The reality of the orgasm gap

10/14/2016 10:52 am ET

By Dr. Emily Morse, sex and relationship expert and host of the top downloaded podcast, Sex with Emily

As a sex and relationship expert, I’ve advised millions of couples (and singles) who listen to my podcast hoping to enhance intimacy and improve their sex lives. If you have a question about a particular sexual issue or experience, I’m certain I’ve covered it. After a decade of doing my podcast, there is one topic that comes up over and over again: the dissatisfaction that occurs when one partner climaxes before the other.

Enter the orgasm gap, or in the simplest sense, the physiological difference in the time it takes for men and women to climax (on average, 5 and 18 minutes, respectively). When it comes to arousal, men are like frying pans while women are more like slow cookers. We heat up at different speeds, yet we expect to be equally satisfied by our shared sexual encounters. Also, we differ in the way we become aroused. For guys, the penis is pretty much running show because, if it’s getting attention, arousal is generally guaranteed. For women, arousal requires more of a top-down approach, and no, I’m not talking about the breasts (although it never hurts to give them some love). I’m referring to the largest female sex organ: that big, sexy brain.

Yet despite the fact that we know we’re wired differently, the orgasm gap is still the cause of many relationship and sexual issues because we don’t know how to address it properly.

Over the years, I’ve recommended various products that are on the market that can help overcome these biological challenges. One in particular that’s been in the news recently is Promescent, a lidocaine-based OTC spray that enables the average man to last 64 percent longer, as documented in a recent medical study in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

As a recent Glamour article noted, helpful products such as Promescent can’t close the orgasm gap alone, and I’m in total agreement. Promescent is a useful product to have in your sexual tool box, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only tool you should have at your disposal.

So, what else can couples do to close the orgasm gap? First things first: everyone needs to stop blaming their respective partner for the lack of orgasms. Failure to climax isn’t anyone’s fault. Just like anything else in life, when two people put in equal amounts of time and effort and only one gets the big payoff, there is bound to be some resentment. But there doesn’t have to be! With a combination of open, honest communication and understanding on both sides, you CAN have your cake and orgasm, too.

Besides doing a “sexpectation” reality check, here are a few additional things that both men and women can do to try and close the O-gap:

Women: If you want that orgasm, you must start with foreplay. Some men may look at foreplay as the cherry on top of an already delicious ice cream sundae, but for women, foreplay is a requirement. It’s a necessary component for great sex. That’s why it’s really up to you to show him the ropes; let your partner know what you need and help yourself get nice and ready for the main event.

Men: Sometimes to solve a mystery, you have to do a little field research, so now is the time to take the focus off of your penis and find out what makes her tick. During foreplay, pay attention to how (and where) she likes to be touched. Also, keep in mind that foreplay doesn’t stop after the last orgasm; from kissing to dirty talk, there are countless other ways for you to get turned on and turn your partner on before you step into the bedroom.

Women: Often times your guy is going to go with a position that feels best for him, which generally leads to power thrusts and a quick finish. He’s not doing this to cheat you out of your orgasm, he’s doing it because it feels amazing to be inside you. That said, it’s always a great idea to take the lead and find another position that feels best for you. Experiment with some moves that give you more control of the range of motion or speed, like woman-on-top. That way, you can keep a rhythm that serves your orgasmic needs, while he lays back and enjoys the view.

Men: Embrace the positions that will give her clitoris some love. We don’t expect men to know every move that will feel good for us, but I can tell you that the clitoris is a good place to start. Why? Because there are around 8,000 nerve endings packed in this tiny space! So while it may be your natural instinct to start hammering away when you get busy, it’s likely that this move is doing nothing for her. Instead, opt for slow, sensual sex — you will last longer and she will have a much better chance of reaching orgasm. If you still feel like you’re going to come quickly, don’t be afraid to take a quick break. You can jump back into foreplay while your body calms down a bit, then slowly ease back into intercourse when you’re ready.

If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that there’s a lot going on emotionally, physically and mentally during sex. These tips and tricks are just a few of the things couples can be doing to close the orgasm gap. But, it all starts with being open about your feelings and needs. I can guarantee that more communication means more orgasms and pleasure all around, and who doesn’t want that?

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