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The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution

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Women in America experience far less sexual pleasure than men. What is to be done? For every three orgasms an American man has, studies show, a woman has one. Up to 40 percent of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women's stress, age, or poor body image. In The Pleasu Women in America experience far less sexual pleasure than men. What is to be done? For every three orgasms an American man has, studies show, a woman has one. Up to 40 percent of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women's stress, age, or poor body image. In The Pleasure Gap, Katherine Rowland rejects the idea that women should settle for less. We should take inequality in the bedroom as seriously as we take it in the workplace and understand its causes and effects. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with over one hundred women and sexual health professionals, Rowland argues that the pleasure gap is neither medical malady nor psychological condition but rather a result of our culture's troubled relationship with women's sexual expression. This provocative exploration of modern sexuality makes a case for closing the gap for good.


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Women in America experience far less sexual pleasure than men. What is to be done? For every three orgasms an American man has, studies show, a woman has one. Up to 40 percent of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women's stress, age, or poor body image. In The Pleasu Women in America experience far less sexual pleasure than men. What is to be done? For every three orgasms an American man has, studies show, a woman has one. Up to 40 percent of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women's stress, age, or poor body image. In The Pleasure Gap, Katherine Rowland rejects the idea that women should settle for less. We should take inequality in the bedroom as seriously as we take it in the workplace and understand its causes and effects. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with over one hundred women and sexual health professionals, Rowland argues that the pleasure gap is neither medical malady nor psychological condition but rather a result of our culture's troubled relationship with women's sexual expression. This provocative exploration of modern sexuality makes a case for closing the gap for good.

30 review for The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fabulous Book Fiend

    This one was a lot more science, studies and information than I expected but on audio it was pretty good. I feel like if I had read the full book I might have skipped some pages with facts and figures on.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    This book is awesome in the way it discusses the sexual revolution being not just about sex, which is why for women it is unfinished. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I’m not quite sure how to rate this book. The NPR feature on the book made it sound interesting, and like something I could benefit from reading. The final chapters of the book seemed to form an apologia for open relationships and polyamory to best bring about enjoyable sex for women, but I don’t think the majority of people (myself included) would ever seen such arrangements as ideal, given the multiplicity of other factors one must contend with in these arrangements. The earlier chapters were I’m not quite sure how to rate this book. The NPR feature on the book made it sound interesting, and like something I could benefit from reading. The final chapters of the book seemed to form an apologia for open relationships and polyamory to best bring about enjoyable sex for women, but I don’t think the majority of people (myself included) would ever seen such arrangements as ideal, given the multiplicity of other factors one must contend with in these arrangements. The earlier chapters were more profound—even hard to read—because they held inattentive men (the author focused more on heterosexual sex) responsible for their partners’ dissatisfaction. Women may well view sex as a “chore” or “responsibility” that’s only occasionally pleasurable because of inattentive partners; or, they might find it intolerable because they don’t yet know what feels good, after being socially conditioned to disconnect from their bodies. Either way, the book makes a good case that only attentive and patient partners can help make sex pleasurable. Nevertheless, my WASP values made this a fairly uncomfortable read, because...well...there were >0 instances of the P word, and I was legitimately scandalized each time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Harley

    3.5 stars, rounded up. This book really does explore all the different ways women can experience pleasure and, by contrast, be inhibited from experiencing pleasure. The author thoroughly researched different sexual avenues, including the avenues of sex coaching, kink, and consensual nonmonogamy. I guess when I picked this book up I was ultimately looking for concrete steps and tips for overcoming sexual displeasure. But this is not a self-help book. It's more of an explorative piece of literary j 3.5 stars, rounded up. This book really does explore all the different ways women can experience pleasure and, by contrast, be inhibited from experiencing pleasure. The author thoroughly researched different sexual avenues, including the avenues of sex coaching, kink, and consensual nonmonogamy. I guess when I picked this book up I was ultimately looking for concrete steps and tips for overcoming sexual displeasure. But this is not a self-help book. It's more of an explorative piece of literary journalism that looks into all the different avenues catering towards women's sex lives and how to better them. So if you want to learn more about the world of sexual betterment through a critical lens, this is the book for you. I will say that I feel like this journey of sexual self-realization seems to cater mostly to affluent white women. The workshops this author attended are crazy expensive, and the therapeutic services discussed are not easily attainable or necessarily affordable, assuming one has good health insurance. The book aims to shed light on all the anger and abuse women have suffered most of their lives, which then manifests itself in sexual disfunction, pain, and/or numbness. But to be honest, towards the last half of the book it felt like a whole lot of navel gazing. The idea of using empowerment to communicate and advocate for yourself in the bedroom is prevalent in most sex guides, and that's what this book ultimately ends up saying as well. And while it's great that so many women have found a new zest for sex after going through all these seminars and classes, what about those of us who can't afford such lavish help? Where is the practical, realistic training? A part two for those of us with no money, please.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan David Botchlett

    I’m torn about this book. It feels like it’s really two or three separate books. The first of these is a profound look at the “Pleasure Gap” between men and women [the main focus of the book is heterosexual couples]. The second delves into more polyamory, cheating and other things that some would consider “alternative lifestyles”. The third is a non-conclusion “conclusion” that is more of a political diatribe than anything else. I’ll try to tackle these three areas of the book separately. The fi I’m torn about this book. It feels like it’s really two or three separate books. The first of these is a profound look at the “Pleasure Gap” between men and women [the main focus of the book is heterosexual couples]. The second delves into more polyamory, cheating and other things that some would consider “alternative lifestyles”. The third is a non-conclusion “conclusion” that is more of a political diatribe than anything else. I’ll try to tackle these three areas of the book separately. The first part of the book is very interesting, and is definitely worthy of 4 stars (maybe even 5). It is full of facts and interviews, presenting some intense arguments. The main takeaway from this section is that the majority of dissatisfaction issues are due to inattentive or indifferent men. This idea may make it difficult for some men to read. The book makes a good case that changes in male behavior could lead to pleasurable outcomes for both men and women, though the author never comes out and states this directly. The second part of the book deals more with things that many work call “kink” or “alternative lifestyles.” Things such as BDSM, polyamory, swinging, open relationships and cheating are explored. This part of the book is more worthy of a 3 (maybe 2) stars. The author is obviously uncomfortable with this subject, and their are other books that seem to be more detailed on these subjects. At times the author seems to support ideas like polyamory, and at others seems disdainful of the same ideas. During this section and the conclusion the author starts to get very political. The final part of the book is the conclusion. This part of the book is definitely a 1 (or even 0) star section. It’s difficult to figure out what the point of this conclusion as it doesn’t really come to any conclusions. The author gets unnecessarily political in the final two parts. It seems out of place especially since the earlier chapters avoided politics.The author seems lost to connect the previous chapters in any meaningful way. This is an odd book. It’s good, but there’s not really any conclusion, advice or solutions presented. From chapter to chapter the author sometimes presents conflicting information or the causes of low desire or lack of pleasure. It’s as if she’s just checking the boxes. This is definitely a book worth reading, especially for men, but there’s other more interesting books like those by Cacilda Jethá & Christopher Ryan, Esther Perel, Justin J. Lehmiller or Barry & Emily McCarthy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This book is not what I expected. I spent the beginning of this book a little frustrated with certain elements until I finally understood it's purpose, and then I enjoyed it immensely. I write this review in hopes to set an expectation for you so that you might have a better overall experience than me. When you read a book like this, I think it is normal to expect a conclusion. Tons of nonfiction, especially in our highly politicized world, drives towards a conclusion so much that facts and argum This book is not what I expected. I spent the beginning of this book a little frustrated with certain elements until I finally understood it's purpose, and then I enjoyed it immensely. I write this review in hopes to set an expectation for you so that you might have a better overall experience than me. When you read a book like this, I think it is normal to expect a conclusion. Tons of nonfiction, especially in our highly politicized world, drives towards a conclusion so much that facts and arguments can be secondary. Even in college we are taught to have a thesis and go after it with facts. Its a contest, where the best argument wins. This book is not that. Instead The Pleasure Gap's conclusion seems to be that there are so many ways to address the pain and longing present in female sexuality that finding a single conclusion to encompass it is ludacris. It is not a book about the best way to fix the pleasure gap, it is not a book about defending the existence of a pleasure gap. It is a primer, a collection of studies and meditations on the problems facing female sexuality. Some parts will resonate with you and your partner, some parts not so much. It is an exploration. As a man reading this, I was surprised at how much I learned of my own sexuality. I was constantly posed interesting and uncomfortable questions, or encouraged to go down rabbit holes. I tackled these questions with my wife, who was reading with me and tripping into her own rabbit holes. In the end I feel I am a better person for reading this, not just more attuned to my partner, but my own self as well. It's wonderful, so long as you understand that there is no "goal"here for you find and pick apart. This book puts facts, studies, and experience above conclusion, and is incredible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Enlightening and thought-provoking take on our acceptance of woman's lack of sexual pleasure. It makes one think about our idea that "if women don't enjoy sex as much as men that's just biology." What if that's because we have really only tried to understand sexuality from men's POV? What if that's because we simply haven't bothered to study women's sexuality? A fifth star would be warranted if she actually wrote about what one can DO to begin to solve this issue. Enlightening and thought-provoking take on our acceptance of woman's lack of sexual pleasure. It makes one think about our idea that "if women don't enjoy sex as much as men that's just biology." What if that's because we have really only tried to understand sexuality from men's POV? What if that's because we simply haven't bothered to study women's sexuality? A fifth star would be warranted if she actually wrote about what one can DO to begin to solve this issue.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    DNF'd at page 14 It's been a minute since I set this down so I don't entirely remember my reason, but I remember it was more sociology than hard science or even psychology. Picking this up to officially DNF if, I do see that the author has a maters in sociomedical sciences. I've never heard of this field, and it sounds very accurate to the way she's writing the book. It sounded quite interesting, which is why I picked it up, but the lens through which she's writing it just isn't for me. DNF'd at page 14 It's been a minute since I set this down so I don't entirely remember my reason, but I remember it was more sociology than hard science or even psychology. Picking this up to officially DNF if, I do see that the author has a maters in sociomedical sciences. I've never heard of this field, and it sounds very accurate to the way she's writing the book. It sounded quite interesting, which is why I picked it up, but the lens through which she's writing it just isn't for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mace

    More journalism than self-help, which was not what I expected, but allowed me to enjoy it even more. The first half is an exploration of the myriad ways women's sexuality has been destroyed, and the second half accounts of ways women have recovered from that. I found it interesting and mostly judgement free in the back half. And it is definitely well researched! More journalism than self-help, which was not what I expected, but allowed me to enjoy it even more. The first half is an exploration of the myriad ways women's sexuality has been destroyed, and the second half accounts of ways women have recovered from that. I found it interesting and mostly judgement free in the back half. And it is definitely well researched!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Mccluskey

    I love this kind of subject matter and read a lot of books around human sexuality. In the first few chapters, the writing felt oddly clinical and I worried it was going to be like that the whole way through. I almost gave up but I'm glad I didn't. The writer touches on interesting avenues to give a more comprehensive picture of sexuality than I've seen in other reading. I really enjoyed this. I love this kind of subject matter and read a lot of books around human sexuality. In the first few chapters, the writing felt oddly clinical and I worried it was going to be like that the whole way through. I almost gave up but I'm glad I didn't. The writer touches on interesting avenues to give a more comprehensive picture of sexuality than I've seen in other reading. I really enjoyed this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne Wray

    She put together the history and science behind the sexual revolution in America creating a good foundation for understanding what has happened. Also, the author illuminates quite well why the revolution is unfinished especially in terms of the pleasure women experience. However, I found that the suggested direction for women to take to close the pleasure gap, while provocative, incomplete.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This was fascinating, but also frustrating. The author explored many of the extremes that women go to in order to find pleasure in sex, but I wished there were more interviews with regular women not seeking out over the top remedies. A good read, nonetheless.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    I had a few questions that prompted me to pick this book up. Those questions were answered in the 1st portion of the book, and the rest of it was information I either didn't want or need to know. I skimmed the second half. I had a few questions that prompted me to pick this book up. Those questions were answered in the 1st portion of the book, and the rest of it was information I either didn't want or need to know. I skimmed the second half.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    At times I could feel some judgment from the author towards the less vanilla aspects of the book. This was difficult to get past as she is supposedly an expert and removed some authority from her voice. It made me feel judged by extension as an unintended consequence.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Roemer Boehm

    I love this general topic but did not love this book. It was mediocre, long and repetitive. I didn’t gain any insight and agree if you are patient, then sex can be more rewarding. But I also find spontaneous hot sex to be gratifying too so I do not entirely agree with the author’s message.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This book was really interesting, but I wish it had been organized a little better.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Better than some on the same topic (at least it is willing to include studies and statistics that other authors would dis-include for being "non-encouraging"). Still a bit milquetoast for my taste. Better than some on the same topic (at least it is willing to include studies and statistics that other authors would dis-include for being "non-encouraging"). Still a bit milquetoast for my taste.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Should be required reading. 4.5 stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Istiak

    Madarchod Writer

  20. 5 out of 5

    Winnie

    Really strong until the last ~3 chapters.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    Interesting from a sociological as well as interpersonal angle. A quite enjoyable and informative read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kath

    This book feels very important.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Li

    There is definitely some good information here, but not a lot of depth. A good jumping off spot for further reading and exploration.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Polio

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  27. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cristina Corrigan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anca

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