“I’ve actually never come through intercourse,” I told a friend one night after she shared all her tricks to orgasm every time she has intercourse.

“Oh, my god, I forget that there are women like you,” she replied. “I feel so bad for you.”

I’d heard this narrative before: Since she comes through the sexual activity that’s considered the main event, she’s supposedly one of the lucky ones. And since I don’t, I’m supposedly one of the unlucky ones — one of the ones you feel bad for. 

But I don’t feel bad for myself. I’m too busy having orgasms in a million other ways to feel bad for myself.

OK, maybe not a million. But most definitely enough. There’s my hands, my partner’s hands, my partner’s mouth, his hands and mouth at the same time, sex toys, sex toys during intercourse, my hands during intercourse, electric toothbrushes, bathtub faucets, hot tub jets, shower heads, those toilets in some Japanese restaurants that squirt water up onto you…     

Does that sound like the sex life of someone who’s missing out? Because it’s probably more representative of most women’s sex lives than my friend’s is. The studies on women’s orgasm rates from different activities show varied results, but Indiana University professor Elizabeth Lloyd analyzed 32 of them for her book The Case of the Female Orgasm and found that only one in four women always orgasm through intercourse.   

University of Florida professor Laurie Mintz, author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It, believes these numbers are actually lower because a) women may be reporting what they think they’re supposed to experience and b) women who report orgasming during intercourse could be getting clitoral stimulation at the same time. 

“I've been around women who say to women who orgasm during intercourse, ‘You're so lucky,’” says Mintz. “It’s kind of like women who are naturally thin — like, yeah, good for them, their body naturally confirms to our cultural ideal, and the rest of the women either have to fight really hard for body acceptance or be on a constant diet. There are very few women whose bodies naturally conform to our societal script.” 

Our societal script does, however, seem to accommodate the way most men orgasm. As artist Sophia Wallace pointed out in her “Cliteracy” exhibit, “a man would never be expected to get off through sex acts that ignored his primary sexual organ.” Yet that’s essentially what we’re asking women to do when we expect them to orgasm through penetration because the penis and clitoris develop from the same structure in the womb and function similarly.

Another thing we wouldn’t tell men? That they’re missing out for only having penis-based orgasms. We don’t call them “unlucky” if they don’t, for example, orgasm from receiving anal sex. We consider that a completely optional activity for them. 

Yet if you’re a woman, one kind of orgasm isn’t considered enough. Articles with headlines like “10 Orgasms Every Woman Should Have in Her Life” teach you that you’re supposed to also have multiple orgasms and squirting orgasms and breast orgasms and other kinds of orgasms that only a minority of women actually experience. 

Sure, you could dedicate yourself to checking these items off your orgasm bucket list, and maybe you’ll even get to experience one or two. Or, you can just relish in the fact that you’re a magical creature who was blessed with the ability to experience clitoral orgasms and enjoy them to their full capacity. 

Ever since Freud declared that mature women should be able to orgasm vaginally and that solely clitoral orgasms were a sign of arrested development, we’ve bought into the myth that “vaginal orgasms” are more enjoyable. But there’s no such thing as a purely vaginal orgasm, and women who do orgasm through penetration don’t universally enjoy these orgasms more than clitoral ones

Don’t get me wrong — women like my friend who orgasm easily and pleasurably through intercourse should enjoy their bodies to the fullest. But as someone who doesn’t, I’m going to do the same. How could I worry myself with what my body doesn’t do when there are so many delicious things it does?