Orgasm 2: faking it

The second thing in my 10 Thing Everyone Needs to Know about Women’s Orgasms: Faking it.

It’s easy to do (and don’t get me started on the bad date I had with a cardiologist who insisted he could tell the difference because, he said in a smug tone that indicated that I, with my PhD in sex, was unlikely to understand this, of the contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. Can’t fake that! he said. Oh yes you can, I said. Bad. Date.)

I take a slightly heretical line on the question of faking and I’ll probably receive angry emails from second wave feminists telling me I’m submitting to the patriarchy and other angry emails from third wave feminists telling me I’m subsidizing women’s pleasure in the service of men’s. But I promise you I’m not; I’m just dealing with physiological reality in the face of cultural demands, hoping to help women have happy, healthy sex.

Here’s the thing: A woman is less likely to have orgasms early in a relationship – her body needs time to adapt to the new partner, to learn to trust them and to relax into the knowledge that her partner accepts and appreciates her body.

At the same time, good partners revel in making a woman come. I like that in a partner, both personally and conceptually; I approve of people who enjoy women’s orgasms, on principle. As an IDEAL partner, you recognize that a woman’s orgasms might be thin on the ground early on, and you happily recognize that her intense pleasure, even in the absence of orgasm, isn’t a sign of failure but an encouraging sign that things are moving in the right direction. Then when the orgasm does happen, it’s a delicious and joyful indication that she’s moved to a new place in her connection with you. Hooray!

But most people aren’t ideal, and in particular, sorry for the generalization, but most men aren’t ideal. (After all, a woman’s female partner is maybe less likely to impose a male template on female sexuality.) They take it personally – both success and failure. If she comes, it’s because he did a great job! If she doesn’t, horrors, it’s because he failed.

Why is this? Well, because we STILL (STILL!! STILL!!!) think about women’s sexuality in terms of men’s sexuality, and for men, whose orgasms are faster, more reliable, and more homogeneous, orgasm often is the measure of satisfaction. The same standard must apply to women.

That’s bullshit, obviously, but it’s pervasive and intractable bullshit.

So here’s what happens. If a woman likes you, she wants you to feel good about the relationship. She wants you to enjoy sex with her and she wants you to know that she enjoys sex with you. If orgasm is a way she can show you she’s enjoying it, but orgasm just isn’t there for her yet, faking it is a completely viable option. You feel good, she feels good. Fair enough.

Another reason women fake it is, well, to get sex over with. Again because women want their partners to feel satisfied and happy, and sometimes men want sex more often than women do, women go along with having sex when they’re not quite there and fake it indicate that they’re ready for it to be over now. Again, IMO, fair enough.

Faking is problematic, of course, for a number of reasons:

1. If you fake it when your partner does stuff that doesn’t really do it for you, you’re teaching them the wrong thing about your sexual functioning; only fake when you COULD have had an orgasm, had trust and relaxation been more fully in place.

2. When you get right down to it, faking it is lying. Is it a harmless white lie, like “You look great in those candystriped clamdiggers”? Or is it a dark and deceptive lie, like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Well there’s the rub (pardon the expression). I’m inclined to the white lie view, but lots of people disagree with me.

3. On some level it perpetuates the cultural model of women’s sexuality as a subset of men’s sexuality. Our partners should take our sexuality as they find it and not need it to be something it’s not!!! They should.

Yet they don’t.

Maybe sometime in the future I’ll post instructions for how to fake convincingly. (How heretical would THAT be, eh?)

In the meantime, a little advice:

For those who don’t want their women partners to fake it: don’t take either credit or blame for her orgasm. Her sexual repsonsiveness may appear complex even to the point of inconsistency. Go with the flow.

For those women who are trying to decide whether or not to fake it, have a chat with your partner about what does and doesn’t do it for you – and most of what you say will probably be less about fingers, tongues, and phalluses and more about stress, trust, and affection.

Not a cure-all, I admit, but hell, waddaya want, it’s just a blog.