In a real sense, Foria exists to address the pleasure gap — sometimes called the orgasm gap. When we launched in 2014, there were over 26 pharmaceuticals available for male sexual pleasure and dysfunction, but not a single one for females.
This is an especially skewed figure considering that people with vulvas, not their potentially penis-possessing partners, report much lower levels of satisfaction with partnered sex. Much lower.
Only four percent of people with vulvas report penetration as the most reliable path to reach orgasm. Since we’re often taught that penetration should be the focus of sexual activity, we may wonder if this very normal phenomenon means there’s something terribly wrong with us.
Most people with vulvas need clitoral stimulation to climax (whether via oral sex, a vibrator, or manual stimulation provided by our partners or ourselves). It’s just a fact.
Additionally, fewer than 10 percent of people with vulvas report experiencing orgasm with a new partner. More than 50 percent report having faked orgasms, and in studies conducted on heterosexual cis couples, 95 percent of men report orgasming consistently during partner sex, while only 65 percent of women do.
The list goes on. The lack of available research on the sexual experiences of queer people and POC (and basically anyone who isn’t cis, white, and straight) further compounds the issue.
So what’s to be done about all this? To get some answers, we spoke to Kiana Reeves – somatic sex educator, pelvic health advocate, doula, and Foria’s Chief Content Officer.
Foria: What are some of the physiological reasons for the pleasure gap, as we understand it? How can we compensate for them?
Kiana: Arousal, pleasure, and reaching climax work differently for everyone. Not only on an emotional and psychological level, either – we are all physically wired for pleasure differently, especially anyone who has a vulva.
Some of us have denser neural wiring intravaginally, some of us experience more pleasurable sensations derived from clitoral stimulation, and some people experience a lot of pleasure with anal stimulation. The erectile tissue in your genitals can be distributed any number of ways, all of them perfectly normal.
However, many of us haven't been taught about the importance of arousal for orgasm, or how to notice when our bodies are actually experiencing the heightened state of arousal that will make orgasm possible.
For someone with a vulva, you may start to notice heightened arousal when your labia feel a little more firm and puffy, your clitoris gets enlarged, and sometimes you will notice more lubrication. These are cues that your body is sending a lot of blood flow to this area.
Foria: What role does social conditioning play in the pleasure gap?
Kiana: One’s family and culture play a huge role in how people engage with themselves and their partners sexually. We often take on the conscious and subconscious messages that we grew up with and bring them into our adult lives, sometimes without even knowing it.
In our youth, the way our caregivers responded to our genitals – telling us not to touch ourselves, or that a particular part of our body was dirty or shameful — later on this can have a big impact on how we feel about masturbation, or how we feel when a partner wants to explore this part of us.
Bottom line, all of us tend to have some shame and inherited messaging around sexuality – and we certainly encounter many misleading messages from our culture around how women should express their sexuality.
The messaging around women's sexuality depicted in media has often been about pleasing their partners and following the male arousal trajectory. In movies and TV, you’ll often see a steamy connection between a hetero couple, in which penetration happens almost immediately, and then, within a few minutes, both people are having an orgasm at the same time.
This is just not realistic, and, unfortunately, if this is what most people believe sex is supposed to look like, they’re less likely to explore various levels of arousal, oral and manual stimulation, or the dance that happens when penetration isn’t the goal but simply part of the menu of experiences during the sexual encounter.
Lastly, the way we feel about our bodies has a huge impact on how we are able to receive pleasure. Sex requires us to surrender into the present moment, to experience sensation. When we are in our heads — thinking about how we look, or how our partner is perceiving us — it takes us out of the sensation and the experience.
Foria: What actions should we be taking as a society to promote parity in pleasure?
Kiana: We badly need early and comprehensive sex ed that includes a discussion of pleasure, consent, and masturbation, to give young people a framework to have these types of conversations when they are starting to be relevant so they can develop healthy language and have experiences that aren’t confusing, awkward, or dangerous.
We need to continue normalizing masturbation as a ritual for self-discovery and self-knowledge.
We also need to continue normalizing the human body in all of its expressions — as opposed to trying to fit into an artificial ideal that we have to strive to look like.
Foria: If the pleasure gap is a problem for us in our own lives, how can we best advocate for ourselves?
Kiana: To understand our bodies better, read books like Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, Come as You Are, Wild Feminine, and Becoming Cliterate. Find great sex educators in your area who teach in-person workshops. Seek out certified sexological bodyworkers in your area who can work with you in a hands-on way to learn about making requests, setting boundaries, and experiencing embodied consent. Don't be afraid to feel clunky and vulnerable when making requests — and lastly, always ask yourself, "what is feeling good now – what might feel even better."
How Can You Choose Pleasure?
For those who were taught or learned through cultural messaging to feel shameful or insecure around sexual pleasure, actively seeking it out can feel a little scary, and that is okay.
No matter what stage of exploration you are at in your sexual journey, we are so excited that you are here and want to learn more about how you can put your pleasure at the forefront. Remember to go at your own pace and that sexual pleasure looks different for everyone.
We are all about exploring and experimenting without judgment. As long as everyone involved has consented and feels safe, there is no wrong way to achieve sexual pleasure.
Watching porn, masturbating, and exploring different ways of touching yourself or different fantasies to play out can help you best understand your own body, desires, and needs. Once you know what brings you pleasure, you can communicate it to your partners to help close the pleasure gap in those relationships.
What Products Exist for Female Pleasure?
No matter your gender, there’s a good chance you’ve had less access to healthy and satisfying depictions, tools, and methods of achieving truly freeing and mind-blowing orgasmic pleasure if you possess a vulva. Luckily, there is no shortage of tools at your disposal to help you achieve the ultimate orgasm — in whatever way works best for you.
Whether it is clitoral stimulation, vaginal penetration, anal penetration, or something else that floats your boat, we guarantee there is a sex toy to help you get there.
Dildos and internal vibrators can help hit that so-called G-spot (which is actually now referred to as the CUV for “Clitoral Urethral Vagina Complex” — the more you know!). External toys include discreet vibrating panties or air-suction toys that replicate the feeling of a tongue tantalizing all 8,000 of the clitoris’s nerve endings. Is it starting to feel hotter in here, or is that just us?
And while vibrators and dildos are some of the more commonly known toys for vagina-having people, they are far from the only tools available to heighten pleasure in the bedroom. There are plenty of toys and tools available to explore, too.
Whether using sex toys solo, with a partner, or both, we encourage you to explore the wide range of options out there to help you find what brings you the most breathtaking pleasure and what satisfies your unique sexual desires to a T (or an ‘O’).
Here at Foria, you’ll hear us singing lube’s praises to the end of time. Wonderfully slippery lube can help enhance comfort and pleasure in the bedroom by limiting unwanted friction that can get in the way of a good time.
At Foria, we create our all-natural lube with two ingredients: coconut oil and broad-spectrum CBD.
Our relaxing formula creates a silky, never sticky lube meant to feel good and increase pleasure for everyone involved whenever you're getting groovy — whether it’s on your own or with a partner.
You can use this oil-based lube during vaginal or anal penetration, in the shower, or with sex toys. If using condoms, opt for polyurethane condoms, as oil-based lubes can degrade latex.
Never underestimate the power of a sensual massage.
Whether an intimate massage is part of your foreplay or the main event, engaging in this gentle and tender touching with a partner can help ease tension, lead to enhanced feelings of sexual intimacy and arousal, and increase the production of oxytocin, which is the feel-good “love hormone” released during an orgasm, so you know this is the real deal. Not to mention, it just straight-up feels good.
And adding massage oil to your sensual massages and foreplay can increase sensitivity for an even more pleasurable experience as your partner’s hands glide as smooth as silk across your body. The right massage oil can elevate the feelings of pleasure and arousal when rubbed into erogenous zones such as the nape of the neck, used for some tantalizingly-good nipple play, or applied on the clitoris and labia shortly before sex to intensify orgasms.
Our Awaken Arousal Oil is available with or without CBD. Both options rely on natural ingredients to support blood flow when rubbed into the vagina and inner labia, leading to increased sensation, sexual satisfaction, and, ultimately, bigger and better orgasms. Get ready to lean into pleasure.
The Bottom Line
Everyone deserves access to pleasure. No matter what you’re into or what kind of sex you prefer, you should be able to explore it consensually and without judgment or shame.
At Foria, our goal is to help you feel empowered to do just that — experiment, express your desires, and reach those ultimate points of pleasure. Knowing what toys and tools can help you climax and feel comfortable delving deep into your desires on your own and communicating them with partners who make you feel safe.
You deserve holistic sexual health and well-being. So go ahead and seek out that pleasure — wherever you may find it!
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