Is Women’s Orgasm an Afterthought? A Look at What Men & Women Think

by | Feb 22, 2021 | Uncategorized | 15 comments

Does He Do Enough Foreplay?
Orgasm Course

How do men and women feel about the amount of foreplay in their marriage?

Yesterday was a super momentous day at the Gregoire household, because Keith and I (and Joanna!) finished The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and sent it off to the publisher! Yay!

We’ve been working on it since November, and technically it wasn’t due until March 1, but I didn’t want one book due the day before another book launches. And I wanted to enjoy this week leading up to the launch of The Great Sex Rescue. So we got it in early!

And I truly love it. Keith read it again last night all in one sitting and was really emotional. He kept saying, “If someone had given me this book when I was 22, our first years of marriage would have been so different.”

Today I want to share with you two of the graphs that we used in the book that show how much we prioritize a woman’s orgasm.

Rebecca and I shared this in the research segment of the podcast on self-fulfilling prophecies and sex last week, but I thought you may like to see them.

First: Does the husband prioritize his wife’s pleasure?


Husband makes wife's pleasure a priority

When women orgasm at least half the time, they both overwhelmingly think that he prioritizes her pleasure. And that makes total sense!

But hold on a minute here. What happens when the wife orgasms less than half the time? 

91% of men still think they prioritize their wife’s pleasure–as do 65% of women.

Now, I can see some scenarios where this may be true. They’re working on helping her reach orgasm, but she’s having trouble, and they don’t want to pressure her too much. They’re still learning. (And in that case, you really need to check out The Orgasm Course!). 

But we have to ask: How much of a priority is something if she never achieves it? I wonder how many couples think her orgasm is simply unattainable, so if he spends some time trying to stimulate her, he’s done enough? 

Again, I understand that some women have trouble reaching orgasm, and that sometimes it’s women who don’t want their husbands to do foreplay. But these are astoundingly high numbers that show that we don’t actually expect women to orgasm in many cases.

Okay, let’s ask another question: Does the husband do enough foreplay?


Husband makes wife's pleasure a priority

Again, we get a similar situation. When she orgasms, 94% of men think they do enough (which makes sense), although about 13% of women would still prefer more.

But when she doesn’t orgasm very frequently?

71% of men and 52% of women still think he does enough.

By which I have to ask: enough for what? 

If I say that I’m saving money so that I have enough to buy a new car, I don’t say I’ve got “enough” if I’ve only saved half the price of a car. 

So it makes me wonder: what are people aiming for? If they think they’ve done “enough” when she isn’t reaching orgasm, then it seems to me that orgasm is not the aim. 

I wonder if many of us think orgasm is a “bonus”, or something that is rather unattainable.

If we think that, can you see how it might create a self-fulfilling prophecy where orgasm doesn’t happen? If he puts in a little bit of work and nothing happens, then we figure that we’re broken. Maybe we just weren’t made for this. And we don’t know how to ask for a lot more foreplay. We don’t realize that men and women are made differently, and women may need twenty minutes of foreplay (or more) to reach orgasm, and that’s normal. We don’t realize that most women don’t reach orgasm through intercourse alone, and that other routes to her orgasm tend to be more reliable. 

I’m not saying that she has to orgasm every time; but the reason that she doesn’t orgasm should never be that he doesn’t do enough foreplay; it should be that she doesn’t feel she’s in the mental space tonight, and so she doesn’t want to try for it. And that should not be a regular occurrence.

I know so many women on this blog are struggling with orgasm–and so many men want to give that experience to their wives.

I don’t want to shame anyone or make them feel less than. But I do think our attitude towards women’s orgasm is part of the problem with why women don’t orgasm. 

Women are capable of multiple orgasms. If anything, we’re more orgasmic than men. What would happen if, when we got married, we went in with that expectation? What would happen if couples focused first on figuring out her orgasm piece before they tried to figure out intercourse? 

i just wonder how much of this struggle could be avoided if we started with a different attitude–and that’s what we’re hoping to do with The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.

Today, I want people to think about this:

If she is not orgasming, you should not give him great marks for foreplay. That is something wrong. She needs to prioritize her own pleasure, and so does he. And guys? Even though a lot of women don’t seem to expect more, there’s still a significant gap between the number of men who think they do enough and the number of women who do.

So if your wife isn’t regularly reaching orgasm, ask her. Do you think I prioritize your pleasure? Do you think I do enough foreplay?

And then get The Orgasm Course, and see where it leads you!

The Orgasm Course is Here to Help You Experience Real Passion!

Figure out what’s holding you back. Open the floodgates to orgasm.

One of the things we really wanted to do in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex was to change the way that men talk about sex in evangelical circles, too. To make it less focused on what men need, and more focused on intimacy and mutuality. 

I feel like all of my books right now are saying something different–that we actually are changing the evangelical conversation about sex. That makes me so excited! And our pre-orders for The Great Sex Rescue are going so well! Thank you. I’m excited to see what this week brings. 

Does He Do Enough Foreplay?

What do you think? Why do women say he does enough–even if they don’t reach orgasm? Why do men? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Chris

    Sheila I have a question. Does a massage constitute foreplay? Or is it the fore-foreplay? I ask because I love to give my wife massages and on the occasions that she wants to be intimate thats how we start. But to be honest its also how we end because after 45 minutes to an hour of giving her a massage, my hands hurt, my forearms are sore and my lower back is killing me, and now I just want to put my hands in a bucket of ice and lay down flat on my back. Then she wants to move to what I consider actual foreplay and I’m just in pain and done. I would love to hear the thoughts of the TLHAV team.

    • H

      Chris, I really do empathize with your situation, which sounds like it could be summarized this way: you spend an hour doing something that brings you zero enjoyment and considerable physical pain while your partner gets lots of satisfaction and desires to make the session last longer (and probably have sessions more often).
      I’m guessing you didn’t mean to do so, but you’ve just described the typical sex life of millions of women.
      Please read
      And, the bulk of which was actually a guest post by a man, and particularly point 4 there. And note the awesome line in point 3: “I will not run the bases backward.”
      And (and do watch the Amanda Gore video in point #1).
      And ESPECIALLY the six-step list in While men appear to be able to skip steps one through five without any difficulty at all, most women will want those first five steps most of the time. And on different days, she may want to stay on one of those steps longer than she does on other days.
      Please stop expecting your wife to be turned on by the same things that turn you on. She has no body part that needs circumferential pressure applied back and forth axially. She has different parts that need different types of stimulation, her timeline is going to be different, and each encounter may need to be different, as she is not a robot with buttons to be pushed to get the desired outcome. She is a living, breathing human being whose body works differently than yours. That means there’s no step-by-step recipe you can simply repeat each time to ensure success.
      I am not trying to be harsh! Perhaps she wants so much massage at one time because your sessions are so infrequent? So if you did a five-minute back and neck massage every day or two (and not always with an expectation that it would go further; see point 3 on the second link above), then she might unwind more quickly and you wouldn’t need to put your hands in a bucket of ice?
      I also wonder if we don’t ALL need to shift our language. “Foreplay” considered simply as a word indicates two things: it comes before something else, and it’s just play; it’s not serious or necessary. Its two constituent words make it sound like an unnecessary precursor to a something else that is much more important. (And that something, of course, is PIV—which means, generally speaking, the husband’s orgasm.) So instead of considering this or that activity as “foreplay,” consider ALL of it as part of the total package of “having sex with your wife.”

  2. Jess

    I have been absolutely loving the way you have been standing up for authentic sexuality, generosity, and mutual pleasure. Thank you!
    Something I want to mention, in case other women are experiencing the same thing: you experiencing orgasm doesn’t necessary mean your husband is generous or the experience is mutual.
    When I was married I experienced multiple orgasms almost every sexual encounter… even the ones that weren’t consensual.
    I don’t think a conversation about female orgasm and mutuality is complete without mentioning this. Some husbands will overpower or guilt, and force their wives to orgasm. This allows him to feel satisfied with his sexual skill, as well as denying that it was assault (because she “enjoyed” it). And it adds to her confusion, shame and guilt.
    A spouse who doesn’t care about your pleasure is selfish. But a spouse who forces unwanted orgasms on you is also selfish. And is actually prioritizing his OWN pleasure, even if your body is responding.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, very true! Arousal non-concordance is a thing. Your body can respond while your mind has not. And orgasm does not mean that it was consensual; we used several examples in The Great Sex Rescue like this, including one where a man used a sex toy on a woman when she specifically asked him not to. That is not consensual.

  3. Jane Eyre

    My read on those statistics: if 90% of a subgroup thinks they are doing enough but not succeeding, then they are either not doing enough or are doing it wrong. It actually does not matter what the subject is – it could be studying for a math test, cleaning the house, or training for a triathlon.
    The only difference with sex is that it really hurts people to be told they aren’t doing enough. This is why I think it’s very important for men to take “bad news delivered kindly;” however much you may not like to be told that you are being too rough or that her body does not want to work the way you want it to, your other options are worse.
    There does not exist a world in which enough “stimulation that you, as a man, enjoy” will get your wife to climax if her body is not wired that way. Eventually, they have to decide if it’s more important to touch their wives in ways they want her to be touched or ways she wants to be touched.

    • Marie

      I’m always a bit puzzled when I think about whether I get enough foreplay. I personally almost always find the foreplay boring and tedious. I have no idea what would actually make me feel excited and sexy. My husband doesn’t rush at all, but foreplay sure isn’t helpful for me at all. I feel like I’ve tried lots of different things, but they just end up seeming forced and awkward and still not sexy. I just don’t know what I want or how to figure it out. And my husband thinks there’s nothing he can do about it.

  4. Active Mom

    I will be honest for many years I was one of the women who would have said that it was enough even if I didn’t orgasm. Even if the survey was anonymous. I had always received such an awful reaction from my husband whenever I tried to broach the subject of sex. In my mind it wasn’t worth it. So, I just repeated the lie that everything was great, what I was getting was what I needed and enough. For a long time having peace was more important. He is still awful discussing sex. The difference is now I don’t care.

  5. Natalie

    Looking forward to both your new books!
    I’ve been going through a non-orgasmic phase again probably for the past 6-9 months (& have just generally been distracted with other things in life / low libido / stress / etc). I know it’s cuz we’ve had a lot on our plates and have been very busy with some big changes for both of us, and also having 99% of our sexual encounters be quickies hasn’t helped. I know it’s just a life phase thing, but at least for me in my mind, I know I still want to be able to orgasm as quickly as my husband, and get frustrated when my body doesn’t respond as I want it to, which leads to whipping out the vibrator just to get it over with and then feeling like a failure afterwards. So I’m sure those numbers showing half of women who don’t orgasm still think their husbands did a sufficient job at stimulating them is because we blame ourselves for not having the same sexual timeline as our husbands. And like you’ve said on past posts and podcasts, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YES! I think that’s really it. We blame ourselves for not having the same “sexual timeline,” and we feel guilty for needing more. We feel like we’re being selfish.

    • Harriet Vane

      What if I’m the one who just feels tired and not in the mood for 20 minutes of foreplay, and *I* would rather whip out the vibrator so that sex doesn’t take too long?
      My husband is sweet and I’m sure he’d take as long as I asked him to. But I find it’s so hard for me to get into the “yay sex” mind zone, and it’s so hard for me to stay there, that I feel like I’m on the clock against my own brain. Sex is hardly ever my first choice for an evening activity (and we’ve got small kids so we have no option other than after their bedtime.) I would often rather do something that feels more restorative, something where I don’t feel any kind of pressure, like coloring or painting. I’m the one who doesn’t want sex lasting all night because then I don’t get any wind-down, relaxing, “me-time.”
      I guess maybe I’m asking, how do you get sex to stop feeling like a chore?

      • Char

        So my first reaction to this is that for me sex doesn’t have pressure, and it is relaxing/restorative. That’s why it doesn’t feel like a chore. If it doesn’t feel like that for you – then I think it’s worth exploring what it would take for sex to feel more like that. I also think sex can start feeling like a chore when someone is giving more sex than they actually want to give. The higher drive person is pushing them for more than they want to do – and then it’s a pressured obligation. So I think the questions to ask would be: 1) under what circumstances does this actually feel relaxing and restorative for me? So maybe that means – on sex nights your husband runs the bedtime routine, and you get a bath first. Or whatever sounds actually good and restorative to you. And 2) Are you saying yes to more sex than actually want? If so, what would it look like to maybe scale back the frequency but have better quality encounters? In my marriage, my husband is actually the one more affected by being tired/work – so especially during heavier work weeks, he prefers sex only on the weekends when he can be more relaxed. That’s less frequently than I would prefer – but that’s what we do because I don’t want sex with my husband that he doesn’t enjoy or has to rev himself up for. In my opinion, the biggest killer of sex drives is continually choosing to have sex that you aren’t enjoying that much. So maybe it’s worth examining if there are some other things you can do to make it feel more enjoyable for you ❤️

  6. Hanna

    Sometimes I think part of the problem is that people make sex out to be this special unicorn thing that exists outside of the context of life and has its own rules for how you treat people. I mean, consider two people hiking together. Normally, they adjust their pace to the slowest one. Same goes for most other activities you do together: the one who is the slowest decides the pace. It’s physically impossible for the slower person to hike as fast as the faster person and still enjoy the experience, so the faster person puts the slower person’s needs first and slows down. Sure, it may take a bit longer to reach the peak with the beautiful view, but it’s way more important that both people enjoy the hike and have fun together. Very few people would insist on the slower person pushing beyond their limits, stumbling, cramping and tasting blood just so the faster person may set the pace. And those people would be the ones you don’t want to hike with!
    Why should sex be any different? Why should it be the one activity where we disregard the needs of the slower one?
    I know there are tons of holes that could be poked in this metaphor. I just love hiking 🙂

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great metaphor! I may just use that some time. Wonderful!

  7. Phil

    Sheila. I have been fascinated by your recent series and the numbers. I have just been too busy to keep up with the conversation in the comments. I wanted to say that I think your numbers are skewed. The reason I think it is skewed is because I believe people are unaware. Meaning the gap is so big between the folks that still think the man is doing enough even though the woman isnt orgasming that there has to be an error. The metric you speak of could most certainly be the error…I believe it is along the lines peoples ego and their embarrassment around the sensitive topic of sex. Who wants to admit they are bad at sex and arent doing what they are supposed too? Not even me Mr Sex addict guy wants to admit that! You know what? Who is sitting around talking about if they are good at sex or not. Good luck having that conversation with anyone besides your spouse even if your lucky! So of course I am going to say I am trying and I am doing my best…even if I am not because I have no metric for one and because I am ignorant. I just dont know if I am or not )prior to recent years after hanging out here ). Several years ago I would have told you I was doing what I was supposed to do. Truth is I was not for OUR personal reasons. But because of the information I gained here I now have a metric. And you know what else? Ultimate Intimacy App has been super helpful. For us it levels the playing field. I have held this view that foreplay should “go a certain way” and that a woman “should do certain things” as part of foreplay. Never have I thought about doing some of “those things” myself. Well…the Ultimate Intimacy App might tell the man do stand on his head in his underwear and do the chicken dance…thats quite different when YOU THE MAN have to do it, I can tell you that! LOL. Anyway not sure if my rambling makes sense to anyone today but it sure helps me lol. Congrats on all your achievements with your books. It really is great. I am always so thrilled to see what is going to happen around here next!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So glad that app helped you, Phil!
      And, yes, your rambling makes sense to me! 🙂
      One thing that was interesting about our men’s and our women’s surveys: the orgasm rates were exactly the same for women (within a percent or two). Like, the men thought their wives were orgasming at the same rate that women reported orgasming. So I wonder if that means that women aren’t faking? (I assumed some would). Or that the men know? Interesting!


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