During sex with a familiar partner, men have the highest orgasm rates - though lesbian women apparently don't do too badly.
On average, men experience orgasm 85.1 percent of the time, with only slight deviation by sexual orientation but women experience orgasm 62.9 percent of the time, with lesbian women experiencing orgasm more often than heterosexual or bisexual women, according to a new paper about a survey of American singles titled "Variation in Orgasm Occurrence by Sexual Orientation in a Sample of U.S. Singles" and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The paper was based on survey results from the 2011 wave of the Singles in America study, a now annual survey on the attitudes and behaviors of U.S. singles using nationally representative samples of single men and women ages 21 and older. The Singles in America sample was augmented to provide a better representation of gay men and lesbian women participants. In the current study, respondents were limited to men and women who had sex with a familiar partner during the previous year. It ultimately involved a final sample of 2,850 individuals.
"These findings may contribute to promotion of more informed sexual health, by reminding us to pay attention to individual variation in research and clinical practice -- variation in sexual experiences, variation in sexual identities and variation in sexual outcomes," said lead author Justin R. Garcia, assistant professor of gender studies at The Kinsey Institute.
Justin Garcia. Credit: Indiana University
The new study analyzed data from the 2011 wave of the Singles in America study, a now annual survey on the attitudes and behaviors of U.S. singles using nationally representative samples of single men and women ages 21 and older.
The Singles in America sample was augmented to provide a better representation of gay men and lesbian women participants.
Respondents were limited to men and women who had sex with a familiar partner during the previous year. It ultimately involved a final sample of 2,850 individuals.
- Women reported experiencing orgasm 62.9 percent of the time.
- Lesbian women reported an orgasm rate of 74.7 percent.
- Heterosexual women reported an orgasm rate of 61.6 percent.
- Bisexual women reported an orgasm rate of 58 percent.
- Men reported experiencing orgasm 85.1 percent of the time, with sexual orientation making no statistically significant difference (gay men 84.7 percent; heterosexual men 85.5 percent; bisexual men 77.6 percent).
"Moreover, to the extent that lack of orgasm is seen as a common and unwanted problem, learning more about orgasm in same-sex relationships may inform treatment for men and women in both same-sex and mixed-sex relationships," the authors wrote in the article.
What do they know about orgasms?
Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and later, Masters&Johnson, noted differences in sexual outcomes among heterosexuals, gay men and lesbian women in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet few comparative surveys have been conducted since, leaving gaps in understanding of sexual outcomes among sexual minorities.
Psychologists and scientists have some understanding about the psychological and physiological responses involved in orgasm, such as changes that occur in heart rates and blood pressure, and about neural and hormonal changes associated with arousal and climax. What for some can be intense sensations of pleasure are subjective, however, and big gaps remain in what researchers know about orgasm outside the lab. This includes what the researchers describe as "fundamental questions of how demographic factors may contribute to variations in individuals' orgasm experience."
There is even disagreement about the purpose of orgasms, with evolutionary scientists arguing that orgasm is an adaptation to promote reproduction, while some hypotheses disagree.
Garcia said the range and variation among women in the current study raises numerous questions regarding the medicalization of orgasm, with women more often than men being diagnosed with orgasmic "disorders."
Why the range in experiences?
The researchers speculate on the patterns observed, suggesting it could be the result of such known factors as length of a sexual encounter (earlier research points to lesbian women spending more time per sexual session); differences in gendered and sexual attitudes across sexual orientation; and even possible biological factors, such as prenatal exposure to the hormones testosterone and estrogen.
The authors note that the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found a correlation between the rate of orgasms for men and women and the variety of sexual behaviors they reported.
Garcia also notes that orgasm should not be equated with sexual satisfaction, as the two can be quite independent, and that in some instances orgasm is not the goal of a sexual encounter.
The researchers said follow-up surveys will look at other demographic factors that could influence rates of orgasm and other sexual outcomes among both men and women.