In any circle of girlfriends, there's always one (or two, or five) who has never orgasmed.
Cosmopolitan's The Orgasm Deficit reports that 70 percent of women rarely or never have orgasms with intercourse, and 11 percent never have them, ever -- however, based on the number of women I've personally spoken to who claim to never have had an orgasm, these numbers simply must be higher.
We're in the midst of an orgasm gap: For every three orgasms a man experiences, women only experience one. A term coined by feminists of the sexual revolution, the orgasm gap has often been reconciled biologically.
People assume that the clitoris is just too complicated to understand, for example, or that women's bodies are just bad at orgasming.
All women experience orgasms differently, but common components include sweatiness, heavy breathing, an urge to cry out, and a feeling of warmth followed by a release.
Orgasms exist at varying degrees of strength and length, so it's highly unlikely that women who can't orgasm have a physical inability to do so.
Perhaps they just don't recognize that an orgasm happened, or that particular orgasm wasn't as strong.
Frantic Google searches by exasperated women might lead to the existence of a disorder called anorgasmia, but this affects only 10 percent of women and mainly encompasses women who are inhibited socially, culturally and psychologically -- not physically.
If you think you're part of the (un)lucky 10 percent of women who are anorgasmic, there's hope: Most of the women who are inhibited by those social factors are indeed able to overcome them at some point in their lives. It's frustrating, yes, but social barriers to orgasm can be conquered if you examine their root causes.
We've grown up in a culture in which completion of sex is contingent upon whatever dude is on top of us finishing, becoming flaccid and rolling over to sleep. Comedian Louis CK sums this up wonderfully:
Another thing that proves how bad men are at sex is that after sex, you're looking at two very different people. The man just wants to lay there, be cool, and the woman wants to cuddle, something that men love to make fun of women for: 'They always wanna cuddle, they're so needy. I already f*cked you, just let me watch the game.' She's not needy, you idiot. She's HORNY, because you did NOTHING for her. You did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Ladies, we are half of the equation in the bedroom. We are half of the equation in the bedroom. I cannot stress this enough. Our pleasure matters. I know it, Louis CK knows it, and you absolutely must start convincing yourself that you know it. But the rest of society might need some reminding.
In a mini-documentary from W Magazine called "The Brave Ones," actress Kat Dennings discusses unfair MPAA differences in rating between a woman and a man receiving pleasure onscreen:
You can show, like, a man having an orgasm, and it can still be PG-13. And you can be on his face. But if it's a woman, it's R. If you're on a woman's face, it's R.
The sight of a woman receiving an orgasm is so shocking that it constitutes a higher, more cautionary rating. Even the 2010 movie "Blue Valentine" was slapped with an NC-17 rating merely because of a scene of a woman receiving oral sex.
Ryan Gosling, a leading actor in the movie, rightfully complained about this to MTV, citing the fact that when "it's a man receiving [oral sex] from a woman... it's R-rated." The reverse, Gosling laments, is "somehow pornographic."
Women have been raised to see themselves as supporting roles. Our bodies are what satisfy, not what are satisfied. We are objects of pleasure, not subjects of pleasure.
It is only when women become aware of this unfair male advantage that they can begin to focus on their own bodies and ability to achieve orgasm.
Orgasms, of course, are not the be all and end all of good sex, but they can certainly help make the experience even more enjoyable.
"Culturally, girls should come first [in the bedroom]," says my friend Lucy*, 21. "It makes sense chronically. It makes no sense for a guy to finish first, because then once a guy comes, he can't get it up again. It's such a sad evolutionary thing."
I've heard too many instances of women caring about giving their guy pleasure, but guys not responding with similar enthusiasm.
Part of the fun of hooking up is making the other person feel good, sure, but women have become so indoctrinated not to care about getting off themselves that they don't even have the patience to try.
"Some of the guys I've slept with have no idea what the f*ck they're doing, to the point where you can't even instruct them," says Anne*, 21, who has never had an orgasm in her life. "It's not even worth it."
Why are women hesitant to star in their own sexual narrative, and why do guys know they do? I have been with men who not only don't attempt to get me to finish, but who even respond with slight hostility when I try to give them the most polite of instructions.
Look, these kinds of directions aren't a pride blow. Guys, we understand our vaginas are not as overt as your penises. We understand that our bodies are kind of complex.
And as much as you try to tell us that "it takes more" than just a couple of wrist movements to get you to finish, we won't believe you; there is nothing more complicated than what one cannot see right in front of them (for example: the clitoris, religion, etc.), and we get that. Let us help you.
A woman who offers you advice is a woman who offers you gold -- and, when you take these newly learned skills to the next hookup, is a woman who becomes a valuable member of the female sexual community.
In the largest national sex survey since 1994, Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion reported that out of 5,865 male and female participants aged 18 to 94, 85 percent of American guys say the last person they had sex with had an orgasm.
Only 64 percent of the women in this same survey reported having had an orgasm the last time they had sex. Statistically, that's a large gap, filled with lots of disappointed female fakers and egomaniacal male stubbornness.
If more men set aside their pride and replaced said pride with genuine attempts to get to know their woman's body (at the risk of making a mistake and being corrected), perhaps women would experience more orgasms.
Women orgasm more when they sleep with other women -- almost as frequently, in fact, as men orgasm when they sleep with women, which is basically 100 percent of the time. It makes sense that a woman would value the pleasure of a woman, so why doesn't a man?
This switch in mentality is on all of us. We all need to start seeing women as subjects of pleasure. Women need to start seeing themselves as subjects of pleasure.
It might seem easy to solve the orgasm problem by telling women to "Get to know your body!" but right now, based on unconscious perceptions of them as the giver, not the receiver, lots of women feel like they don't deserve to, like they shouldn't, like it's "not worth it."
This is certainly why sex within relationships is always better. In relationships, there's an inherent element of selflessness that's pervasive not only emotionally, but sexually.
I'm confident that there'd be lots more orgasms going around if this delicate balance of give-and-receive were established in all sexual relations. And women who already value their own pleasure as much as they value a man's pleasure can attest to this.
Once women feel more confident discovering what works for them to reach orgasm, they can bring these lessons to the bedroom -- and, of course, to those nights when a candle, a favorite iTunes playlist and a vibrator are far, far more appealing than anyone at the bar.
* Names have been changed.