In bedrooms across the nation, a chasm has opened and continues to gape. It’s what sociologists call the orgasm gap — the fact that men are twice as likely to climax as women. The question of whether men are biologically better equipped to orgasm than women has recently become the center of a lot of scientific scrutiny, and recently researchers studying it put forth another theory: Womens’ bodies are perfectly able to orgasm. It’s the sexual dynamic with their partner that’s the problem.

The team behind the study, published in March in the Journal of Sex Research, argues that we’re going to have to take a much more nuanced view of orgasms if we’re going to close the orgasm gap. More important than whether or not a person has an orgasm is how they achieve it — and how good it is. That’s why the St. Francis Xavier University and Queens University researchers surveyed 806 people — cisgender men and women in same-sex and mixed-sex relationships — about their favorite way to reach orgasm and how frequently they managed to do so.

The results suggested a rather messy explanation for the existence of the orgasm gap: Of all the people surveyed, heterosexual men were the only group that preferred vaginal penetration. But because of the existence of historical and cultural “sexual scripts,” which shape our sex lives, they write, women in heterosexual relationships rarely get to experience the sex moves that lead to the best orgasms.

Chief among them, unsurprisingly, is oral sex.

Sex moves orgasm
The researchers attempted to rank the sex moves that lead to orgasm.

Explaining the results in an interview with PsyPost, the study’s corresponding author, psychologist Karen L. Blair, Ph.D., said: “This suggests women are already ‘reciprocating’ with the most enjoyable orgasm for their male partner when they engage in vaginal penetration, and that for them to also experience their most satisfying orgasm, the reciprocation from their male partner should likely be performing oral sex.”

Heterosexual women prefer oral sex for achieving orgasm, but they seem reluctant to ask for it, the study suggests.

But here’s the surprising thing: The researchers also found that the men in these heterosexual relationships were the most likely to say they wanted to perform oral sex on their partners more often. The researchers posit that this is because heterosexual men want to perform oral sex on their female partners for one of two reasons. Either they straight-up want to but find that their partners are reluctant to let them do so, or they only want to do it so they can receive oral sex in return. Regardless of their motivations, however, the question remains: Why aren’t they doing it?

Thus the researchers get to the core of the orgasm gap: It’s obviously not about biology, because they found that women (and men) in same-sex relationships are generally much more satisfied with orgasm frequency and quality. The problem lies in the dynamics between sex partners, especially in mixed-sex relationships, and the way they prevent people from getting the most orgasmic bang for their buck.

The problem all comes back to the aforementioned “sexual scripts,” which are cultural views that reinforce the idea that women should be sexually passive while men are encouraged to go for what they want. “[Heteronormative] scripts appear to give a greater degree of agency to men than to women, especially in matters concerning pleasure,” the researchers write. These scripts are deeply ingrained in our society, playing out, especially, in TV, film, and porn. However, these can — and, if we’re serious about closing the orgasm gap, should — be disrupted by increasing support for women’s assertiveness both inside and out of the bedroom.

Photos via Karen L. Blair, et al./Journal of Sex Research