Dating & Relationships

Mind The Gap: The Truth About Desire

KK Spotlights Dr. Karen Gurney's book "Mind The Gap" to spread the message about the orgasm gap between heterosexual couples
by KK
11 May 2020

UPDATED: 3 Nov 2022


Mind The Gap

Isolation has unlocked a whole new level of communication in the world of Killing Kittens. We’re loving being able to host weekly chats on Killing Kittens Instagram with some incredible guests ranging from sensual massage experts to body image advocates.

One recent chat, Emma Sayle was joined by the incredibly inspiring Clinical Psychologist and certified psychosexologist Dr Karen Gurney, aka The Sex Doctor! Karen has been incredibly busy during isolation working with clients through the Haverlock Clinic as well as her clinical work on the front line with the NHS so we were hugely lucky to be able to chat all things sex, lockdown advice and Karen’s recent book Mind the Gap!

Were you aware that there is an orgasm gap of around 30% between heterosexual couples when they have sex? 30%! 

Karen’s writing explores this gap – not only the concept of the ‘physical’ connotations of the ‘gap’ but also the gaps we have in our knowledge – the forever expanding subject of the female orgasm and our understanding of it.

Mind The Gap, by Dr Karen Gurney

This book lays bare the startling truth that sexuality is not what we’ve been taught to believe it is.

The idea of the book first came about 10 years ago when Karen had undertaken additional training in particular therapy techniques. She was hearing the same conversations over and over again with women in her therapy sessions.

Karen deduced that the problem is not always within the individual or the couples themselves but more how we understand sex in society. Karen looked to address the issues on a wider level that went beyond the ‘therapy couch’. Her mission was to normalise sex, to examine where gendered politics comes into it, and the impact of social media. A book could provide the perfect platform.

Who is this book for?

The book is aimed at all – those whose sex lives couldn’t be better and want it to stay that way as well as those lacking in desire and wanting to change that feeling. Stats show that 34% of women in the UK are concerned about desire. Karen says this is the most common reason for sex therapy and yet one of the easiest things to resolve. The book runs through so many facts about desire that could change the way we run our sex lives.

Is there something wrong if we don’t want to rip our partner’s clothes off the whole time?

Karen explains that desire changes in long term monogamous relationships. The problem in the relationship or the individual person’s sex drive isn’t that the fall in desire has happened, it’s more the understanding (or lack thereof) around it.

Desire isn’t just about sex, there are other desires within a relationship that need to be nurtured. We are socialised to think of it as a passion/hunger. In reality, that is not sustainable and it’s perfectly normal for many people to never feel like having sex out of the blue.

What can Affect our levels of Desire?

Karen explained that predictability and lack of novelty are terrible for desire. It is hard when having sex with the same person over time to bring in a ‘difference’. Couples who regularly have the same type of sex can have a negative knock-on effect on desire. Where there is an unequal division of household labour and one person does most of the house chores can also have a negative effect.

Can Desire be Addressed and Rebalanced?

Everyone can have whatever amount of desire they want in their relationship, and they’re not at the mercy of their desire.

It is completely based on context and, sometimes with a little (or a lot) of work,  you can turn it up or turn it down. Mind the Gap addresses this in abundance. You don’t have to put up with how desire is operating if you’re not happy with it.

Why do gender roles have such a big effect on the orgasm gap?

The orgasm gap exists in the discrepancy between cisgender women and cisgender men having an orgasm during sex. 95% of men will regularly or always orgasm during partnered sex, compared to 65% of women. Where women have sex with other women, there is less of a gap, and when people masturbate separately there is little difference between genders.

This can be linked to gender roles. Women are raised not to be assertive, to put other people’s needs first and not be sexually aggressive. It’s a sexual script written by society. In short, men tend to get what they want from sex more than women do because that’s how society has shaped heterosexual interactions.

What are Karen’s isolation tips?

Identify where the anxiety impacts your desire

Identify the impact of anxiety on people’s desire to be sexual. There is so much worry about the current situation which in turn could have wiped any desire off the table. Plenty of people use sex as a way to manage anxiety, and plenty will go the other way. The key to lockdown with a partner is knowing how you are responding to anxiety.  Talk about it.

Get kissing!

Karen’s further advice is to make sure you have time in the day to connect as sexual partners. Don’t dilute the role of a sexual partner if other roles come in like a parental role.

Prioritise actually relating to each other as a couple. This could be with a passionate kiss in passing in your kitchen, sending a naughty text message saying they look hot today – even if they’re still in pyjamas! It’s important to find little ways of remembering they’re also your sexual partner. Once you see someone as a sexual person you’re more likely to feel desire.

Kissing is underrated and easy to work back into a relationship. Kissing can be so hot and one tip Karen has for all couples is: make time to kiss! It’s what we often do at the beginning of a relationship. It provides the ‘scaffold’ to move you up to something more sexual. It’s far easier to move up when the baseline is there.

Step Away from The Tech!

Do not watch Netflix every night! Whether in lockdown or not, Karen says it’s easy to have no quality time when sitting side by side watching Netflix and scrolling Instagram. Schedule in a date night, go to bed and lie naked together. Talk/kiss/touch and the desire will flourish.

And make sure you read Mind The Gap! It’s a fascinating insight into exploring the mismatch between ideas about sex in our society and what the science tells us.

Mind The Gap also explains how this disconnect lies at the root of many of our sexual problems. Combining science with case studies, practical exercises and tips, this is a book for anyone who wants to better understand the mechanics of desire and futureproof their sex life, for life.

We LOVED our chat with Karen and we couldn’t recommend the book highly enough.