FII is now on Telegram
5 mins read

Editor’s Note: This month, that is November 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Sexual And Reproductive Health, where we invite various articles to highlight how health outcomes are determined with respect to a person’s social, political, economic and cultural contexts of their gender and sexuality, and how these identities shape their life experiences vis-a-vis SRHR in India. If you’d like to share your article, email us at pragya@feminisminindia.com. 


“Porn shows women having fast and fabulous orgasms from male pounding. These images are lies!” says Dr Laurie Mintz, a sex therapist, professor of human sexuality and author of Becoming Cliterate. The female sexual liberation movement that emerged alongside the third wave of feminism and digitalization epoch of the 90s has fallen short of one goal – female sexual liberation.

According to one particularly disappointing survey, 91% of male college students experience orgasm during sex as opposed to only 39% of female college students. These statistics confirm an androcentric and phallus-centric worldview that has plagued sex positivity. While overvaluation of penile-vaginal penetrative sex and emphasis on male pleasure over female pleasure is the leading cause of an orgasm gap, these accelerating trends are also the physical materialisation of a sex culture that has emerged due to patriarchy’s fusion with porn.  

An article in The Journal of Sex Research outlines that out of the top 50 most viewed videos on Pornhub only 18.3% of women, compared to 78.0% of men, are explicitly shown reaching orgasm. Not only does this reinforce the idea that male orgasm is the goal of heterosexual sex, but the videos that do show a female orgasm reaffirm the myth that aggressive penetrative sex is what makes a woman climax.

In Search of the Clitoris 

An article in The Journal of Sex Research outlines that out of the top 50 most viewed videos on Pornhub only 18.3% of women, compared to 78.0% of men, are explicitly shown reaching orgasm. Not only does this reinforce the idea that male orgasm is the goal of heterosexual sex, but the videos that do show a female orgasm reaffirm the myth that aggressive penetrative sex is what makes a woman climax. The erect penis is a symbol of arousal without which the purpose of a vagina is futile. Meanwhile, clitoris, an under researched body part that specifically exists only for pleasure, escapes general sex vocabulary. “Sex is about everything but sex,” exclaims Natasha*, “when a man has to make me cum with anything other than his penis I just feel like they’re doing me a favour.”

Become an FII Member

Dr Mintz in her book details how 95% women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, revealing that clitoris is the key to women’s orgasms. While masturbating, 86.5% women pleasure themselves by focusing exclusively on the clitoris and only 1.5% women pleasure themselves solely by vaginal penetration. But during heterosexual sex, penetration’s unspoken superiority over all other sexual acts sidelines clitoral stimulation, leading to a woman’s loss of orgasm. When woman are shown to have brilliant orgasms via mindless penetration in pornography, it makes a regular women’s incapacity to orgasm during sex her fault. 

Sophia Wallace’s Άδάμας: The first anatomically correct sculpture of the clitoris

Another survey in the Journal of Sex Research mentions that almost 37% men incorrectly assume that the clitoris is directly stimulated by penetration and 32% believe that women will have an orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse. But perhaps the most important revelation presented in this study is that most men have difficulty identifying if a woman has had an orgasm.

In porn, it is easier to portray a visually explicit male orgasm as opposed to a female one; a woman’s loud moans that stop as soon as the male ejaculates, the screen goes blank and credits roll. But apart from ejaculation, men and women experience the same physical tells of an orgasm—involuntary contractile spasms right before climaxing, and involuntary spastic contractions of facial and abdominal muscles. Faking an orgasm by clenching said muscles, and pretending to spasm and breathe rapidly thus becomes a refuge for women embarrassed or exhausted to communicate their lack of pleasure.

In porn, it is easier to portray a visually explicit male orgasm as opposed to a female one; a woman’s loud moans that stop as soon as the male ejaculates, the screen goes blank and credits roll. But apart from ejaculation, men and women experience the same physical tells of an orgasm—involuntary contractile spasms right before climaxing, and involuntary spastic contractions of facial and abdominal muscles during.

I’d rather just fake it because at least the boring sex will stop”, chuckles one college student. With more sincerity her friend adds, “I don’t fake it that often, but I don’t want my boyfriend to feel bad.” Upon being asked if they’d prioritise their male partner’s pleasure before their own in non-sexual areas of life, they both respond with an enthusiastic and loud ‘no way’.

Also read: Why This Orgasm Gap Between Men And Women?

Pornification of a Woman 

I get turned on by the idea that I’m desired, I like being perceived, and I focus on my partner’s orgasm because it’s validating”, says Akansha*, a 21 year old college student. Anticipating disapproval, she’s quick to add, “I know it’s not fair to me, I can’t help but view myself the way porn does.” Porn altering how women perceive their pleasure is not a surprising phenomenon if we consider the vacuum in education around women’s orgasm. While boys are taught about erection and ejaculation, girls are taught about periods and unwanted pregnancies. One can draw a diagram of her uterus better than a diagram of her vagina. In their very first introduction to sex, women are first reduced to their reproductive function, followed by an urgent need to control it. Turning to porn for education about pleasure then only seems natural.

A round protruding butt, full breasts, expensive lingerie draped over a smooth hairless body, the slightest touch of which produces moans of ecstasy. She is the obedient and sensual woman of porn. She represents everything a man desires—submission and beauty. She’s a shy prude if the man so desires, and a nymph and a whore if the man wants. She exists only to please the penis and she proudly smiles with content after that task is accomplished, moving on to the next penis to please. It doesn’t matter if she’s tall, short, blonde, brown, or Asian, all porn videos star a variation of her.

Repeated exposure to this imagery alters the audience’s individual beliefs relating to sex. Through porn we learn how to perform sex like the porn actors. Women are taught to focus more on their performance, and to constantly view themselves from the perspective of their partner. They are to arch their backs in a perfect U, and push their tits together so the invisible camera hovering over their partner’s head makes them look flattering. This disproportionately impacts college going women, who’re at the beginning of their sexual careers, dating men addicted to porn and sometimes addicted to porn themselves. According to Sara McClelland, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, while women, especially college going women, use their partner’s pleasure as a yardstick for satisfaction, men are more likely to measure satisfaction by their own orgasm.

The orgasm gap is almost non-existent in lesbian sexual relationships, affecting only heterosexual or bisexual women who engage in sexual relations with men. The sex positivity movement, as it has been molded over the last 10 years, is extremely phallus-centric. It advances the belief that women should have sex with men—as much sex as they want—for they are independent and it’s an indicator of liberation. But no questions regarding the quality of this sex are being asked. When wedded with a porn culture, the patriarchal structures that disregard a woman’s sexual agency become more prominent, using male pleasure as the measure tool for success. Women’s liberation should never be measured by how appealing it is to men. Any movement that benefits the oppressor class more than the oppressed class should be analysed with a degree of caution and critique.  

Also read: The Orgasm Gap: How Body Shaming Affects Women’s Sexual Experiences

Orgasm gap in the era of sex positivity is a consequence of unchecked pornification of sex. Please do mind the gap.

*All real names have been changed upon request.


Become an FII Member