The female orgasm is often portrayed as elusive and, indeed, many women struggle to get there through penetrative sex, even in a long-term relationship. One study found women only orgasm around 63% of the time with a regular partner.
This perhaps explains why making a woman orgasm makes many heterosexual men feel manlier, as new research has found. According to the study, Do Women’s Orgasms Function as a Masculinity Achievement for Men?, published in The Journal of Sex Research, they consider it a “masculine achievement”. However, while this may sound good for the women on the receiving end of their sexual prowess, these men often consider the female orgasm as primarily an ego boost – rather than for a woman’s pleasure, the study suggested.
Researchers gave 810 men (mean age 25) a brief passage to read in which they imagined that an attractive woman either did or did not orgasm during sex with them. The men then had to rate their sexual esteem and state how masculine they would feel after the given situation.
The results? Surprise, surprise, men felt more masculine and reported higher sexual esteem when the woman in the imagined scenario experienced orgasm during sex with them. In addition, this effect was enhanced among men who were less secure in their manhood and those with “high masculine gender role stress”.
“For these men, [who see female orgasms as a sign of masculinity] women’s orgasm is actually about the men feeling good about their masculinity,” the study’s authors, Sara B. Chadwick and Sari van Anders, told PsyPost.
“This could explain why some men feel pressured to 'give' women orgasms. And, it could explain why some women fake orgasms, i.e., to protect men’s feelings.”
The pair hope their research may help more couples to see female orgasms as an important part of a mutually enjoyable sexual experience – rather than a reflection of masculinity or a “symbol of women’s sexual liberation”.
“Women’s orgasms should be experienced – when they are wanted – as a wonderful part of sexuality, not as something men give to women as an example of their prowess,” the researchers told PsyPost. “Cultural ideas about masculinity push many men to feel like they need to live up to certain ideals, and this ends up being bad for sexual pleasure.”
Previous research on heterosexual sex has similarly linked female orgasms to men’s feelings of masculinity. A study in 2014 from Western University suggested that most men consider it their responsibility to make a woman orgasm and they feel depressed when it doesn’t happen.