Gender, Social Justice

The orgasm gap is real, and boycotting Durex won’t bridge it

Straight women are less likely to finish, and yet our outrage at this inequality is misdirected.

The year is 2019; all movies are franchises, the planet is a dumpster fire, and brands that are the flag-bearers of capitalism are profiting off being woke. Durex is the latest in a long list of brands to attempt this. It recently released a statement on how nearly 70% of women in India never get to finish.

Now, we’re not as naive as to believe brands actually have the greater good in mind. However, Durex does bring up an important point surrounding the orgasm gap between men and women. Yet some men have felt that this tweet is enough of a reason to boycott Durex. It seems as though the patriarchy has once again lost its collective mind.

On the face of it, the anger at Durex seems to stem from their mostly male audience feeling personally attacked. Most ads tend to stroke the male ego. Instead, Durex is neither catering to the male ego nor to the male gaze. The company has a documented history of not going with ads that objectify women to sell condoms. Further, a brand that primarily centers on the pleasure experienced by men is now also talking about that of women. Focusing on female pleasure? Calling men out on their bullshit? Some men feel this is cause for a boycott.

In the midst of this ironic display of toxic masculinity, what is missing is the truth that the orgasm gap is real – and it’s not just in India. That is the point Durex is trying to make.

A study conducted across the US revealed that only 65% of straight women orgasm during sex. This is far behind straight men, who stand tall at 95%. It is also far behind the LGBTQ community. Gay men are 89% likely and lesbian women are 86% likely to orgasm.

Similar statistics have been reported in Australia. It’s important to note that these are countries where sex is not a taboo and women feel more comfortable talking about it. Safe to say, women are worse off in some of the more conservative parts of the world. Places where even the mention of sex education would cause riots and talk about female pleasure could earn you a trip to the house of worship of your family’s choice.

While we have enough research to determine that the orgasm gap exists, it is not nearly enough to determine the extent of its prevalence worldwide. We also do not yet have enough information regarding what causes this gap and how we may overcome it.

Research into the female body – including female pleasure – has consistently been sidelined, unlike what we see for the male body and its pleasure. Dr. Cindy Meston from the University of Texas at Austin believes it is also hard to get funding because the female orgasm is not considered a “significant enough social problem”. After all, cishet sex begins and ends with male pleasure. It is visible throughout the activity and is also visible in its culmination. Women do not have this luxury. Their pleasure seems complicated for various reasons, and many of them have not yet been identified. This is mainly because the vagina is an organ we still understand poorly at best.

Instead of men acknowledging this gap staring us in the face, Durex is facing a boycott for bringing it up.

The patriarchy is strong, and it still rules over us. Heterosexuality rules over us. Masculinity rules over us. And those that rule over us seem uncomfortable with any overt signs of dismantling the status quo. Durex is asking men in India to unlearn decades of believing that women do not enjoy or want sex. It’s these same lessons that judge a woman who enjoys sex as being promiscuous.

If we want to change how we understand female pleasure, then we need sex education (for both men and women,) and research. The more we talk about female pleasure, the less taboo it becomes and the more funding it receives. None of this is possible in a world where toxic displays of masculinity attempt to squelch any attempts at starting important conversations about women.

We need safe spaces where women actually feel comfortable discussing their bodies without shame. For this to be a reality one day, this toxicity and vitriol have to be channeled out for good. #BoycottDurex is a misdirection in anger; we should be angry at those who attempt to derail these important conversations before they truly begin. For all we know, opening up a conversation about female pleasure might be what it takes to bridge the orgasm gap. Boycotting Durex certainly won’t.