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Sexual Pleasure: a Gendered Affair

Sexual Pleasure: a Gendered Affair

Many heterosexual women appear to prioritize their partner’s sexual pleasure over their own, based on the premise that intercourse is the most important type of sexual activity that women should be able to ‘do’ (6,7). Regrettably, women ‘can’ have intercourse without sexual arousal whereas men are protected by their genital anatomy, such that they can only penetrate when sufficiently sexually-aroused.

Women assigning greater value to their male partner’s sexual pleasure occurs not only in cultures and communities in which sexual pleasure of women is considered religiously or societally undesirable, but also in relatively sex-positive countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands (6,7). Knowledge about the location and function of the clitoris does lead to a greater orgasm consistency during masturbation, but not during sex with a partner (2), suggesting that women and girls would benefit from enhancing their sexual anatomy and assertiveness in partnered sex. Sex education should serve a wider goal than simply becoming aware of one’s sexual boundaries, instead, it should include education about sexual pleasure as well.


1. Douglass M, Douglass L. Are we having fun yet? New York: Hyperion, 1997.
2. Wade LD, Kremer EC, Brown J. The incidental orgasm: The presence of clitoral knowledge and the absence of orgasm for women. Women Health 2005;42;117–38.
3. Hite S. The Hite report. New York: Dell, 1976.
4. Lloyd EA. The case of the female orgasm: Bias in the science of evolution. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 2005.
5. Bruijn G de. From masturbation to orgasm with a partner: how some women bridge the gap–and why others don’t. J Sex Marital Ther 1982;8:151–67.
6. Elmerstig E, Wijma B, Swahnberg K. Prioritizing the partner’s enjoyment: A population-based study on young Swedish women with experience of pain during vaginal intercourse. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2013;34:82–9.
7. Brauer M, Lakeman M, van Lunsen RHW, Laan E. Predictors of task-persistent and fear-avoiding behaviours in women with sexual pain disorders. J Sex Med 2014;11:3051–63.