The number-one problem, according to Mintz, is our cultural ignorance of the clitoris. Ask anyone not blushing right now what the clitoris looks like and you’re likely to be met with either blank faces or a nebulous description of a tiny nub of flesh. Except, the clitoris is not simply a little button on the outside of the vulva, but in fact a large internal organ made up of erectile tissue that’s similar in scale to the penis. With its 8,000 nerve endings, it’s the clitoris, not the vagina, that is actually the part of a woman’s body that experiences the most sexual pleasure.
This is key for Mintz who is on a mission to dispel the myth that vaginal penetration is somehow the best and only way for women to orgasm. She says most women need direct clitoral stimulation, including oral sex and touching, to orgasm. “We know that the majority of women do not orgasm from penetration alone and instead need clitoral stimulation, either alone or coupled with penetration,” she says. “Specifically only 4-18% of women can orgasm from just a thrusting penis.”
The orgasm gap is caused by other issues, too. Mintz blames “slut shaming and being self-conscious about body image during sex, which plagues women more than men.” Porn and mainstream movies also depict unrealistic sex scenes, which perpetuates the orgasm myth. “Mainstream movies and porn show women having fast and fabulous orgasms from intercourse alone and – in the absence of scientifically-accurate sex education that includes the clitoris and female pleasure – this leaves women and their partners assuming that she ‘should’ orgasm from penetration alone.”
Where The Principles of Pleasure series breaks new ground is by exposing this inequality in the bedroom. One episode reveals how the World Health Organization (WHO) considers sex to be part of our quality of life – so without experiencing the pleasure of an orgasm, it follows that women have a lesser quality of life, too. The series also raises the question of sexual consent. In the same way that the gender pay gap wrongfully puts women at a disadvantage, the orgasm gap means that women are not fundamentally in an equal relationship with their male partner.
“Consent is necessary for satisfying sex,” stresses Mintz. “Indeed, without consent, it’s not sex but a form of coercion and assault.”