the “talk” . . . then and now


When I was raised in the 50s I was told that sex outside of marriage was a sin and that it would ruin my reputation and that I would forever be banished from polite society as a fallen woman. Sex was for procreation and that was it. Sixteen years of catholic education really did a number on me.

Sex was bigger than life. Women were viewed as responsible for tempting men with their clothes and their behavior. The nuns told us that when dancing we were to leave room between our teenage bodies for the holy ghost – a spirit that didn’t take up too much room allowing the occasional bump and grind so long as the chaperones weren’t watching.

When I was in fourth grade,, I remember going to confession with my class (which was a weekly school requirement) and telling the priest that I was guilty of having “impure thoughts” (part of an awakening sexuality). The priest told me that the devil is like a spider and that my impure thoughts would cause me to get caught up in its web and devoured. Tears welled up in my eyes and I was embarrassed to leave the confessional for fear that my class mates would see my tears and think I was a really bad sinner headed straight to hell.

Then came the pill and the hippies and freedom. Having finally tried sex and initially found it to be underwhelming, I decided to become sexually active to find out what all the fuss was about. I stopped buying the catholic version of womanhood and instead began learning how to be a modern woman – including how to enjoy sex.

When my own daughter came of age, I told her to reserve sex for love and to be careful not to ruin her reputation, I told her that guys want sex and will take it from whoever offers it and to be aware of false declarations of love. I told her how to protect herself from getting pregnant; I did my best with what I knew.

My mother-daughter conversation would be quite different today. I would tell my daughter that sex is for recreation for all and procreation for some. I would tell her that sex is a normal bodily function and that way too much has been made about it over the years. I’d tell her that women have as much right to enjoy sex as men. I’d tell her how to protect herself from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. I’d tell her about sexuality as being a continuum and that heterosexuality is not the only option.

I’d tell her that what she wears and how she behaves are up to her. However, I would warn her about conservative values and how to defend against narrow-minded religious zealots. I’d teach her how to keep her body healthy and strong. I’d try never to talk about physical beauty but instead talk exclusively about inner beauty and compassion.

I would tell her that misogynist male religious and political leaders have historically regulated women’s sexual behavior with the vested interest of keeping women in the home and out of competition. I’d tell her that women have been repressed for millennia but that the future of womankind is evolving and that her part in the evolution is to enjoy sex just as she enjoys other aspects of her life. Finally, I’d tell her to be true to herself and find her way in the world as a person without regard to her sexuality.





Faking Orgasms and Feminism

The Movie “Train Wreck”

Last week I saw the movie  “Train Wreck” starring Amy Schumer – a very funny feminist and a really good actor.  The film is about a very broken young woman who received some unfortunate advice from her father as he divorced her mother – that advice was that monogamy is not realistic. After a brief flashback to Amy’s childhood, the film picks up with her life as a 30-something writer living in NY and having lots of sex (and noteworthy for this blog post – never faking orgasm).

In an interview with Amy Schumer in Glamour Magazine, she reportedly said that women deserve orgasms.

This got me musing about the topic of faking orgasm and feminism.  I decided to do internet research as well as interview friends on this topic.

There’s Lots of Information/Research Out There on Faking Orgasm

Who knew that Wikipedia has a long section devoted to faking orgasm?  Likewise, I found articles in mainstream, as well as non-mainstream, media on this topic – including ABC news, Women’s Health, the Guardian, and (of course) Cosmopolitan.

Not to mention the movies that talk about faking orgasm….

Women Aren’t the Only Ones who Fake Orgasms

Although not nearly as common as with women, men also fake it once in a while. Since men reach orgasm 85% of the time they have sex (with either female or male partners) the occasions (or need) to fake orgasm are limited.  Hmmmm . . . . .how does a guy fake it?  According to my research, condom use helps mask the faking.

Straight Women Have it the Worst

Research studies conclude that straight women only orgasm about 60% of the time they have sex.  As such, they have more occasions (and perhaps need) to fake it.

5 Reasons Straight Women Fake Orgasm

  • They don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings
  • They are embarrassed about how long it takes them to reach orgasm
  • They want to make their partner feel good
  • They are inhibited about asking for what they need from their partner
  • They are tired and just want to end it to go to sleep (my personal favorite)

Lesbian Women Orgasm More and Fake it Less

According to the research, lesbians experience orgasm about 75% of the time that they have sex – that is 10% less than males and 15% more than straight women.

Master & Johnson, the pioneer sex researchers, theorized that lesbians engaged in and enjoyed sex more because they weren’t inhibited by gender expectations of perfection and pleasure or chaste endurance.

Lucky for me, I live in a gay neighborhood so I had no problem finding lesbians to ask about their experiences.

The following is from a 45- year-old friend of mine who is a professional female in a loving relationship with her partner for the past 7 years:

When you are with a woman there is no need to fake something so intense.  Sex with women is sensual and intimate.  I think this is because you are more equal as women and as partners.  With another woman, I feel more comfortable and as such exploring my desires and sexual feelings is a wide open experience.”

What Straight Women Have to Say About Faking Orgasm

I love him but am getting tired of what I feel is my “Sunday morning duty.”

“We decided to retire from sex once we turned 70 – the Viagra wasn’t good for his health, and it took me too darn long to come and I was tired of faking it.”

“My partner can’t ejaculate and I felt it was because I wasn’t attractive enough to turn him on – as time went on and it didn’t get better, I’d fake it just to end it.

“I hate to say this but after the initial sizzle is gone, I often fake it or fantasize I’m with someone else.”

“I haven’t faked it very often but I do think there’s a time and place for it, if you are new to a relationship and don’t feel like getting into telling him what to do.”

“There are times I am just too damn tired to play.”

So What is the Feminist Issue Here?

The issue is that faking orgasm continues a tradition of male-oriented sexuality – and it doesn’t do our sisters, who follow us, any good. Both men and women should have equal access to orgasm.  Men must learn to be patient lovers who listen and follow instruction and women need to be patient lovers who know their own bodies and provide sufficient instruction for their partners to provide pleasure.

In the Very Old Days

Believe it or not, faking orgasms has been around a very long time.  Ovid, a Roman poet, who lived during the time of Augustus wrote “Ars Amatoria” around 1 C.E. Among many other topics covered in the poem, he advised women to fake it.  Here are his words from over 2000 years ago:

“So, then, my dear ones, feel the pleasure in the very marrow of your bones: share it fairly with you lover, say pleasant, naughty things the while. And if nature has withheld from you the sensation of pleasure, then teach your lips to lie and say you feel it all. Unhappy is the woman who feels no answering thrill. But, if you have to pretend, don’t betray yourself by over-acting. Let your movements and your eyes combine to deceive us, and, gasping, panting, complete the illusion.”

How to End a Tradition Among Some of Faking Orgasms

  • Have sex when you aren’t tired: Try Saturday afternoon around 3:00pm – get a bottle of champagne, put on your favorite music, have a nice chat, and then head for the bed for good sex followed by a lovely nap before dining out.
  • Have a heart-to-heart talk about what you like: Put no limits on your partner.
  • Change things up a bit: If you haven’t done so already, try sex toys, costumes, role play, and pornography.
  • Make foreplay the main act: Since most women usually do not come during intercourse.
  • Allow your partner the freedom to not orgasm if not in the mood: There are those time when you like to have sex but just can’t come – allow it to be okay with no apologies or faking it. 
  • A little Marvin Gaye to set the mood never hurt anybody.

We’ve Come a Long Way . . . but The Journey Is Not over!

– Anne-