The sex survey: women should be taught about female orgasm in school

The sex survey returned a fairly consistent result concerning an inability to orgasm

 

Women should be taught about masturbation and female orgasm in sex education classes, two prominent Irish sex therapists have said.  The Irish Times sex survey of more than 12,000 people has found that up to half of women of all sexual orientations have experienced inability to orgasm during sex and this may be due to a lack of knowledge, said Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist. 

Teresa Bergin, a psychosexual therapist, said that difficulties were also psychological in many cases and were “a very painful topic for women who were afraid to talk to anyone about it, even their female friends.”

An inability to orgasm was relatively consistent among participants across all female age categories at between 43 per cent among 35- to 49-year-olds to 51 per cent in the 17- to 24-year-old age category.

“Difficulty reaching orgasm is a very common issue,” said Bergin. “ Some women experience this difficulty from time to time and it is related to tiredness, distraction, not being sufficiently aroused, or not giving themselves enough time. It can also be a result of difficulties within the relationship and can indicate communication problems. On the other hand, there are many women who have never experienced orgasm and it is a very distressing and frustrating problem for them, particularly when they don't feel able to talk to their partner about it.

“This issue can affect men too: for them it is an even more difficult topic to talk about and very stressful given the possible implications for fertility,” she added.

It may come as no surprise that men masturbate more than women, the survey found. Almost half of sexually active men said they masturbated more than once a week, while almost one in four did so at least once a day. This compares to almost one in three sexually active women who said they masturbated more than once week, and just 5 per cent who said they did so at least once daily.

Bergin commented: “The statistics here for men are certainly higher than for women and this figure is probably true of the general population. There has been a myth in the past that women simply don't masturbate and that it is solely a male pursuit. This is certainly untrue, however; women don't appear to talk about masturbation, even among themselves. It seems to be quite a private, unspoken activity.”

Younger women are keen users of sex toys, with seven out of ten 25- to 34-year-olds using them. The majority (58 per cent) of sexually active people have used sex toys. Women were slightly more likely than men to use them, at 61 per cent compared to 55 per cent. 

Sex toys were most popular with bisexual women, with 80 per cent saying they had used them, followed by 79 per cent of lesbians.

“From my clinical experience, this seems to be an accurate result. In comparison with 10 years ago, I notice that people are more likely now to be open to experimenting with sex toys. They are more likely to introduce these into sexual activity and to talk with a partner about it. Women in particular are now more likely to buy, and use, a vibrator for their own personal pleasure but do not tend to discuss this with other women,” said Bergin.


The Irish Times sex survey was conducted on irishtimes.com over the course of a week in June 2015. A total of 12,639 participants completed the survey (a 71 per cent completion rate), with 12,134 responses used in the follow-up analysis. Over 500 responses were excluded, the vast majority because the participant was under the age of 17 (below the required age to take part) or where it was obvious that false information had been provided. 

The survey was carried out among self-selecting individuals. It is not a weighted survey and does not purport to be accurately representative of the wider population, biased as it is towards certain age groups (over two-thirds of those who took the survey were between the age of 24 and 50) and towards those who are more sexually active. Therefore all results should be seen as indicative rather than definitive.

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