Flo Health App Launches Largest Female Orgasm Study

Research on women’s health and sexuality is sorely lacking, and a women’s health app is hoping to fill in this research gap with the largest study on female orgasms to date.

Flo Health, a women’s health app that has 64 million global monthly users, is determined to better understand the female orgasm.

The app announced this week that it has launched the largest female orgasm study to date with the goal of filling crucial gaps in research and promoting a more informed approach to women's sexual health.

The survey will rely on self-reported data from the app’s users about their sexual habits and desires. Scientists from the app will then analyze the data to better understand women’s sexual practices and how — combined with their personal circumstances — they relate to their sexual pleasure, orgasms, and overall sexual satisfaction.

“We’re committed to advancing the global understanding of female sexual health, which has long been under-researched and under-explored,” Liudmila Zhaunova, Ph.D., the director of Science at Flo, tells Healthnews. “We have a rare opportunity to collect information from tens of thousands of women globally about their sexual health experiences.”

The research gap in sexual health

The disparity between research into men's and women’s health — and sexual health specifically — is well documented. Medical studies have historically excluded female participants, and data based solely on male participants has been wrongfully regarded as being applicable to women.

“Most researchers, historically, were predominantly male,” says Rugilė Kančaitė, M.D., senior health content researcher at Healthnews. “Therefore, the man was considered a representative of the human species.”

Women’s health research sorely lacks funding to this day, and much about the female sexual experience remains misunderstood. This leads to sexual dissatisfaction and disappointment, and many women also refrain from seeking care for sexual health issues out of shame and misunderstanding.

Female sexuality has also long been stigmatized, Kančaitė says. The idea that sex should have a reproductive purpose for women is pervasive despite the fact that most of the time, sex is used solely for pleasure and enjoyment.

Misconceptions abound

“Men and women’s sexual health and sexual functioning are different in many ways, including desire, arousal, and orgasm,” Jordan Rullo, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist, certified sex therapist, and Flo Health medical expert, tells Healthnews. “Yet, so often society and media portray men’s sexual functioning as the ideal.”

For example, Rullo explains society portrays easy orgasms through vaginal penetration as the ideal, yet most women don’t reach orgasm through vaginal penetration only. And since men’s sexual functioning is held as the ideal, but women’s bodies simply don’t respond the same as men’s do, this often leaves women feeling ashamed, thinking that something is wrong with them and they are broken.

This makes sexual function even more difficult, since feeling ashamed about sex is going to make it much more difficult to reach orgasm, Rullo says.

“To help women combat these inaccurate perceptions and reduce shame, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that women’s sexuality is different from that of men and that this is not a problem — it is simply a difference,” Rullo says. “The ‘ideal’ sexuality for women isn’t to be like a man, it’s to just be themselves.”

Previous Flo studies have highlighted the need for greater research and understanding of female sexual health among people of all genders. Their research has found that one-third of men believe that most women can orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone when, in reality, only 18.4% of women orgasm just from vaginal stimulation, with the majority requiring or preferring additional clitoral stimulation.

Their studies have also found that 29% of women feel embarrassed to talk to their partner about what they like during sex, and this sense of shame and embarrassment is also present when it comes to self-pleasure — with 18% of women in the United States feeling that masturbation is shameful or wrong.

The results of the new survey are expected to be released at some point this summer.

“More information about female orgasms and sexuality would help all of us understand better what causes problems with sexual activity, and what leads to an orgasm,” says. “It would spread awareness of female sexual problems, educate people of all genders on the female anatomy and sexual physiology, and, eventually, break the stigma.”

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