Benevolent Sexism and Female Orgasm

Women’s orgasms might be influenced by a type of sexism called “benevolent sexism,” suggests a recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia found that women who accepted benevolent sexism were more likely to see male partners as sexually selfish. In turn, these women would be less likely to ask their partners to pleasure them, leading to fewer orgasms.

According to the study, benevolent sexism doesn’t directly cause a woman to have fewer orgasms, but it starts a chain of events that might lead to less sexual satisfaction.

What is benevolent sexism? It’s difficult to define. To understand, it may help to contrast it with another type: hostile sexism. The latter refers to the blatant disparaging of women. For example, someone who says, “Women aren’t smart enough to be leaders,” would be exhibiting hostile sexism.

Benevolent sexism is hidden in comments and situations that on the surface seem complimentary. An example might be the assumption that a mother (not a father) should stay home from work to care for a sick child, if women are considered better suited for caregiving.

A woman with a benevolent sexist view may feel that sexual pleasure is meant only for the man and that providing it is her duty – and her priority. With this “transactional” mindset, she might not feel that her own pleasure is important and be less likely to tell her partner what feels good to her.

Women who feel sexism is interfering with their sexual relationships might consider bringing this up with their partner, who many not realize what is happening. In addition, a counselor or sex therapist may help couples work through issues like benevolent sexism.


Archives of Sexual Behavior

Harris, Emily Anne, et al.

“On the Link Between Benevolent Sexism and Orgasm Frequency in Heterosexual Women”

(Abstract. First published online: June 15, 2016)

Weiss, Suzannah

“7 Examples Of Benevolent Sexism That Are Just As Harmful As Hostile Sexism”

(December 22, 2015)

Huffington Post

Pittman, Taylor

“How Internalized Sexism In The Bedroom Could Affect Women’s Orgasms”

(July 14, 2016)

Coulehan, Erin

“Sexism is literally ruining women’s sex lives”

(July 11, 2016)

Scientific American

Tannenbaum, Melanie

“The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly...”

(April 2, 2013)

Other Popular Did You Know? Articles

Find a Provider

Find a provider who specializes in sexual medicine in your area.