Women's orgasms make men feel more masculine. iStock

Men who have sex with women feel happier and more masculine if they give their female partners orgasms during sex, a psychological study finds.

Women's orgasms are increasingly seen as a marker of a healthy sex life for women. They have a strong effect on men who have sex with women, too. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research explored different scenarios relating to a woman's orgasm and the resultant effect on a man's masculinity, to find just how important women's orgasms were to men.

Imagining success

A total of 810 men taking part in the study were asked to imagine one of the following scenarios:

  1. Major success: The female partner always had an orgasm during sex with him but had rarely orgasmed with previous partners
  2. Minor success: The female partner always had an orgasm during sex with him and had often orgasmed with previous partners
  3. Minor failure: The female partner had not had an orgasm during sex with him but had rarely orgasmed with previous partners
  4. Major failure: The female partner had not had an orgasm during sex with him but had often orgasmed with previous partners

There was a strong link between how masculine the men said they would feel after the imagined encounter, and with their sense of achievement and sexual self-esteem. The greater the success, the greater their positive associations with it. Equally, for the perceived 'failures' – as outlined in the study – the lower their sense of masculinity, achievement and self-esteem.

Orgasms as currency
Men see women's orgasms as a marker of their own performance and skill iStock

Orgasms and sexism

A man's views on equality in relationships did not seem to affect how he would feel after the imagined scenarios. Men who believed that heterosexual relationships should be egalitarian didn't have very different responses to men who felt that men should have more power than women in relationships. In both cases, women's orgasms were equally linked to men's sense of masculinity.

The study authors suggest that for highly egalitarian men, women's orgasms were simply linked to a different view of masculinity, that of success as a liberal, egalitarian-minded man.

"This may explain why men felt more masculine after imagining that a woman orgasmed regardless of their traditional values, egalitarian values, communal approaches, or exchange approaches to sexual relations," the authors, led by Sara Chadwick of the University of Michigan, write in the paper.

But there were some nuances. Men who felt more stress at threats to their traditional masculine gender role had a stronger reaction to women's orgasms.

This 'masculine gender role stress' comes into play when, for example, a man is outperformed by a woman at work or when he has to be subordinate to a woman. Men who were very sensitive to this form of stress reported feelings of greater depression in the 'failure' examples and a greater positive reaction to the 'success' scenarios.

The importance of women's orgasms to men can add pressure to women to fake orgasms iStock

Performance pressure

"Women's orgasms are promoted as symbols of sexual liberation and satisfaction, and have become one of the ultimate indicators of a (heterosexual) woman's healthy sex life," the authors write. This is not lost on men, who "have stated that a woman's orgasm is one of their most sexually satisfying experiences, describing feelings of confidence and accomplishment in connection to female partner orgasm occurrence".

The importance of women's orgasms to men have been shown in other studies to have a negative effect on women. Many studies show that women feel pressure to fake orgasms in order to prevent their male partner from feeling that they are an inadequate lover.

However, the flip side is that men's self-interest in giving women's orgasms may well be leading to many women having more orgasms, the authors note, adding that for many men the desire to give a woman an orgasm is linked to a genuine interest and investment in the woman's pleasure.