It’s not enough that men are already having more orgasms than women. To make matters worse, a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research found — aside from deriving pleasure from their own orgasms, obviously — men also derive a specific sort of masculine pleasure from making female partners orgasm. The researchers in the study, Sara Chadwick and Sari van Anders, refer to this incredibly predictable phenomenon as a “masculinity achievement.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I imagine a “masculinity achievement” looks something like Super Mario punching a coin out of one of those floating boxes in the video game.
The study gathered 810 men to read a story where they had to imagine an “attractive woman” either did or did not orgasm during sex with them. Each man was then asked to rate their sexual esteem and the extent to which they’d feel “masculine” after experiencing the scenario. The results are what you’d expect: Men felt more masculine and felt high self esteem when they imagined a woman orgasmed during sex with them. “These results suggest that women’s orgasms do function — at least in part — as a masculinity achievement for men,” researchers wrote.
Let’s be clear — there’s nothing wrong with feeling good about making your partner feel good (in this case, orgasming). It’s nice to bring pleasure to your partner! But the researchers point out a sexist flaw in the masculinity boost thing.
“Despite increasing focus on women’s orgasms, research indicated that the increased attention to women’s orgasms may also serve men’s sexuality, complicating conceptualizations of women’s orgasms as women-centric,” researchers wrote.
In a separate statement from Chadwick and van Anders, they explained why it’s a bad thing for men to gain masculinity points for bringing female partners to orgasm. “One reason is that it might pressure some heterosexual men to feel like they have to ‘give’ women orgasms, as if orgasm is something men pulled out of a hat and presented to women,” they wrote. “This ties into cultural ideas of women as passive recipients of whatever men give them.”
They also mention another sexist orgasm trope: women feeling pressured to fake orgasms in order to appease a male partner, or in their words, “to protect men’s feelings.” For women who have sex with male partners, the pressure to orgasm is a relatable feeling. Hence all the faking that we know is going down in hetero bedrooms all over the country.
The researchers draw a fairly frightening conclusion from the research findings. When women’s orgasms begin to serve as a masculinity achievement for male partners, the orgasms cease to be about women’s liberation or sexual pleasure. They just become another opportunity for men to flex, or “shore up their sense of masculinity.”
“These men, therefore, were more likely to view women’s orgasms as a notch on the bedpost of their manliness,” Chadwick and van Anders wrote in the statement. They end their note with an encouragement for men to think of orgasms less as achievements to be unlocked, and truly view them for what they are: tiny little pleasure explosions that should be enjoyed — frequently — by female partners.