Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample
Do homosexual and bisexual couples orgasm more frequently? Same sex couples share the same parts so it stands to reason they might know what to do a bit better than opposite sex partners.
Turns out, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, there is a difference, but not quite what some might suspect.
And, maybe more importantly, can we know what makes a difference? If so, maybe we can improve orgasm frequency and satisfaction.
“Heterosexual men were most likely to say they usually-always orgasmed when sexually intimate (95%), followed by gay men (89%), bisexual men (88%), lesbian women (86%), bisexual women (66%), and heterosexual women (65%).”
They also asked if their partner experienced orgasm. Results were largely within expectations.
Heterosexual men’s estimates of their partner’s orgasm frequencies were somewhat higher than heterosexual women’s own reported orgasm frequency. One-third (33%) of heterosexual women reported that they usually-always orgasm, whereas 41% of heterosexual men estimated that their partners orgasm usually- always (p<.001).
Additionally, homosexual men and lesbian women both reported their partner orgasmed always or usually with higher frequency than heterosexual men.
Factors that make a difference
For women, demographic data (age, relationship length, education, children under 21) did not predict with meaningful effect size. For men, age did predict with younger men more likely to orgasm. Additionally, length of relationship predicted increase in orgasm frequency though effect size was smaller for heterosexual men than for gay or bisexual men.
Oral Sex. Women who reported receiving oral sex more frequently reported experiencing orgasms more frequently. The same was true for men though effect size was very small (β = .06) for heterosexual men – higher for homosexual (β = .14) and bisexual men (β = .11).
While giving oral sex was not predictive of one’s own orgasm for any group, it was predictive of partner’s orgasm for heterosexual men and lesbian women and, to a smaller degree, gay men.
“Women who usually-always orgasm were more likely than women who never-rarely orgasm to report that they usually-always receive oral sex (36% vs. 13%; p<.001).
In contrast, women who usually-always orgasm were much less likely to report that they never-rarely receive oral sex (38%) than women who never-rarely orgasm (71%; p<.001).”
Communication Techniques. Other studies have shown communication to be valuable in sexual satisfaction. This study supported this in 5 of 6 communication techniques (“gently criticized” was not predictive – go figure).
“In particular, men and women who orgasmed more frequently were more likely to ask for something they wanted in bed, praise their partner for something they did in bed, and call/email to tease about doing something sexual.”
For men and women, “One of us praised others about something they did in bed” was quite predictive. For men, 41% of those who “always” or “usually” orgasmed reported this verses 17% who reported “never” or “rarely”. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of women who reported they “always” or “usually” orgasmed reported praise vs 32% who reported “never” or “rarely”. While who praised who is not identified, the effect for women was very high (only other factor higher was received oral sex).
Acts of Sexual Variety. When controlling for other variables, none of the acts showed more than a very small effect size (β < 0.9). Both men and women who orgasmed more freely were more likely to report a wider variety of sexual acts including trying a different sexual position, wearing sexy lingerie/underwear, or take a shower/bath together.
For women, incorporating multiple behaviors in one sexual encounter predicted more frequent orgasms.
Most heterosexual women who combined oral sex, manual genital stimulation, and deep kissing reported usually-always orgasming (80%), as did women who added vaginal intercourse to that combination (77%).
Mood Setting. When controlling for other variables, none of the mood setting techniques showed more than small effect size but men who orgasmed more frequently were more likely to engage in two techniques (saying “I love you” and engaging in sexy talk). Women were especially more likely to engage in the same two, but also the other 3 (laughed about something funny happened during sex, lit a candle or dimmed the lights, played music in the background).
Length of Sex Play. Longer sex play was associated with greater frequency of orgasm, especially for women.
Women who usually-always orgasm were more likely than women who never-rarely orgasm to report that their last sexual encounter lasted 1+ h (13% vs. 6%) or 30–60 min (37% vs. 19%). In contrast, women who usually-always orgasm compared with women who never-rarely orgasm were much less likely to report that sex lasted 15 min or less (11% vs. 39%).
Length of sex was not highly predictive of orgasm for men though men who reported they usually-always orgasm were less likely to report that sex lasted 15 min or less than men who never-rarely orgasm (17% vs. 28%).
“…Relationship satisfaction became one of the strongest predictors for women“
Finally, it is worth noting that the researchers ran a series of ANOVAs looking at the effect of ethnicity on the variables. Outcomes “showed that even when the effects were statistically significant, they were minuscule in size.” Ethnicity was not a factor in the outcome data.
There is a lot of fascinating information in this article.
Overall, the sample size is very large. It did come from an internet survey but other studies on this data set have shown it to be good. The NBC site it was on for 10 days had about 58 million unique visitors from diverse backgrounds. While self-selection is always a factor, it is doubtful it is a greater issue in this study than any other convenience sample study.
After gender differences, most of the significant differences were between heterosexuals and homosexuals, not bisexuals. While gender of the partner wasn’t assessed in this survey, authors report another study collecting from the same website(1)Frederick, D. A., & Fales, M. R. (2016). Upset over sexual versus emotional infidelity among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 175–191. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0409-9. showed most bisexual men reported a female partner (83%) and most bisexual women reported a male partner (82%). Results may be more about the gender of the sexual partner than orientation of the individual.
So What? …
There are a lot of tid-bits that could be pulled out of this article and turned into teaching points or blog posts. Here are just a few…
Direct clitoral stimulation to women is important. Oral sex, manual stimulation, and longer sex play all predicted increased orgasm frequency, vaginal intercourse didn’t. While the study didn’t specifically ask about clitoral stimulation, I would assume that is a primary difference in oral and manual vs intercourse.
Saying “I Love You” and engaging in sexy talk is important. While other things (i.e., candles or dim light) helped some for women, these two were important for both men and women.
Kissing is important. While kissing was present in over 1/2 of the encounters for both men and women, gentle kissing was reported 25% more frequently and deep kissing was reported 42% more frequently in always-usual orgasm vs never-rarely orgasm for women (13% and 25% respectively for men).
Length of sex play matters. Want to improve frequency of orgasm? Slow the process down and take more time. This is especially true for women (how many times have you heard this?).
Age affects men. While age was not very predictive of orgasm for women, it was for men. As men get older, orgasms become less reliable. Nothing new here for men, but other studies(2)
Boroditsky, R., Fisher, W. A., & Bridges, M. L. (1999). Measures of sexual and reproductive health among Canadian women [1998 Canadian Contraception Study]. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 8, 175–182. doi:10.1363/3925107.(3)Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). An event-level analysis of the sexual characteristic sand composition among adults ages 18 to 59: Results from a national probability sample in the United States.Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 346–361. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109. 2010.02020.x. show older women were more likely to orgasm.
Heterosexual men believe their partners orgasm more frequently than heterosexual women report they do. While this is not dyadic data (men reporting are not necessarily married to the women reporting), the size of the sample still means this difference has weight. The authors point to “faking it” for many identified reasons in the literature as a possible factor here. They do point out, however, that there is only an 8% difference, “suggesting most men have good awareness of women’s orgasm frequency.”
Increasing orgasm frequency in heterosexual women is likely possible. Lesbian women report higher frequency of orgasm even when controlling for important contributors (i.e., oral sex frequency, communication, etc.). While sexual orientation alone might be an explanation for this, the authors point to other factors like better awareness of partner’s body, less likely to focus on vaginal sex, and more adherence to sexual scripts that hold to equity (i.e., “turn taking”). They also point to heterosexual sex likely being more focused on meeting the requests of the high desire male rather than “tit-for-tat expectation for orgasm”. If this is true, education and communication between the couple can help bridge the gap.