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The Desire Gap


In the world of sexual health, the term “orgasm gap” is a well know term and an all too common sexual health issue for couples.


Also known as the pleasure gap or orgasm inequality, the orgasm gap refers to the general disparity between heterosexual men and women as it pertains to sexual satisfaction. Although orgasm is not the only measure that researchers use to study a good and healthy sex life, it should be noted that on average, the number of orgasms reported by men are considerably higher than those of women….hence the gap.

These stark statistics have played out with major studies, including from researchers of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, who studied the sex lives of over 52,500 adult Americans. The results were startling to say the least, 95% of heterosexual men said they usually or always had an orgasm during sex, while only 65% of heterosexual women reported the same.


Actually, it’s not about the blame game, but more about the need for partners to have the conversation (and lots of it) about sexual needs, desires and wants. It’s also about confusion and a lack of understanding with the female anatomy. Without belaboring this issue (it’s a whole BLOG post in itself), it’s a well-known fact that for most women trying to orgasm through penetration (penis in vagina) alone is very very difficult, least I say impossible for some. Whereas stimulating the clitoris and the clitoral network is almost a sure way to orgasm every time. Another factor is related to the difference in the sexual response cycle of the male and female body. Typically, the arousal response of the male body is within 4 or so minutes…ready to rock and roll. However, the female body arousal time is anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Not understanding this fact, widens the desire gap, with men often achieving their orgasm first without taking time (and patience) to pleasure their female partner. I think you can see that extended foreplay is necessary for both partners are to connect, enjoy pleasure and be satisfied.


Ok…we were a little sidetracked there. However, it’s important to understand the “orgasm gap” to also grasp why couples suffer from the “desire gap”. Before couples even arrive at orgasm, they must have the desire for sex, right? There too exists a “gap”, one similar to the orgasm gap when considering heterosexual couples. The desire gap refers to the difference (ie: gap) in the way partners respond to the desire for sex, often leading to frustration, resentment and feelings of inadequacy.


In the “universe of desire”, sexual desire for men shows up very differently than it does typically for women. I emphasize “typically” since this is not universally true for all men. Often times desire styles can be the same regardless of gender. However, generally speaking the majority of men fall into a spontaneous desire style and women in responsive desire style.


As the word implies, having a spontaneous desire style means that the desire for sex shows up instantly, often times with stimulation or even without. A mental or physical interest in sex can happen at the drop of a dime, out of thin air. Perhaps it’s a visual stimulation of an attractive person of the opposite sex that ignites a feeling inside as one becomes physiologically aroused. At this point it wouldn’t take much to follow through with the act of sex.

As you might imagine from the introduction, according to many studies, ~ 75% of men have a spontaneous desire style, compared to only 15% of women.

This desire style is most often characterized in television shows, in the movies and played out in porn. Although in reality we all realize the blending of two bodies is a bit more complicated than the media’s portrayal.


A person with this desire style embraces the journey of the body’s reaction to sexual stimuli. Often sparked by the senses; an erotic touch, physical closeness, the smell of a candle or the scent of a lover, or just the thought of sexual contact. To differentiate from spontaneous desire style, the mental/physical interest comes after the external stimulus. Often a person with this desire style, who may feel neutral about engaging in a sexual encounter, knows that moving forward with it, will ultimately be glad they did.

Not surprising, about 30% of women and 5% of men report having a responsive desire style. Knowing the “wanting” is there, they just need some cultivating for follow through.


Having different desire styles in a relationship, explains why couples find themselves in the “desire gap” with a sea of emotions swirling around – everything from feeling misunderstood, unloved, resentful, angry, and lonely, and often to the brink of brokenness. If couples live with different desire styles without talking about it, it can spell disaster in a relationship, not to mention result in a sexless marriage. However, understanding that partners do have different desire styles can help individuals feel they aren’t broken, just different – opening the door for communication.

Find out more about the desire gap and strategies you can learn to overcome different desire styles in my FREE video course, Mismatched Sexual Desire: How to Get on the Same Page


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