You’ve heard of the gender pay gap, maybe even the orgasm gap, but did you know there’s a masturbation gap, too?
It’s well documented that women get paid less than men and orgasm less frequently during heterosexual sex. But it turns out, we’re also getting less when it comes to masturbation.
Globally, men tend to masturbate 140 times a year, or 2.6 times a week. Women masturbate an average of 53 times a year, which is about once a week. It means the global orgasm gap is 62% – but in the UK it’s even higher, at 66%.
Sadly, the stigma surrounding female pleasure seems to be holding a lot of women back. We reckon the fact that women still shoulder the majority of childcare and home responsibilities – and therefore have less free time – probably plays a part, too.
The statistics are part of a huge global survey of 14,500 participants from 17 countries, conducted by the sexual empowerment brand Womanizer.
The results suggest women in the US are masturbating most frequently, while the orgasm gap is largest in Japan. The UK has one of the biggest gaps, sitting in 13th place out of 17 countries.
Brits were asked about their solo sex habits so far this year to create the masturbation forecast. In 2021, British men will masturbate 174 times a year on average, compared with women who will masturbate 59 times, the results suggest.
It means the current masturbation gap in the UK stands at 66%, which is down from 76% in 2020. The result means that this year’s national Equal Masturbation Day will take place on August 29 – until that day, women have symbolically not masturbated for the year, while men have been doing so since the beginning.
Why do women masturbate less?
The gap is closing, but it still very much exists. So, what’s holding us back?
Stigma may be largely to blame. Almost four in 10 (39%) of individuals surveyed from the UK said they believe masturbation is more accepted amongst men. More than half (53%) believe that male masturbation is normalised in and through pop culture. And nearly a third (32%) say that female masturbation is tainted with shame and negativity.
Over a quarter (28%) of UK women said they do not masturbate at all, compared with only 9% of men. In comparison, globally, a third of women never masturbate compared with 14% of men.
While sex education is now compulsory on the UK national curriculum from age 11 upwards, four out of 10 respondents said the main topics discussed included women’s anatomy and reproductive organs, sex between men and women, puberty, pregnancy, birth and contraception. In contrast, 87% revealed they were not educated about either male or female masturbation.
A lack of and incomplete education therefore continues to play a major role when it comes to the acceptance of masturbation – even if the curriculum has been updated since we were at school.
Yet masturbation has a whole load of benefits. As well as relieving stress and boosting wellbeing, it can improve your sex life if you choose to go from solo sex to sex with another person. After all, how is a partner supposed to figure out what you enjoy if you’re not sure yourself?
There’s no right or wrong way to experience pleasure, but masturbation coach Caroline D’Arcy previously gave us these tips for finding your flow.
5 tips for better masturbation
1. Set the scene.
Your environment has a big impact on how you feel, so do some tidying first. “Look at your room and think about one or two things you could immediately do to make it feel like a sexy adult space,” says D’Arcy. “For me, that means making the bed, clearing any washing, making sure there’s no work about, setting a candle. Just ask: ‘Is this an environment that turns me on?’”
2. Take the goal away
“As soon as you have a goal like an orgasm, it gives you a pass/fail, you’ve either passed and had an orgasm, or you’ve failed,” says D’Arcy. “When we put a goal there, we’re putting our body into its stress response – our body’s fight/flight mode – and that blocks our brain’s ability to pick up the sex hormones that are created when we get turned on.”
3. Set an intention instead
“An intention is a moveable direction, it’s not a pass/fail,” she says. “It’s something like: ‘I’m going to intend to experience as much pleasure using my body today as possible. If that ends in an orgasm, great. But if it doesn’t and it goes somewhere else, that’s great as well.’”
4. Dial down the stress
We can’t always get rid of the stressors in our life – a global pandemic or bills, for example – but we can adopt ways to dial down the stress we experience in relation to them. “Something that’s really good is going for a run or doing a physical exercise, like skipping, or punching pillows. Anything that replicates a fight flight response,” she says. “Other ways might be journalling or meditation.” Again, stress will block your ability to experience pleasure, so she recommends making this a priority
5. Touch yourself all over
“The starting point is using different types of touch, all over your body, then moving up to your clit and just getting curious about what feels good and building from there.”