Sunday, November 10, 2019

We should not assume that women equally pursue orgasm in their sexual encounters, and that this important individual difference can help explain differences in orgasm occurrence between women

The role of women's orgasm goal pursuit in women's orgasm occurrence. Staci Gusakova et al. Personality and Individual Differences, November 8 2019, 109628.

Abstract: Heterosexual women's low orgasm rates are widely acknowledged within sexuality research. However, researchers have not accounted for whether women are even pursuing orgasm (actively and purposefully attempting to orgasm) in their sexual encounters with men. Given that heterosexual sexual scripts often deprioritize women's pleasure, women may vary in their orgasm goal pursuit – whether they set orgasm as a goal and strive to have an orgasm – in any given sexual encounter, with some women being less likely to pursue orgasm than others. Across two studies, we investigated the association between women's orgasm goal pursuit and orgasm occurrence. By examining the variations in women's orgasm goal pursuit, we aimed to explain why some women orgasm in their sexual encounters and other women do not. Women who reported greater orgasm pursuit were more likely to report that they orgasmed in their most recent sexual encounter. These findings suggest that researchers should not assume that women equally pursue orgasm in their sexual encounters, and that this important individual difference can help explain differences in orgasm occurrence between women.

Keywords: OrgasmOrgasm gapWomen's sexualityOrgasm goal pursuitSexual scripts

Women who have sex with men (WSM) report that they frequently do not have orgasms in their partnered sexual encounters (Frederick, John, Kate, Garcia, & Lloyd, 2018; Richters, DeVisser, Rissel, & Smith, 2006). In two national samples of U.S. adults, researchers found that only 65% of heterosexual women reported that theyusually or always orgasm during heterosexual sexual encounters (Fredericketal.,2018) and only 69% of women reported that they orgasmed in their most recent sexual encounter with a man (Richters et al., 2006).Thepatterns for bisexual women's orgasm rates are similar, with only 66% of bisexual women reporting that they usually or always orgasm during their sexual encounters with men (Frederick et al., 2018). Moreover, research has found that, compared to women who have sex with women, WSM are less likely to orgasm across various sexual activities (including clitoral manipulation by self and by partnerandoralsexbut not during vaginal intercourse); however, these results were not examined based on participants’ self-reported sexual orientations (Blair, Cappell & Pukall, 2018). In contrast to the orgasm rates for heterosexual and bisexual women, 95% of heterosexual men and 88% of bisexual men reported that they usually or always orgasm during sexual encounters (Frederick et al., 2018) and 95% of heterosexual men orgasmed in their most recent sexual encounter with a woman (Richters etal.,2006). The low frequency of orgasm in women has led some researchers to draw conclusions about women's anatomy, biology and health, with the implication that women's bodies are simply not designed to have orgasms at the same frequency as men (Brody & Costa, 2017; Emhardt, Siegel & Hoffman, 2016). Likewise, the findings about WSM's low orgasm rates have created the assumption that the problem of low orgasm frequency lies in women themselves because they are difficult to please, their bodies are difficult to navigate, their biology is to blame(Bell& McClelland, 2018; Butler, 2013; Matsick, Conley & Moors, 2016; Nicolson & Burr, 2003). Thus, WSM often end up internalizing beliefs that they are sexually dysfunctional (at least vis-a-vismen),particularly if they do not orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse. These instances of self-blame most likely occur because women compare themselves against their perception that “normal” women should be capable of orgasming (Nicolson & Burr,2003). Given these messages about women's orgasmic abilities, it is conceivable that WSM end up with differing levels of investment in and desire to pursue orgasm.Although some women do not considerorgasm to be essential to their sexual satisfaction (McClelland, 2014), many women still consider orgasm to be important with research showing that approximately 80% of the women surveyed considered orgasm to be rather important or very important (Kontula & Miettinen, 2016). Moreover, the women who considered orgasm to be important were more likelyto orgasm compared to womenwho reported orgasm was not important to them (Kontula & Miettinen, 2016). However, it remains unclear why ascribing importance to orgasm is associated with orgasms occurring and what mechanisms may be behind this association. For example, although the types and variety of sexual acts that women engage in influence whether they orgasm (Frederick et al., 2018; Fugl-Meyer, Öberg, Lundberg, Lewin & Fugl-Meyer, 2006;  Herbenick et al., 2010), no research to our knowledge has explored whether women are engaging in specific sexual acts or in a greater variety of sexual activities with the goal of pursuing orgasm. In the present research we pose the question: do WSM work to make orgasm possible? If orgasm is something some WSM consider important, do they then pursue orgasm, thereby acting in accordance with their belief that orgasm is important? To answer this question, we integrate research on goal pursuit to offer the conceptual framework of orgasm goal pursuit. Orgasm goal pursuit is defined as the setting and striving towards having an orgasm in a given sexual encounter. In examining WSM's orgasm goal pursuit, we measure whether they are purposefully acting in ways that they believe will result in orgasm for them. In the present study, we examined the association between orgasm goal pursuit and orgasm occurrence in WSM's most recent sexual encounters. Our goal was not to explainhow or why WSM pursue orgasm, but whether they pursueit–that is, whether they engagedinany actions for the purpose of improvingtheir chances of orgasm. 'We expected orgasm goal pursuit would explain WSM' slow rates of orgasm: women who are not pursuing orgasm–perhaps because they do not feel entitled to pursueit–are almost certainlyless likely to orgasm. In this research, we predicted that orgasm goal pursuit maybe an individual difference among women that can explain why some WSM orgasm in theirsexual encounters and others do not.

Given the societal importance placed on orgasm as a proxy for healthy and pleasurable sex, we extended research to address how women differ in the extent to which they perceive orgasmas important and the degree towhich theypursueorgasm.We foundthat women's endorsement of orgasm goal pursuit predicted whether a woman orgasmed in her most recent encounter. These findings suggest that orgasm is not simply something that happens to women but, instead, women can have different intentions for their sexual experiences with some women more actively pursue orgasm than others. We suggest that future researchers consider orgasm goal pursuit as a critical individual difference when trying to understand assumptions about women's orgasmic capabilities and the orgasm gap between WSM and men who have sex with women.

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