Do Women Like Sex Less Than Men?

9-Treatments-for-Sexual-Dysfunction-in-Women_full_article_verticalResponses to my post asking why women like sex less than men included:

  • Says who?
  • I think it’s the opposite – I think women like it more
  • I don’t think anyone can know who likes sex better

Or as one man put it,

The overwhelming majority of men and women get their attitudes and desires for sex primarily through the natural, healthy desire to have sex… Women are equal to men and thus capable of every form of behavior that men engage in.

To which I respond: no and yes.

Women are certainly capable of enjoying sex immensely. Given their capacity for multiple orgasm, perhaps more. In some societies women are highly orgasmic and take pleasure in engaging in sex with great frequency, as did Tahitian and American Indian women before contact with Europeans.

But highly orgasmic American women? Not so much. Forty-three percent suffer from sexual dysfunction.

While the experience of orgasm is similar for women and men, women are less likely to have one. Sociologist Michael Kimmel surveyed college students on their most recent hookup (where actual sex may or may not have occurred). Only 44% of the men reported having an orgasm. Bad enough. But only 19% of the women did.

Expanding beyond hookups, an Indiana University survey found that 91% of men had an orgasm the last time they had sex but only 64% of women did. And only 58% of women in their 20s had an orgasm in their last encounter.

And orgasm seems to correlate with sexual enjoyment with 66% of women saying they enjoyed sex “extremely” or “quite a bit” while 83% of men did.

Modern American women also have a weaker sex drive, compared with men, with more than one quarter of young women feeling only weak desire according to the Archives of Internal Medicine. Research at the University of Chicago found that 32% of women
(but only 15 -17% of men) have low libidos.

Not surprisingly, 40% of men say they would like to have more sex than they do now, but
only 28% of women feel the same way.

Men don’t want to believe that women are less likely than them to enjoy sex. And women feel insulted if anyone suggests as much.

As I said, women are certainly capable of having great sex. But the extent to which they actually do depends on factors other than just what nature brings them. Repression plays a role as women get labeled sluts and ho’s for indulging. Sexual objectification can leave women more focused on how they look than how they feel. And male dominance takes a toll when it takes the form of rape, incest and child sexual abuse. I’ll explore all this is greater depth in future posts.

Women and men must both deal with a prudish society. But women must also contend with sexism. Still, many think our society has no negative effect. Maybe that’s why we don’t do anything to create change.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 19, 2011, in feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think one of the main reasons why there’s such a gap between men and women’s enjoyment of sex (besides culture and education, of course) is because of the mechanics involved in common sex (that is, penetrative). The vagina has considerably less nerves than the penis, so it’s just normal that women enjoy less during sex, unless there are other forms of sexual stimulation involved (and often there aren’t). I suppose that if they compared enjoyment during solo masturbation, there wouldn’t be such a difference.

    Strangely enough, there are lots and lots of men who believe that women’s orgasms are much better than theirs, for not particular reason. Maybe they are deluded by faked scenes in porn movies, or because vocalizations are more accepted in women, or haven’t heard about the multiple male orgasms. I don’t know.
    But I get the impression that they are quite fond of this belief, maybe to excuse themselves, as if they thought: “you women can’t complain if you only have an orgasm half the time, because when you do, it’s 10 times more powerful than mine, and I know that better than you.”
    Seems to me as poisoned logic. Specially, since brain scans and other orgasm studies have concluded that male and female orgasms are virtually the same.

    • What you say makes a lot of sense.

      I do think that even with masturbation guys are more likely to enjoy it. Partly because it’s more obvious what works for men. Women need to explore their bodies more to figure that out. And they’re less likely to do that, due to sexual repression, and logistics – women pretty much need a bed whereas it’s easier for men to do it otherwise (some researchers think that explains why after marriage men are more likely to continue masturbation).

  2. I HOPE women can enjoy sex as much as men. In my county, however, most women cannot enjoy it. One research suggests that Japan is the worst sex-less country in the world (married couples, 48times/year, on average). Most married men in Japan spend 20minits for sex on average. Most their wives are not satisfied with it but pretend to have orgasm because they think having sex with their husband is duty even it is terrible and they cannot enjoy it. I think if a couple has good relationship and conversation and examine their sex life together in order the woman to reach orgasm, she could enjoy sex with her partner. Japanese men should not be selfish and should help women enjoy sex.

  3. This article brings up an issue that many women don’t even know about. And why they don’t know, well because society has made sure of it. Some women in today’s culture see sex as a burden or an obligation sometimes, which can cause their mind set to not enjoy sex as they can. Some women may not even be thinking about sex at all while having sex. They might be thinking if the groceries were done, if they turned in an assignment, did they ever return that sweater before the 30 days. Women can become so easily distracted from sex while having sex because they were never taught that sex is natural and normal and is ok to enjoy. Some women may even go a very long time in the sexual world with out even experiencing an orgasm and not even knowing it. This clip from desperate is sort of funny and shows an example.

    This is a great example of a small town woman who had obviously never learned or experienced an orgasm. The way society has made sex into such a tabu for women is making the act not as natural and enjoyable as it should be. Now I’m not sex for women to go about having sex with everyone to get their needs meet because that can be dangerous to their health. But at the same time, women should still be able to experience sex and enjoy it with out feeling the hammer of society come down on them.

  4. I believe that women can enjoy sex just as much as men and I can agree with the idea that depending how high her self esteem is justifies when she enjoys sexual activity. Most women of today’s society has to deal with the self images that media displays and at times I believe that effects a women from enjoying sex. The mental thought of what she looks like when she is doing the deed or the thought of what her partner sees I believe that can be emotionally traumatizing to any women or man. I also think that for men sex may seem more enjoyable because men take sex as it is and become instinctual as media tends to promote the idea.

  5. Anneshirley Nyako

    Women do not like sex more than men or less than men. If you compare societies and cultures where sex is more open, than let’s say in Iraq, it does effect how a woman will respond to sex “promiscuity” in her society, as this article suggests. But I suggest it goes a little deeper than that. Currently we live in a highly sexualized generation, and yet most people are deriving much pleasure from sex. I think that is because we have placed intimacy, and love, and attentiveness and real, authentic, long-term relationships on the very end and bottom of the pole. It seems that everyone is supposed to be having mind blowing casual sex, and the “no strings attached” is an ideal people chase after. However, it has been proven that sex between two people who are committed, and respect, and love and care for one another way past the one night, tend to have better sex. They are better in tuned with one another’s emotions and feelings, it’s more about pleasing the partner rather than orgasming, and a deeper connection and bond is created between two people after. Yet, no one really talks about how great sex is when you’re committed to someone. It’s all about having it now, and as quickly as possible. Racking up your numbers if you’re a guy, and just going with the flow if you’re a girl. Maybe that’s why “women do not like sex ” as much as men. Because, we live in a patriarchal sexualized society that serves a man’s basic instinctual need- to orgasm. NOW!!!

    • Ok, but if women and men in our culture enjoy sex equally, how do you explain women reporting in surveys that they enjoy it less? Women are certainly capable of enjoying sex and much as men, and certainly many do, but typically, that’s not what they say.

      Repression, pressure for casual sex (when most women prefer connected sex — in turn, possibly due to repression) and other factors I mentioned pay a negative role in women’s sexual enjoyment.

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