The Enjoyment of Orgasm

Posted by Kristen Mark, Ph.D.

Orgasm is such an elusive "thing" in our culture, and there is frequently a lot of pressure placed around sex and achieving orgasm. So much so, that couples seeking therapy for sexual problems often have to be reminded of removing the emphasis on orgasm in order to remove some of the pressure sex can create.

At Good in Bed, we conducted a survey on orgasm that asked 2,613 men and 2,223 women all about their feelings, experiences, and expectations around orgasm. In this Trends Blog, I'd like to outline some of the findings related to the enjoyment of orgasm and all of the pleasure that it brings.  
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It may be no surprise that men tend to experience orgasm more frequently than women. But it may surprise you that the amount of pleasure derived from orgasm was equal between men and women, with more than 60% experiencing great pleasure or enjoyment from orgasm (as seen in the graph to the right).

When asked about preferences in method for achieving orgasm, there were some slight gender differences.
  • Masturbation: preferred method by 2.3% of men and 8.0% of women
  • Oral sex: preferred method by 10.6% of men and 12.6% of women
  • Intercourse*: preferred method by 66.9% of men and 48.9% of women
  • No preference was expressed by 20.1% of men and 28.0% of women

The overall preferred method was intercourse by both men and women (though more preferred by men). Women were more likely to prefer oral sex and masturbation as a method of achieving orgasm compared to men.

Participants were also asked whether they were able to have an orgasm when they wanted to. Perhaps not surprisingly, significant gender differences emerged here: men were significantly more likely than women to be able to have an orgasm when they wanted to. This finding is interesting to me, because although it is expected, it also brings up questions around exactly why this is. There has been some recent research to suggest that we don't even really understand women's genitals in the context of pleasure (i.e., studies have found evidence that the "g-spot" may actually be an extension of the clitoral roots rather than an independent structure. Women being less satisfied than men with being able to achieve orgasm when they wanted to could also be associated with women's genital self-image and interest in/experience with masturbation and genital exploration. In our sample from the orgasm survey, 3.9% of the women and .5% of the men had never masturbated before; indicating that masturbation was engaged in by the majority of the sample. It would be interesting in future research to examine the reasons why there are such gender differences in achieving orgasm, especially when the level of pleasure and enjoyment from orgasm is both high and equal among men and women.


*intercourse was defined as "penis-in-vagina" or "penis-in-anus"