In Romancelandia (the fictional alternate universe in which all trashy novels take place), there are two ways to tell if two people are “meant for each other.”* If the heroine is a virgin at the outset of the book, whoever has sex with her first is her OTL (one true love). If the heroine is not a virgin, then the deciding factor is whether the sex is the most wonderful, mind-blowing, awkwardly spiritual sex either character has ever experienced and (and this part is a requirement, actually, for either case), the lovers come together. As in simultaneous orgasms, the holy grail of sex that, even as an adolescent learning about sex from books stolen from mom’s secret stash, always seemed sorta fishy to me. To be a true “simultaneous orgasms,” the couple must be engaged in penis-in-vagina sex, and the woman must have a vaginal orgasm at roughly the same moment that her partner gets off. Obviously this is a pretty hetero-normative definition. And unfortunately, I didn’t pull it from the romance-novel rule-book. Nope, this definition comes courtesy of a scientific study from 2010 that investigated the correlation between simultaneous orgasms and satisfaction (all forms of satisfaction - sexual, life, partnership, etc.) Some days I really love science. The fact that someone actually spent time researching and writing about this is kind of amazing.
The paper in question seems to be based on the assumption that simultaneous orgasm is indeed the ultimate sexual experience. Jumping off previous research that showed correlations between satisfaction and frequency of PVI sex generally and vaginal orgasm during PVI especially, the authors surveyed 1570 Czechs (795 women, 775 men) between the ages of 35 and 65 about their frequency of PVI sex, vaginal orgasm during PVI (women only), and simultaneous orgasm during PVI. 131 men and 131 women reported always or almost always experiencing simultaneous orgasms (from the paper it’s unclear if that’s a coincidence or if the survey subjects were couples). 428 men and 377 women reported experiencing simultaneous orgasm occasionally. 172 men and 185 men reported experiencing them rarely, and 64 men and 82 women reported never experiencing them. Statistical analysis of the data, which in this case excluded women who did not experience vaginal orgasms during PVI (kind of a big problem there), though presumably not their partners, does indeed show a correlation between simultaneous orgasms and all measures of satisfaction. On a scale of 1 to 9, those who always or almost always had simultaneous orgasms reported mean levels of 6.827 (men) and 6.546 (women) of life satisfaction, compared to 6.375 (men) and 6.243 (women) for those who experienced them occasionally, and rates in the 5.4-5.8 range for those who rarely or never experienced them. The differences for sexual satisfaction, mental health satisfaction, and partnership satisfaction were similar. As usual with these kind of results, the differences are statistically significant when applied over a whole population, but aren’t really large enough that your average person could expect to experience a significant loss of satisfaction from lack of simultaneous orgasms.
Well huh. Of course, as always, correlation does not mean causation, and according to this recent Slate article, one of the study’s authors, Stuart Brody, is kind of obsessed with penile-vaginal sex and its inherent superiority, but I find it believable that there really is a relationship between simultaneous orgasms and rates of sex and life satisfaction. It’s entirely possible that cultural forces - like say, the idea pushed by not only romance novels, but also ladies and men’s magazines, and pop culture in general that simultaneous orgasms are the best orgasms - make men and women prefer such orgasms and when they experience them interpret that experience through the cultural lens that says they “got it right,” thus leading them to self-identify higher rates of sexual satisfaction. It’s also possible that simultaneous orgasms are simply more likely in established couples who are in tune to each other’s rhythms. This study doesn’t mention the partner status of the participants (actually, it’s very vague on the survey population and methodology in general), but I would guess that simultaneous orgasms are much less likely to happen in casual encounters and much more common within long term relationships. I’m sure that sometimes simultaneous orgasms can “just happen” without any planning or deliberate attempt to make them happen, but I suspect that for most people they involve a conscious effort, which in turn implies a high level of concern for one’s partners enjoyment of sex. If you are focused on your partner’s orgasm, and therefore pleasure, enough to time your own so that you finish together then there’s a good chance that you just happen to be in a loving, sexually fulfilling relationship, which will bump up all of those life satisfaction values. Hell, even in cases where is does happen spontaneously, it’s most likely because one partner essentially got off on the other person’s orgasm (I actually tend to do this myself), which again implies a high level of investment in the sexual satisfaction of the other partner at the very least.
Of course there are many, many women who don’t typically experience vaginal orgasms, and their partners can be just as concerned with their pleasure, but this study conveniently excluded those women. Previous research has been done that found a correlation between vaginal orgasm and satisfaction levels, but the cultural “value” of vaginal orgasms and less-than-ideal attitudes towards cunnilingus could have a dampening effect on measures of sexual satisfaction for these women and their partners, at the very least. The paper actually states in the conclusion that “greater support” for PVI and simultaneous orgasms is justified by the results, but I think that a step way too far. They are both already treated in our society as the most important, most valid, most special ways to experience sexuality, a fact that could partially explain the results. In other words, I believe the results are plausible even though the methodology (or what I can glean of it) is far from perfect, but I very much doubt they have anything to do with the magical powers of simultaneous orgasms themselves. Orgasms are awesome, but having a partner who’s invested in your sexual well-being and happy to perform whatever sexual act satisfies you is even more so.
*I do realize that in more modern romance books there rules have relaxed some.