The socioeconomics of orgasm

Women with more education and earning power report greater sexual fulfillment.

Published October 5, 2006 2:00PM (EDT)

Time to crack the textbooks, bone up on those investment portfolios and demand a raise. Why? For the pleasure, of course.

The latest from down under social science (via the Globe and Mail) comes the revelation that more educated, more affluent women have more orgasms than their less learned and poorer counterparts.

Conducted by an intercontinental collaboration of Sussex University, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney, the study was based on a phone survey of 9,134 women and 10,173 men in Australia. Predictably, the study found that far more men (98.4 percent) reported having had orgasms during their last (hetero) sexual encounter than women (68.9 percent). The more interesting finding is that women with college degrees, professional jobs and high household incomes reported a significantly higher incidence of orgasms than other women. Moreover, women whose primary language was English also reported enjoying significantly more orgasms than their immigrant sisters.

Do power and brains (compounded by Anglophonic culture) always lead to sexual fulfillment? Not for men it seems. According to the 10,173 men surveyed, male climaxes dont break down along socioeconomic lines.

One obvious explanation is that educated, wealthier women aren't afraid to ask for what they want in bed. They are likely to be more liberal minded, less controlled by their partners, more open to a multiplicity of techniques and toys. But interestingly, the study's findings also complicate such easy assumptions. Although using sex toys did predict a higher incidence of female orgasms (news flash!) the study also found that seeing an X-rated movie in the past year had virtually no correlation with women's climaxes and visiting an Internet porn site actually had a negative one. Finally, a woman's self-reported degree of sexual permissiveness had less of an effect on her sex life than her professional standing or her household income.

So is it just that power -- be it from brains or bucks -- allows women to satisfy their urges in other walks of life? Are women who are more goal-oriented in bed more likely to display a similar ambitiousness in public life? Or is the study merely chronicling one more way in which class inequities affect women's lives?

Either way, for some women in the prime of orgasmic life, sex fails to trump a nice dinner out. Another hot-off-the-press study of 570 Australian 20-somethings reported by the Herald Sun (has the country been gripped with sex study fever?) found that when given a choice among sex, dinner and a massage, a majority of women in their 20s said they would forgo sex for good grub or a back rub.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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