In the age of the Internet, it's never been easier to access information surrounding sex (or to find a potential partner, for that matter). But while apps like Tinder, Bumble and others make finding a willing sexual partner as easy as calling an Uber, there's one element of bedroom encounters that remains elusive: the female orgasm.
The International Academy of Sex Research studied 600 college students and found that women were significantly less likely to reach an orgasm during casual sex than they were with a committed partner. In fact, only 40 percent of the women surveyed reached orgasm during a hookup, while 80 percent of men did. By contrast, three-quarters of women with committed partners reported reaching orgasm.
But what's the cause of this? While all bodies (and preferences in the bedroom) are certainly different, it's unlikely that men who weren't as familiar with their female partner just couldn't figure out how to help them get off.
So what's the explanation? A research paper published in 2013 presents a possible answer. In a study conducted among heterosexual focus groups, results suggested that, "For both male and female participants, the most common concern regarding lack of female orgasm in a partnered context focused on the negative impact this might have on the male partner's ego."
This suggests that female hookup participants may find themselves preoccupied with the expectation to reach orgasm so as not to disappoint their male partners. As anyone who has ever been too 'in their head' in the moment knows, this mindset itself could be a barrier to reaching orgasm. Paradoxically, those surveyed (both male and female) also agreed that "women have the psychological responsibility of being mentally prepared to experience the orgasm." But no pressure, right?
It's no surprise, then, that "altruistic deceit" or "faking orgasm out of concern for a partner's feelings" is one of the top four reasons for women faking orgasms as defined by another 2013 study. The tension between feeling responsible for stroking a partner's ego in a hookup and feeling as if it's your fault for not being 'mentally prepared' to have an orgasm could easily lead women to fake it for 'altruistic' purposes, ultimately leading to less satisfying sex and fewer orgasms.
One could assume that, on the other hand, women in longer-term relationships with consistent partners were able to move past this hurdle and communicate more openly, reaching the 75 percent rate of orgasm mentioned above. Heyyy, monogamy!
So if pressure to perform leads to faked orgasms, and faked orgasms equals fewer orgasms, how do women make sure we're still getting off during hookups? The best tool to combat this is simple communication. Though it's often harder to speak up about what you want in a one-off sexcapade, it's no less important than in a coupled scenario.
Taking responsibility for your own pleasure isn't just a step to more satisfying sex, it's also empowering—dominating, if you will. And by being clear about what you want and need, you're also making a sexual encounter more of a conversation—one in which you're less likely to get lost in your head thinking about the pressure to perform (and the blow to your partner's ego if you don't).