The billboard “Stop Faking It.Try a New Position.” turned heads. It was actually advertising a job recruitment website, though it stood out because it seemed to be talking about sex.
According to studies, women fake orgasms at an average rate of 7 out of every 10. Partly as a consequence, men misunderstand women’s sexual needs. It takes women an average of 8 to 20 minutes of direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm, and yet when men were surveyed they thought it should take women no more than 4 minutes.
Interestingly, more men are faking orgasms. Women take it for granted that when a man says he has orgasmed, he has indeed ejaculated. Faking orgasms can happen more as men get older, but is also happening in younger populations. A University of Kansas study found that 25% of college-age men said they had faked orgasms.
TALKING ABOUT SEX
If you find yourself faking an orgasm, the answer isn’t usually as simple as trying a new position. It is an invitation to figure out what’s going on for you. Our partners can’t understand our sexual needs unless we communicate with them. And ironically we talk about sex least often with the person we’re actually having sex with.
We sometimes hope that later in the relationship it’ll become easier to talk about sex. The opposite is true. At the start of a relationship it’s easier to communicate what we want in bed – there’s less to lose and we’re more willing to take risks. Further along the line, as we start to feel safe with a partner, the sex becomes “safer”. We don’t want to jeopardize the coziness of the emotional connection.
Talking about sex isn’t easy but it helps to have awareness about what’s going on. Here are seven of the most common scenarios:
1) NOT KNOWING YOUR BODY OR HOW TO GET YOUR NEEDS MET
If you find yourself faking an orgasm, the first question to ask yourself is whether you’re able to orgasm on your own through masturbation. You need to understand that it’s 100% your responsibility to discover how your body works, what you like and what turns us on – and to untangle any blocks that are stopping you from experiencing pleasure.
The next step is holding onto this information whilst you’re with your partner. It can be quite challenging to allow yourself to follow the rhythm of your own pleasure without guilt, worry or shame. And without being bombared by thoughts about whether you’re taking too long, whether you’re being too selfish, whether your partner is bored or turned off by what you look like naked and so forth. This is particularly true if, as a child, you learnt to tune in to the needs of your caretaker and abandon your own desires and wants.
2) SHE NEEDS TO FEEL EMOTIONALLY CONNECTED BEFORE HAVING SEX. HE FEELS EMOTIONALLY CONNECTED AFTER SEX.
In general, women need to feel emotionally connected before they have sex and men feel emotionally connected after they have sex. It’s easy to see how a stand-off can happen where nobody is feeling connected or having sex.
Communication is key. What happens (or doesn’t happen) in the bedroom is frequently a microcosm of the relationship outside the bedroom. The more couples share their thoughts and emotions, the less there’s likely to be a build up of resentment that ends in one partner withholding sex as a form of punishment: “If I’m not getting what I need in this relationship, you’re not going to get it either”.
It’s important to acknowledge that talking about emotions is a stereotypically female form of connecting and that it’s not the only path to closeness. Ideally both partners need to move beyond their comfort zones and habitual modes of expression.
3) WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SEX – WE’RE EXHAUSTED
Especially when children enter the picture, both partners can feel depleted and like they don’t have the time or energy for sex. Couples often initially reject the idea of “date night” or planning sex. They hate what they perceive as the lack of spontaneity and subscribe to the myth that sex is supposed to be spur-of-the-moment. But it can be useful to remember back to the days of dating and realize that sex was frequently scheduled. Whatever happened “in the moment” was often the result of hours or days of preparation. What outfit, what underwear, what restaurant, what music… The build-up was part of the fun.
4) DOMESTICITY AND THE PITFALLS OF COHABITATION
Domesticity brings with it a whole set of issues that can drain the passion from a relationship. In the quest to find what’s safe and predictable, it’s easy to lose what’s exciting. Parentifying partners is a sure-fire way to desexualise the relationship. If you’re nagging or trying to control your partner they’re likely to see you as a parental figure and not somebody they want to have sex with.
This split can also easily happen when a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth. In what’s called the “Madonna/Whore Complex” she becomes a symbol of maternal wholesomeness, purity and nurturing. Men can struggle to reconcile the image of “mother” with the reality that she’s also a woman with sexual needs. In an age where parents are given the message to put their children first, women also can also struggle to reclaim their sexuality and their right to pleasure without feeling selfish or like a bad mother.
5) WHEN SEX BECOMES TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT
Women in the West have come a long way in working against sexual violence and abuse. Without denigrating those historical achievements, when sex becomes too politically correct, it can also become boring. Teaching men about the importance of tenderness is definitely important. But, as Tammy Nelson, author of “Getting The Sex You Want” points out, there’s a reason why “women spend billions of dollars each year on bodice-ripping paperback novels, where some big, strong man throws the woman down on the bed and tears off her dress.” Sensual sex has its place but so does more edgy sex.
6) SHAME AROUND SEXUAL FANTASIES
Frequently couples don’t like to share what turns them on. Their fantasies play out in their own heads but are never openly discussed. There’s a fear of being shamed or being seen as deviant. However sexual fantasies are both natural and surprisingly logical. They allow us to address the fears and struggles we experience in daily life. If we feel insecure and unattractive, in our fantasies we’re irresistable. If we fear a withholding partner, in our fantasy our partner is insatiable. If we always need to be in control, in our fantasy we’re dominated and forced to relinquish control. If we fear our own aggression, in our fantasy we can unleash that aggression without being concerned about hurting the other.
7) PORN, AFFAIRS AND SPLITTING OFF EROTIC NEEDS FROM A RELATIONSHIP
Shame is one of the primary reasons that sexuality and erotic needs get split off from a relationship. Our need for sex and passion does not disappear, it just diverts elsewhere. It can split off into pornography, internet relationships, affairs, sexual addiction of all kinds, food issues and other problems. The New Your Times wrote an interesting article on “How Porn is Affecting the Libido of the American Male”.
If you’re interested in reading more, then Esther Perel’s “Mating in Capitivity: Sex, Lies And Domestic Bliss” is a great book that goes beyond seeing a languishing sex life as simply a scheduling problem or a communication problem.
If you’e interested in finding concrete exercises to help you change the way you communicate with your partner about sex, then I’d recommend “Getting The Sex You Want: A New Way to Communicate To Have Better Sex” by Tammy Nelson.