There’s a silent epidemic occurring in bedrooms around the world, and that’s the female orgasm, or lack thereof. According to Elisabeth Lloyd, a faculty scholar at the acclaimed Kinsey Institute, only 25 percent of women consistently orgasm from penetration alone and about five percent never orgasm — period. While five percent may seem like a small percentage, that’s approximately 188 million people. Luckily, there are experts out there who’re trained in helping both individuals and couples alike have healthy sex lives.
Enter Raquel Savage, a sex coach and sex worker who has dedicated her livelihood to helping women, one orgasm at a time. “The biggest demographic that I counsel is women and I help them explore their sexuality,” shares Savage, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and is board certified in human sexuality. “Most cisgender women that I speak to are having trouble reaching orgasm, whether that be individual women who are trying to figure it out on their own or women who are in relationships that are having trouble with their partners.”
But why is women achieving orgasms such a big issue? Biologically, male and female genitalia are created equally, with the head of the penis and the clitoris each containing approximately 7,000 sensory nerve endings. However, despite scientifically being on an equal playing field, women are statistically coming up short in the pleasure department. And for Savage, there are two factors which contribute to unequal distribution of orgasms. “I think there’s a lack of knowledge in terms of cisgender, heterosexual men understanding how vaginas work,” Savage explains. “Then there’s another piece, which is empathy and ethical sexual encounters not being a priority. They don’t really have the knowledge about vaginas and then they also don’t really care.”
When it comes to learning about physical intimacy, young people often procure information from one or both of the top sources: pornography and health classes. For Savage, she was lucky enough to be raised in a family where sex was openly talked about and her development into womanhood was celebrated. “My Grandma, I don’t know if she would call herself a sex coach, but she taught women about their vaginas and how to masturbate in the ‘50s,” says Savage. “That was my upbringing and I think that made me radical in a way. Then I had classes in school, but they were horrible.”
In her profession, Savage encounters failures of the sex education system on a daily basis and many of these misconceptions pertain to the female reproductive system. “I’m always surprised by how little knowledge people have about how vaginas work,” shares Savage. “People have asked me, ‘Do you pee out of your vagina?’ That’s such a basic anatomy question that should have been answered in middle or high school, but there are adults who don’t have that knowledge.”
Fixing the American sexual education system is certainly a daunting task that has stumped both politicians and educators for decades. Savage believes that there are three important things missing from today’s classrooms that can not only help the aforementioned silent epidemic, but also prevent future assaults and the spread of STIs. “First, to have a huge focus of the conversation be on consent,” Savage explains. “I see a lot of consent conversations that start with ‘No means no’ and that’s basically where it ends.” However, Savage believes that consent is more than just about verbal confirmation and classes need to factor in whether either party is intoxicated, as well as their body language throughout the entire interaction.
“The second thing is to include queerness,” says Savage. “There are far too many kids and teens who do have access to sex education, but they’re only getting a heteronormative view of intimacy.” According to a 2017 study published by the Guttmacher Institute, less than six percent of LGBT students reported having positive lessons about queer sexual education in their classes.
“The last part would be about pleasure,” shares Savage. “The majority of the sex people are having is not for the purpose of reproduction. So framing sexual education exclusively around reproductive issues doesn’t help kids and teens become adults who have ethical and equitable sexual encounters.”
When it comes to learning about the pleasure portion of physical intimacy, pornography has been the go-to tool since teenagers first snuck a peek at their father’s Playboys. Over time, pornography has evolved into a multi-billion dolllar monstrosity — allowing individuals to explore their sexuality from the comfort of their smart phone. However, is porn helpful or hurtful to the female orgasm? “It really depends on what kind of porn people are watching,” Savage weighs in. “First off, porn is fake, that’s not what real sex looks like between couples or whomever else.” Of course, the actors on screen are technically in vaginal, anal and oral intercourse (or whatever tickles your fancy), but everything you see has been staged or modified. If you’re not convinced, then set up a camera, make a home movie, and get back to us about how your bedroom activities compare to what’s shown by the professionals. “Secondly, porn doesn’t focus on women’s orgasms and it ramps up the performance of pleasure, which makes for confusion in real sex scenarios,” admits Savage. “In porn, you see women having sex with men and acting like it’s outstanding. When in reality, it’s a performance and people watching believe that’s how it’s going to look in real life, but it doesn’t.”
Although porn is a useful tool that shows individuals and couples how to perform sexual acts, at the end of the day, most porn is meant to be entertianment instead of a helpful guide to achieving equal pleasure. Just because an adult actress appears to be getting off by a particular move doesn’t mean her pleasure is authentic and can easily be replicated by your average couple.
Although achieving a real and true female orgasm may not be as easy as our favorite porn stars have made it out to be, pleasure is possible for anyone willing to put in the effort. For sex coach Raquel Savage, while she’s skilled at helping clients one-on-one with their individual issues, there are two things she’ll always advise to help a woman orgasm: “Pay attention to the clit and eat more pussy.”