How Often Do Women Masturbate? A New Study Has the Surprising Answer

A satisfied and happy woman lying in her bed after masturbating
Originally Published: 

Sweden is considered one of the best places in the world to be a woman. The country has one of the world's most generous parental leave policies, and it recently ranked fourth in the World Economics Forum's 2015 global gender gap index. Now, a recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that there's another, surprising area where young Swedish people have achieved gender parity: masturbation.

Researchers from Sweden, Belgium and Germany analyzed data from 1,566 female students and 1,452 male students between the ages of 18 and 22. The participants were asked about their sexual habits, such as what age they started masturbating, what kinds of sex toys they used, what their fantasies were like and how they viewed masturbation in general.

There were certainly some differences between genders — for example, more young women than men reported having used sex toys to get themselves off. But when it came to how often men and women masturbated, there appeared to be more similarities than differences between the genders.

Approximately 98.9% of male participants and 85.5% of female participants said they had masturbated at some point in their lives, with men starting at around 12 to 13 years old, on average, and women starting between 13 and 14. Furthermore, almost all men and more than 81% of women said they had orgasms while masturbating.

Given the social stigma surrounding female masturbation and women's pleasure in general, the results of the Swedish study are somewhat surprising. The lack of cultural discussion about female self-pleasure has led to a phenomenon called the orgasm gap, or women enjoying one orgasm for every three a man has during sex. 

The fact that there isn't a substantial difference between the number of men and women who report having masturbated indicates that young Swedish women are open to sexual self-exploration, which research has shown generally leads to more orgasms in the bedroom

That said, it's worth noting that the Swedish study's results pose a stark contrast to that of other masturbation studies in other countries. A 2013 survey from China, for instance, found that Chinese masturbation habits are clearly defined along gender lines, with 96% of male college students reporting having masturbated versus 70% of women. Even in the United States, women report masturbating far less frequently than men, with a 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior survey determining than 28.9% of women ages 25 to 29 saying they hadn't masturbated in the past year. 

Sweden, however, appears to take a much more progressive view toward sex education and gender equality in general. (After all, the country is the birthplace of klittra, the world's first-ever slang term to describe female masturbation.) Apparently, if we want to close the orgasm gap once and for all, offering comprehensive sex ed and more reproductive health options for single women is one pretty effective way to go about it. 

h/t Complex