Sunday, October 10, 2010

When Women Fake Orgasms

It's one of those issues that separates men from women. Men don't fake it, or, if they do, they do not do it very often. Women do fake orgasms,  probably more than most men would like to know.

If  you are a normally constituted human being, you will be wondering why this is an issue. Is the male ego so fragile that it will fall into despair at the thought that a man's ministrations did not produce something akin to an apocalyptic release?

But, then again, and if this comes as news, I apologize in advance,  some women have been known to fake orgasm because for once they are not up for a sexual marathon. Truth be told, some women fake it because... enough is enough. Or because they want to get some sleep.

This does not mean that they are not enjoying the experience. Often they are. It does mean that you can have too much of a good thing.

For whatever the reason, many women feel the need at some time or other to fake an orgasm. Worse yet, it has become a matter of public discussion.

In modern times Freud made the female orgasm an issue. Drawing on his considerable authority as a neurologist specializing in the nervous systems of fish, he declared that, for human females, there were mature and immature, normal and neurotic, ways to have an orgasm.

Freud was bemoaning the fact that neurotic women could only have clitoral, as opposed to vaginal, orgasms. Perhaps he just wanted to feel needed.

As it happens, Freud convinced no small number of women that they were not having the right kinds of orgasms and that if they were not having the right kinds of orgasms they were neurotic and needed psychoanalysis.

Never let it be said that Freud was not a marketing genius.

While Freud was theorizing about female orgasms, across the channel, in Victorian England, gynecologists were more concerned with the empirical and less impressed by theory. Using a more hands-on approach they were showing their female patients how to have orgasms.

That's what happens when you put practice ahead of theory.

With all respect to the ladies of the View, Freud made the female orgasm into a hot topic. It took Masters and Johnson to give the lie to Freud's idea, but still... the female orgasm is now an issue.

It has become a feminist issue.

Being on rather intimate terms with Freudian theory, feminist set out to revise and correct Freud. But not to reject him.

They granted with Freud that the price of civilization was diminished libido, but they added that women the ultimate victims were women. Capitalists had built patriarchy by repressing women's orgasms.

If more women had more orgasms then the foundations of patriarchy would crumble. Getting off would promote revolution.

It doesn't make a lot of sense today. Maybe you had to be there.

How did the patriarchy repress women? By making the workings of the female orgasm, the evidence of its having occurred, far more mysterious than the rather up-front male orgasm.

Feminists found this to be an offense against their honor as feminists. Mystery, mystiques... these were signs of institutional repression. Not only would women need to have more and better orgasms-- the better to foment revolution-- but they would need to talk about it, to be open about, to show it off, and to proclaim their orgasmic pride to all who did or did not want to hear about it.

One suspects that feminists wanted to make the female orgasm equal to the male orgasm. One also suspects that the feminist mind does not draw a very strong distinction between the concept of same and the concept of equal.

If one were, in an especially anti-feminist moment, to ask whether a woman's sexual experience boiled down to whether or not she had an orgasm, I suspect that most women would say that their sexual experiences should not be reduced to a pleasurable spasm.

In its lust for a rather specious version of equality feminists have tended to oversimplify women's sexual experience... to the point where many women do not even recognize it any more.

Within the feminist movement, Simone de Beauvoir got the theorization rolling when she asserted that women are responsible for their own orgasms.

As independent and autonomous beings women knew how their own bodies worked, and if they were not having orgasms then they needed to discover what worked for them. Then they could include these lessons in their love-making. See: The Second Sex.

All of this may have been intended as a blow against the patriarchy, but most men did not find it all that threatening. After all, you do not need to have taken too many courses in biology or anatomy to know that a woman who is happy with her sexual experiences is more likely to want to do it more often. And that if she wants to do it more often, this is a good thing for men.

Most men simply made a cost benefit analysis and found that it was largely to their advantage to ensure that their female sexual partners had had an experience of rapturous fulfillment... or better, as many such experiences as they wanted.

At this point, strangely enough, a woman's orgasm became more a man's than a woman's responsibility. From Simone de Beauvoir we go to Harold Brodkey who wrote a well known short story about a man's efforts to give a woman her first orgasm. The story is called, "Innocence." You can find it collected here: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode.

The upshot of these cultural transformations was the addition of a coda to the average everyday sexual experience.

The post-coital ritual would now include the moment when he would ask her whether or not she had had an orgasm. Even if she had performed as well as Meg Ryan did in  When Harry Met Sally... (Collector's Edition), he is sufficiently savvy to know that women will occasionally fake an orgasm, and thus he wants to have verbal assurance... not about whether she is happy, but about how well he performed.

Knowing the quantity of free floating anxiety that lay behind the question, she will invariably say Yes... I did... Yes.

At least she learned something from James Joyce.

In many, but surely not all, cases our male lover is going to have to take her at her word.

Now, that leads to an interesting reflection. Because there is another sexual issue where a man is required to take a woman at her word. That occurs when she names him as the father of her child.

Truth be told, this word is significantly more momentous than the Yes she utters when asked if she came. I suspect that these two issues are connected.

Perhaps the connection lies in some medieval superstition. You may recall that Saint Albertus Magnus once posited that the female orgasm was essential to releasing reproductive potential. And you thought that patriarchal institutions were anti-sex.

Anyway, if we are wondering why women fake orgasms, it is a good idea to ask a woman. Among those who have written on the topic, advice columnist Erin Bradley has frankly admitted to having faked an orgasm or two. She has lived to tell the tale. Link here.

Bradley's testimony and analysis is a useful antidote to the mania about openness and honesty in relationships.

Here is how Bradley frames the issue: "But, first of all, I fake a lot of things. Fandom for a band I've never heard or don't particularly like; enthusiasm for my former employer during a job interview, including the supervisor with the awful French pedicure who made me cry on a semi-weekly basis; nonchalance toward the relative who waits until just before the meal arrives before lighting up and dousing the room with Pall Mall smoke. At the heart of it is non-confrontation, and it's what keeps the wheels of human interaction spinning round and round. Sex, for all its attachments and associations, is just another exchange between two people. Just as sometimes you'll tell off someone who cuts in line in front of you, other times you won't. Likewise, sometimes we'll open up and ask for exactly what we want in bed; other times we'll smile, play along, and let it go. Why make sex into this sacred cow?"

I'm glad that wasn't my metaphor.

But Bradley makes an obvious and important point. Within a relationship the important thing is getting along, maintaining an atmosphere of conciliation and congeniality. As long as the two of you are getting along the chances are good that you can solve whatever sexual problems may or may not arise.

If you make your relationship hinge on whether or not each partner had orgasms and whether or not each is completely open and honest with they other, you are headed for some very serious psychodrama.

In some cases, the psychodrama will turn you on, but, after a while, it will also wear you out.

In Bradley's words, women also fake orgasms because it helps their lovers to become better lovers. In her words:  "Faking it can actually improve sex, whether it's part of a long-term plan to build up the confidence of a perfect-in-every-other-way boyfriend-in-training who happens to be burdened with the world's most finicky erection, or just making the most out of what would otherwise be a lackluster tumble. There's a difference in the performance of someone who's been told, "No, it's OK. You go ahead," and someone who thinks they're a finely tuned next-generation PornBot 3000."

Of course, if a man is completely inept, all the faking and encouragement will not help him become the lover she wants.

But, while he is not going to improve by hearing that he is inadequate, he is also not going to improve by always hearing that he is bigger and better than Peter North either. Most men are sufficiently sentient to know when they are being lied to.

Bradley is talking about normal, everyday sexual activity. She understands well that when a woman is dealing with a man who really does not know what he is doing, she will need to find a way to communicate the fact without telling him that he is getting it wrong.

Therein lies the ultimate challenge.


By The Sword said...

Women fake orgasms because they think we care.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Great! Thanks for getting right to the point.

Chuck Pelto said...

RE: Well....

Women fake orgasms because they think we care. -- BTS

...actually, many of us do.

On the other hand, those that don't care about their partners are likely to lose them. There's something about being 'insensitive', especially about sex, that galls them.

On the third hand, if you're experienced enough, you don't have to worry about it, as you KNOW. As the Oracle says in....

It means know thy self. I wanna tell you a little secret, being the one is just like being in love. No one needs to tell you you are in love, you just know it, through and through.


[Understanding is a three-edged sword. There's one side. There's the other side. And then there is the Truth. -- Captain Sheridan understanding Ambassador Kosh, Babylon 5

Anonymous said...

This is really, really an old hippie baby boomer thing...


Proud Hindu said...

"When women fake orgasm men lose out on a learning oppurtunity.

How will men ever become good lovers if women keep faking orgasm?"

Kama Sutra
Chapter 3
Sutra 47

Stuart Schneiderman said...

With due respect to the Kama Sutra, Bradley was explaining that men are not going to become better lovers if they are made to feel inadequate.

I was trying to say that excessive praise for bad performance and criticism for bad performance were both counterproductive. The problem is, how to find a middle ground... to communicate what needs to be said without making the other person feel incompetent.

David Foster said...

Several years ago I was on a panel discussion (business-related) at some weird TV station. I noticed that the segment before mine was about "women who fake *not* having orgasms"

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: David
RE: Really?

I noticed that the segment before mine was about "women who fake *not* having orgasms". -- David

I find that rather difficult to accept, that they can fake NOT having one.

Either that or they are some form of weird high-level Zen Buddhist


[Instant sex will never be better than the kind you have to peel and cook.]

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I imagine that it's true that women can pretend not to have orgasms, but I was wondering whether David recalls the reasoning behind it.

David Foster said...

I didn't see that segment, since I was getting ready for mine & was running late, so I will forever wonder what was said.

The question is not only "how" but "why"...

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Now, we will all keep wondering.

Perhaps some women can enlighten us on this matter.

The reasons might range from modesty and restraint to wanting more.

Some women might feel that it is not ladylike to make very open display of the experience of having pleasure.

One wonders whether they would admit to have had an orgasm, if asked, or whether the deception also leads to a direct lie.

But, what if some one them have a reason for tricking their partners.

Susan Walsh said...

I haven't ever heard of a woman faking not having an orgasm, and I'm unable to think of any credible reason why this might be so. Perhaps to punish the man?

I've heard women say that one should never fake an orgasm, because "it's giving him credit for something he doesn't deserve," but I think that this is a highly critical view of male performance. After all, each women has her own rhythms and cues, and she needs to teach her lover how to please her. Depending on the activity, that may be taught in ten minutes or over many lovemaking sessions. I do agree that women are responsible for their own orgasms.

There are times when women fake it not because their partner is doing something wrong, but because they can feel that their body is not cooperating in becoming aroused. When a man is a considerate lover, we don't want him to take it personally when we know the problem lies with us. I imagine it's quite similar to the way men feel when they lose their erection and women try to take the blame. Because our orgasms are hidden, it's a simple matter for us to fake it and keep our lovers happy.

The real problem arises when women fake it regularly with someone they are involved with, because they feel inadequate for not having easy orgasms. They paint themselves into a corner - and it becomes increasingly difficult to make changes without confessing that you've been faking it for some period of time. Personally, I advise women not to fake it, because the risk of this happening is high.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: As I Said Earlier.... will know—or perhaps men who 'understand'—if she's having a wonderful time.

If the man can't tell. Then she is NOT having a wonderful time. And, some may be able to 'fake' it. But I have serious doubts about faking it 'not'.


[Experience is the best teacher.]

P.S. Too bad for those who have lots of experiences but never experiencing THAT.

David Foster said...

Speaking of Freud....Peter Drucker, who grew up in Austria, said that Viennans were generally much less repressed than one would assume from reading Freud, and that many of Freud's patients were recent migrants from villages who were still really part of that culture.

He said the real obsessions and repressions of Viennans were much more about *money* than about sex.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for informing us about Drucker's remarks. It seems to suggest that these patients were more likely suffering from anomie than neurosis.

I sympathize with Chuck's position that most of the time men should be able to know whether a woman is enjoying a sexual experience.

And yet, the study that provoked this discussion found that men say that their female partners have orgasms far more often than said female partners say that they have orgasms.

Tis a puzzlement.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: No....

And yet, the study that provoked this discussion found that men say that their female partners have orgasms far more often than said female partners say that they have orgasms.

Tis a puzzlement.
-- Stuart Schneiderman's not.

Re-read my comments and ponder what I'm saying with regards to men being 'ignorant'.

The study, from my perspective, confirms my premise. Yes the women ARE faking it. The men can't recognize a 'fake' when they see it BECAUSE they are ignorant of how women behave when they ARE having one. It's pretty obvious—the difference between the fake and the real—if you can read the indicators. But it takes 'experience' to recognize them.

Maybe these guys ought to take some classes in military intelligence, specifically Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). It might teach them to how to recognize 'indicators'.

Now I will recognize that some women hold back expressions of their pleasure. For what reasons....well....maybe some comments above speak to that, BUT when it comes to the finale, it's difficult for them to fake the REAL thing. Probably because they've never experienced the real thing and don't know what to 'fake'.


[Sexual harrassment in this area will not be reported. But, it will be graded!]

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: An Old Truism....Revisited

There's a saying I have in my collection of taglines. It's about sex and human nature. I do believe I've provided it before, but for the sake of focus, here it is again....

You think intercourse is a private act; it's not, it's a social act. Men are sexually predatory in life and women are sexually manipulative. When two individuals come together and leave their gender outside the bedroom door, then they make love. -- Andrea Dworkin

The point here, that I suddenly recognize, is that the 'faking it' of women is another example of 'manipulative' behavior on their part.


[Really, sex and laughter do go very well together, and I wondered - and still do - which is the more important. - Hermione Gingold]

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I would not have thought that you would be quoting Andrea Dworkin??

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Quoting Dworkin

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. The quotations, when engraved upon the memory, give you good thoughts. They lso make you anxious to read the authors and look for more. -- Sir Winston Churchill

And I'm about as 'uneducated' as they come. But I've got several thousand quotes in a database that I search to find the apropos tag-lines. Something of a parthian shot, if you will. Something to drive the 'point' the hilt.


[Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world. -- Samuel Johnson]

P.S. Currently reading Churchill's account of the Malakand Field Force. An operation against the Afghan tribes in the late 19th Century. The introductory chapter is MUST READ for any officer going to that theater of operations.....

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