Faking It

From the Department of Blindingly Obvious Scientific Findings:

A hundred-plus page report, The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, came out recently, documenting self-reported information about the sexual activity and behaviors of thousands of adults and teenagers.  Among a myriad of results (some others are detailed here, there was this shocker:

About 85 percent of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64 percent of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event. (A difference that is too large to be accounted for by some of the men having had male partners at their most recent event.)

Sigh.  Let me count the ways that this frustrates me.  Or rather, on whose behalf I am frustrated:

Meg Ryan in the infamous When Harry Met Sally diner scene

1) The fakers.  It’s no fun to feign enjoyment.  Faking orgasm is like the adult version of pretending to be Thrilled With The Terrible Present your well-meaning relative gave you for your birthday.  Only worse.  It’s like you and your significant other exchanged gifts, and you spent a lot of time and effort finding the perfect thing, and he loves it, but he got you a half-dozen half-dead flowers and a sad looking stuffed animal, and you have to pretend to be happy so as not to hurt his feelings.

2) The male partners.  This might seem counterintuitive, since presumably they’re the reason the fakers are faking.  But there are some problems with this premise.  First, there’s the chance they’ll catch on, which will probably be embarrassing for both people.  But worse than this is the fact that by pretending these guys are good at sex, the women are letting the guys keep thinking they’re great in bed and inflicting their unjust egoism on other ladies.

3) Which brings us to probably the most pitiable party, since they’re not at all a part of the fakery: the future partners of the guys.  It’s such a disappointment to encounter a man who is supremely, loudly, totally wrongly assured of his sexual prowess.  Really, it’s quite the letdown.  Usually, these sorts of egotisms I tend to blame (fairly or not) on the guy’s mother.  I’m sure this is sometimes inaccurate, but I’ve encountered several stereotypical Jewish American Prince types, guys who are almost *too* close to their mothers, who bask in parental adulation and seem inclined to agree with their moms’ assessment that they are really just the Nicest Cleverest Smartest Boys in the Whole World.  Ugh.  But the misplaced sexual egoism can’t be blamed on moms (hopefully)– part of it lies with the girls who fake their pleasure, leading the guys to believe that whatever half-hearted moves they made really got the girls going.  So seriously, ladies: you’re betraying the sisterhood when you moan your way to a fake orgasm instead of telling the guys the truth– that they aren’t doing it for you.

There are broader cultural issues at play, too.  I’ve long had a bone to pick with Cosmo, not just for their breathtakingly repetitive breathless headlines, but also for the content of those headlines, which always seem to revolve around the timeless theme of How to Please Your Man.  Excuse me, what?  You’re a magazine about sex FOR WOMEN whose content focuses almost solely on making sure guys are having a good time.  Isn’t that a little off?

Plus, gender equality notwithstanding, I do think women have an easier time deducing how to make sure men are having a good time.  It’s just more intuitive.  So why isn’t there a popular magazine for men devoted to the fine art of pleasing your woman?  Why is it that women are taught to be receptive to men’s pleasure to such an outrageous extent that they fake orgasms for the sake of not hurting a guy’s feelings?  Why can’t we acknowledge that maybe our feelings are hurt that after all the time we spent comparing notes with our friends and reading Cosmo in line at the grocery store, our partners don’t seem to have put half the time into figuring out what we like?

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2 thoughts on “Faking It

  1. A couple of thoughts:
    Re: Cosmo and a male analog magazine for pleasuring females
    – How about promoting effective communication instead of looking to a magazine for advice on sexual pleasure? Sexual enjoyment doesn’t seem to me to have universal truths aside from “I like orgasms.” Instead of 100 wild sex tips that apparently work for everyone, maybe a simple dialogue could remedy frustration and confusion in the bed. (But, I will concede those articles are usually fun, and at least new ideas *do* tend to spring up)

    Re: Entitled and pampered males
    – Hmm… I can’t decide whether this is socio-cultural ad hominem or if there’s any truth to it. Most white, upper-middle class kids have a sense of specialness and are used to being served. I don’t think the link between males and there mothers leads to a sense that they should be unquestionably gratified and not have to reciprocate. If anything that’s human behavior rather than male.

    Re: Resources & literature for males on how to please females
    Believe me, it’s out there. A quick google search unloads a couple thousand results on foreplay, cunnilingus, positions, etc. I think the difference is that women’s magazine culture is just “louder” about it than men’s. I also think that women probably read more gender-specific magazines than men. That’s a generalization and I have no empirical facts to back it up but perhaps you agree with me. Here’s me going on a further limb: a male’s coming of sexual age brings about a very early understanding of the most nuanced details about sex. In this day in age things like pornography help facilitate our understanding about the dynamics of sex (however wrongly they may be). It’s like any fiction teacher will tell you, show don’t tell. We’re *constant* purveyors of sexual imagery. And I tend to think there is a vast chasm of difference between the amount of men compared to women who watch pornography. Again, sorry for these unjustified blanket statements.

    Final thoughts and other notes:
    – I wonder how much depression medication plays into the negation of orgasms. I honestly think that Americans are overconsumers of things like SSRI medicine, which have been known to numb or take away orgasms.
    – Maybe women view a man’s sexual happiness the same way that men must precariously coddle body image issues with women. Is it impossible to have those discussions? No, but it requires the utmost tact and sensitivity.
    – I think people place too much emphasis in having romanticism and sexuality make them happy people, as if their life has no meaning unless there is someone to share its most private, sexual, and mundane moments with. There is often a skewed dependence in a relationship where certain concessions and sacrifices are granted so that there can be an “equilibrium.” This goes back to my original point: if only people were open and honest more. Maybe some of those women (and men) don’t value sex as highly as others. There’s a growing minority of asexuals. Not every male is sex crazed, not every woman goes out of her way to employ Cosmo tips. Not every sexual encounter is about mutual respect and carnal gratification.

    Anywho, I’m done rambling. I think my morning coffee high has settled down. Thanks for promoting this discussion, sorry for any grammatical errors and/or biases.

  2. For those who know you, this one is not very anonymous. If he reads it do you think it will deflate his ego a bit? Perhaps spark a chat in his next relationship?

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