Academic studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.
Just when we thought we couldn’t hate sexism any more, a recent study explored how it could be affecting women’s life in the bedroom. In a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia predicted a connection between whether a woman buys into sexist ideas or not, and her sex life. More specifically, they predicted if a woman doesn’t challenge traditional gender roles, she would have less orgasms.
For the purpose of the study, researchers broke down sexism into two categories: hostile and benevolent. Hostile refers to a blatant dislike of women. Researchers described benevolent sexism as sexism that “comprises attitudes that are seemingly complimentary toward women (women have a quality of purity men lack) and also afford women special treatment from men (women should be cherished and protected by men).” In short, benevolent sexism, which the study focused more on, might seem positive when it actually emphasizes gender inequality.
To test this theory, researchers referred to two different experiments. The first experiment consisted of 339 heterosexual women who were between the ages of 18 and 64 who have been in relationships from zero to 39 years. The participants were asked about racism, their political and social dominance orientations and their sexual histories and practices. The experiment also measured how often the women orgasmed, whether they perceived men as sexually selfish and the women’s own levels of sexism.
Experiment two consisted of 323 women who were also in heterosexual relationships. Their ages ranged from 19 to 66, and the women had been in relationships from zero to 45 years. This experiment was similar to the first and measured hostile and benevolent sexism and orgasm frequency. Unlike the first experiment though, it included whether the women were willing to ask their partners for pleasure, or more specifically, whether they were willing to tell their partners how to pleasure them.
Emily Harris, one of the researchers behind the study, clarified to The Huffington Post that her team did not find a direct relationship between benevolent sexism and how often women orgasm. Instead, researchers found what she calls a “significant serial mediation pathway,” which is similar to a domino effect. Together, the studies found that women who endorsed benevolent sexism were more likely to think men were sexually selfish and therefore, not willing to ask them for pleasure, which affected how often women orgasmed. Or as Harris put it:
Benevolent sexism was a significant predictor of the belief that men are sexually selfish (an effect that was replicated across two studies); this in turn significantly predicts decreased likelihood to ask for pleasure; and it is this sexual silencing that is a direct predictor of having fewer orgasms.
Aside from encouraging the obvious idea to voice your desires in the bedroom, this study could also shine a light on a bigger problem. According to Harris, benevolent sexism could have an effect on what she calls the “orgasm gap.”
We show that this could be an important component in the “orgasm gap,” such that if women don’t think their partner will be responsive to their requests for pleasure, why bother? Women may think, well, I’ll just take care of this myself later. Or, in line with traditional gender roles, they may believe that they sexual desire and satisfaction is not important, and indeed, not “feminine,” in the stereotypical sense of the term.
Don’t forget, ladies. Like Nicki Minaj and Amy Schumer have said, you have the right to climax.
Clarification: This article has been updated to more accurately represent the idea of “benevolent” sexism.