Secret to turn a woman on every time
If having strangers email me intimate details about their love lives has taught me anything, it's that most women aren't enjoying sex.
As a woman myself, this isn't altogether surprising. What's striking though is how differently men perceive women's experiences of sex.
A cursory scroll through the comments of any column I've written about female pleasure suggests the majority of men think they are exemplary lovemakers. So much so, there's a confused disbelief sewn into their dialogue.
"This woman's clearly been sleeping with the wrong guys. I've never had any complaints," is one of the more common reactions I read from men when I talk about the orgasm gap.
It would be comedic if it weren't so revealing of our cultural shortcomings around sex education.
Frankly, it flows logically men aren't clued in to female pleasure. We equip them with so little information about how women's bodies work, it's a miracle any of us are having satisfying sex at all.
This is compounded only by the fact we raise girls to dissociate from their sexuality - and in doing so, make their silent sexual disappointment an inevitability.
Researchers have long known there's an anomaly in the way women reach climax when comparing solo and partnered sex. Studies suggest most women orgasm in roughly the same time it takes a man to do so - as little as four minutes - during masturbation. But this number changes during intercourse.
A 2018 paper published in The Journal Of Sexual Medicine revealed women take, on average, 14 minutes to achieve climax when having sex with a partner. That's more than three times as long as it takes us to get there when we're alone. Additionally, just 63 per cent of us orgasm at all, compared to 95 per cent of men.
So, what's going wrong?
Well for starters, it probably doesn't help that we can't agree on what sex should look like in the first place. Countless studies on the topic highlight the fact that the only thing consistent when it comes to our collective definition of sex, is just how inconsistent it is.
For example, a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, found only 24 per cent of people considered oral sex "actual sex". Another, found less than 40 per cent of people think digital stimulation is a meaningful part of sex.
This is really startling when you consider up to three quarters of women require direct clitoral stimulation - something not typically achieved via penetrative sex - to reach orgasm.
Research overwhelmingly indicates when women receive extended deep, passionate kissing, manual stimulation and oral sex, we're vastly more likely to climax. And yet, one of the main complaints I hear from coupled-up female friends is, "our foreplay is basically non-existent".
Sex scenes in pop culture really don't help our case. There's almost always an immediate jump cut from a male character kissing a woman to both characters being pictured naked, in the throes of vigorous penetrative sex. We don't see how they got there, what discussion - if any - was had around consent and boundaries, nor whether anyone had to reach for a bottle of lube or a vibrator to get things started.
The message is essentially: kiss a woman and her clothes will fall off.
In truth, it's a little more complicated. While most men experience arousal spontaneously (that is, instantly and with or without stimulation), for women, desire is typically something that happens responsively and is situationally dependent.
In her groundbreaking book, Come As You Are, author and sex educator Dr Emily Nagoski notes 85 per cent of women will never experience spontaneous desire. In other words, when women complain, "I don't know what's wrong with me, I never feel like sex" what they're really saying, is they never feel spontaneous arousal.
Unfortunately, because we fail to acknowledge the complex ways women's desire works due to the shame we shroud female sexuality in, women often wrongfully believe they're sexually broken, and give up on sex altogether. It's no coincidence feeling like you're broken leads to - you guessed it - more shame.
Shame has proven itself a historically powerful tool for subduing, and ultimately sexually disenfranchising, women. The theory behind it being: teach girls their bodies are dirty and their desires are not to be trusted, and we can stop them from becoming promiscuous. The unfortunate consequence has been setting women up for a lifetime of unsatisfying, at times painful, and even non-consensual sex.
For women, good sex means acknowledging the mechanics of contextual arousal. If she's had a stressful day running around after the kids and is resentful her partner hasn't taken the trash out, she's unlikely to become turned on, and subsequently, climax.
The good news is, the reverse is also true. If she's relaxed because her partner does their equal share without being asked, and feels sexy because she's dressed up for a date, she's significantly more likely to be sexually receptive.
The probability of her orgasm will be further increased if her partner doesn't pass GO and proceed straight to penetration. In particular, if undressing is delayed and there's several minutes of passionate kissing. Add oral sex and manual stimulation that recognises the significance of the clitoris, and you have a recipe for satisfying sex for both parties.
It would of course be ideal if women could just tell their partners this directly. Undoubtedly there are a few men reading right now lamenting, "Why does this always have to fall on me?" - and look, I get it. But unfortunately, we still live in a culture that shames women into distrusting their own bodies and staying silent around sex. So until then, I'm here to say it for them.
It might mean the blokes have to do a bit more work in the meantime, but it's a pretty good trade-off for a whole lot more sex - the kind women are actually enjoying, not just pretending to.
Originally published as Secret to turn a woman on every time