also, that sex is framed around the man's equipment is also part of the problem. However long it takes for a guy to do the deed is one thing, but if we know women are more complicated, why isn't sex organized around this idea? Why aren't guys doing everything in their power to cater to this, since we all know he's getting his one way or another?
But also: Maybe women don't care. I'm sure some women don't care.
This Vogue piece asks "Are Orgasms Always Necessary?" and in it, the author argues that getting off is just not the singular goal for her in casual sex.
We've all been told that men just need a little direction to get us off: "I like it when you put your hand here; it feels amazing when you do this." But when it comes to casual sex, maybe we're getting too hung up on the big O. I might be hanged for saying this, but for me, achieving orgasm is not always the be-all, end-all of my hook-ups. I've certainly had many pleasurable experiences with men I hardly knew that didn't result in a climax for me. There were other times when I had multiple orgasms, and the guy only had one. (That's one advantage women have). But ultimately, being intimate with a relative stranger can be fun, freeing, and empowering, whether you come or not. And often, just rolling around naked is the most fun and most intimate part of sex. Taking a step back to remember this would be beneficial for both sexes, but especially for men, who often seem to be humping robotically toward the finish line.
I'm largely in agreement in theory — all kinds of aspects of fooling around are fun. It doesn't always have to be sex. And we could all be a little more enlightened about what feels good and not so goddamn goal-oriented about the act. It reminds me of a funny bit in Annie Hall where Alvy Singer says to his date (played by Shelley Duvall) after she apologizes for taking "too long to finish" that he thinks there's too much emphasis placed on the orgasm to make up for empty areas in life. This is, of course, easier to declare when you're a dude who comes easily.
But back to Vogue — the piece goes on to detail a story with a stranger (who happened to look like a young River Phoenix) that led to pleasurable fooling around and no orgasm, and that it was enjoyable just as it was.
But accepting the outcome of no orgasm and still liking the fooling around anyway versus not wanting to get off is not necessarily the same thing. Or is that perhaps getting older and knowing your own body means accepting that pleasure is multi-faceted and less about this one accolade?
Personally, I can't agree with it. Because I know what an orgasm feels like now, so I can't go back, you know? I can never go back.
It's worth noting that the author explains that she understands how to get orgasms in other sexual experiences, as well as alone. And this, I think, is key. If you're having lots of orgasms as a single person or in a relationship, it's much easier to forgo them every now and again if it just doesn't happen. But I have to wonder if this is happening for these women in the study that got us all talking. Are they just hooking up for fun and don't care about getting off, because they are pleasing themselves? People have sex for all sorts of reasons, after all.
But if you're operating in an orgasm deficit and your hookup fails you, well, that's another story, and one less likely to produce such a nonchalant attitude. I'll let Louis C.K. finish:
"After sex, men just want to lay there and the woman wants to cuddle. Some men like to make fun of women for that, 'They always want to cuddle, they're so needy. Why is she so needy?!' She's not needy, you idiot, she's horny. Because you did nothing for her. You did absolutely nothing. Her pussy is on fire because it's gone unfucked completely."