If everything you knew about sex was from movies, you could not be blamed for thinking sex between two heterosexual people happened pretty much like this: they kiss and it becomes increasingly frantic, they remove their clothes in a kind of panic, the man thrusts mightily into the woman with mounting enthusiasm, they both simultaneously reach a crescendo of excitement, and then collapse into each other like two balls of sparkle slime.

One study found that 27% of movie sex scenes between heterosexual characters portray only kissing and intercourse. That has an impact. We have all internalized some form of our culture’s basic sexual script - the way we think a sexual experience is supposed to happen. And then when sex does happen that way, and it’s not that great, we wonder what is wrong with US?

NOTICE TO HETEROSEXUAL WOMEN: There is nothing wrong with you! There is nothing wrong with you if you want more things to happen during sex than just penetration.. There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t climax from a penis in your vagina. There is nothing wrong with you if you would like some clitoral stimulation in order to climax and enjoy yourself. Most women need direct clitoral stimulation to climax, either in combination with penetration, or all by itself. It’s completely normal.

I ask people of all kinds to describe their sexual experiences using 1 cm colored cubes in my installation, the Graphic Sex Project. People make graphs of their sexual values and  references, and from these graphs, we can get a glimpse of what people are actually doing, and in pretty specific proportions. 

Some of the questions my project answers: When you say you are having sex, what are you actually doing, and for how long? How long do you want to spend kissing compared to other  activities? How long do you want to have oral stimulation, compared to how long you want to have intercourse? Not surprisingly, only a few people want to just fuck the entire time, like this guy.

I mean, that can be fun, once in a while, but a sexual diet of just fucking is like eating nothing but pancakes, forever. (What if you were to metaphorically assign a food item to every sexual act? Is fucking like pancakes? Is oral sex risotto? Is kissing buffalo wings? Food for thought!)

Or this very tidy guy. He’s got some other things listed in there — hygiene, foreplay, fingers, hands and mouth time, but intercourse still leads the show at a 39% of the activity.

It is not surprising that the portrayal of sex in movies skews towards the one activity most likely to lead to orgasm for men, since men have historically made most movies. It’s just another way our culture prioritizes men’s pleasure.

Women’s graphs tend to show a broader range of activities, like this one where only 9% of the activity is PIV (penis in vagina). Other activities include: body stroking, pussy grabbing, labia pinching and sucking, toe sucking, fisting, and flogging. 

A 2016 study called “Differences in Orgasm frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in the US”1 found that heterosexual men orgasmed with the most regularity at 95% of the times they had sex, compared to heterosexual women, with the lowest frequency at 65%. That is some sad, sad stats. And look — men are orgasming more reliably with women than with other men! Gay men report an 89% orgasm frequency. So what can we take away from that? Perhaps women are more accommodating towards men during sex than other men are to men? Perhaps gay men make negotionations  regarding whose orgasm gets priority, while straight men just know that theirs does? Think about that, straight women!

Women also tend to want more equal measures of all things in order to get off, like in this graph. Penetration is represented by 6 cubes, compared to 5 cubes each for oral, fingering, and foreplay, with a dash of dirty talk. That is a well-rounded diet!

The 2016 study found that women are more likely to orgasm if their encounter includes manual genital stimulation or oral sex. They also found that women who orgasmed frequently were more likely to “receive more oral sex, have longer duration of last sex, be more satisfied with their relationship, ask for what they want in bed, praise their partner for something they did in bed, call/email to tease about doing something sexual, wear sexy lingerie, try new sexual positions, anal stimulation, act out fantasies, incorporate sexy talk, and express love during sex.”

Variety is the spice of your sex life, and the path to more pleasure.

Resources:

  • Frederick, D.A., John, H.K.S., Garcia, J.R. et al. Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample. Arch Sex Behav 47, 273–288 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0939-z