Sex Ed

Men Overestimate How Often Women Have Orgasms

December 13, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller

I recently blogged about a study that examined women’s experiences with orgasm during vaginal intercourse. The results revealed that question wording is crucial when it comes to understanding how often women tend to orgasm during this activity: when the question specifically includes clitoral stimulation, women’s reported frequency of orgasm (51-60% of the time) is much higher than when the question specifically excludes clitoral stimulation (21-30% of the time).

There’s another aspect of this study worth highlighting, though, which is how heterosexual men responded when given the same questions about their perceptions of the orgasmic experiences of women. Do men recognize the important role of clitoral stimulation in their partners’ orgasms? And how accurate are they when it comes to estimating how often their partners are reaching orgasm? Let’s take a look.

As part of this study, just over 1500 men were asked to estimate how often women reach orgasm during both “unassisted” intercourse (i.e., vaginal intercourse that does not include any added clitoral stimulation) as well as “assisted” intercourse (i.e., vaginal intercourse in which added clitoral stimulation occurs).

It turned out that men did indeed recognize that clitoral stimulation tends to increase the odds of female orgasm. Specifically, men estimated that women orgasm 61-70% of the time during assisted intercourse, compared to 41-50% of the time during unassisted intercourse.

However, when you compare these figures to women’s own estimates (included in the opening paragraph), we see that men are overestimating women’s frequency of orgasm in both cases, but especially during unassisted intercourse. Why is that?

According to the study’s authors, this “may reflect men’s difficulty in accurately detecting women’s orgasms, or alternatively, men’s difficulty in detecting when women fake orgasm.” The latter point seems particularly plausible in light of the number of women who report having faked orgasms before (learn more about why women fake orgasms here).

Overall, these findings provide further support for the idea that we need to ask very clear and specific questions when surveying both men and women about the female orgasm. However, they also tell us that while men do seem to recognize and appreciate the role of clitoral stimulation, they don’t necessarily have an accurate sense of how often their partners are reaching orgasm.

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To learn more about this research, see: Shirazi, T., Renfro, K., Lloyd, E., & Wallen, K. (2017). Women’s Experience of Orgasm During Intercourse: Question Semantics Affect Women’s Reports and Men’s Estimates of Orgasm Occurrence. Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Image Credit: iStockphoto

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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