‘How do I stop faking orgasms?’

At the heart of this issue is our prioritising of male pleasure and the male ego over women’s sexual fulfilment

Dear Roe

I am a straight woman in a committed relationship of six months. It is a really loving, honest relationship and I am very happy with my boyfriend. Our love life is brilliant apart from one thing – early on in the relationship, because of my own hang-ups, I faked some orgasms. Now I find myself continuing so he doesn't think anything is wrong. He is very loving and considerate, and I do genuinely orgasm with him – not every time – but for some stupid reason I can't work out how to stop this without it seeming to him that something is amiss. I can't confess now, as he'll know I've been lying all this time.

Excuse me one moment while I address the straight men reading.

Dear Straight Men,

Seventy-five percent of women will never orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Never. Ever. So you’d better be including other stuff in your sexual activities with women.

Dear Reader,

Back to you. I understand why you faked your orgasm, and I’m glad you do want to stop.

Far too many women fake orgasms during sex and it reinforces the all-too-common belief that most women are satisfied very easily, with very little effort from their partner, or from penetrative sex alone – which then causes this horrible cycle of men believing that they don’t need to do anything else, and that women who are honest about not being able to orgasm through sex alone are somehow weird or damaged.

However, I do also empathise. Due to these misunderstandings of what activities are likely to bring a woman to orgasm, it can be difficult to explain to a new partner what actually feels good – and to have the confidence and patience to wait while your partner learns the specifics of how to pleasure you. So many women fake the first few orgasms, believing that if the relationship progresses and becomes more intimate, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing their desires and turn-ons with their partner.

But as you have learned, as time passes it can be more difficult to not only tell them that you want something different – but in so doing, break the news that they have in fact not been making you orgasm for quite some time.

But when a woman can't reach orgasm, she also blames herself

What lies at the heart of this issue is our prioritising of male pleasure and the male ego over women’s sexual fulfilment. Men having an orgasm during sex is expected to the point where women are made to feel like failures if their male partner doesn’t orgasm even once. But when a woman can’t reach orgasm, she also blames herself and feels uncomfortable asking for what would actually give her pleasure. Women are losing either way.

Ladies, like many situations in life, we need to carry ourselves with the confidence and entitlement of a mediocre white man – and see our lives improve immeasurably.

Women need to be allowed to ask for what brings them to orgasm, be honest about what does not work for them, and have their sexual pleasure prioritised on an equal level with their partner. And anyone who has sex with women should be only delighted to hear what would make their partner orgasm, and excited to help make it happen.

Stress to him the reason you want to tell him what brings you pleasure

As for your predicament, I think this is a really great opportunity for you to not only be honest with your partner about what makes you orgasm, but to give him a real insight into the pressures you face as a woman. Explaining to him why you initially chose to fake your orgasms will allow him to understand both your individual insecurities and the way cultural ideas about gender and sexuality impact you both in very real ways.

Stress to him the reason you want to tell him what brings you pleasure is in no way a criticism of his performance, nor is it indicative of problems in your relationship. On the contrary, after these months together you now feel comfortable opening up to him and having an honest, intimate conversation that you hope will not only improve your sex life, but will open up more open, honest conversation and understanding in your relationship generally. Wanting to open up to him like this is an investment in your relationship; it’s telling him you are looking forward to your future together, a future which will include and indeed prioritise mutually pleasurable sex and honest communication.

Or you could just tell him you want to try something new and actually instruct him on how to genuinely give you an orgasm. Then just tell him how mind-blowing it was and ask can you do that more often, and slowly phase out the fake orgasms until your sex life has refocused on the real-orgasm-only activities.

But remember that this whole question springs from you learning to ask for what you want. If the choice is having an orgasm or having an orgasm and honest communication, don’t be scared to ask for both.

  • Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She's currently undertaking a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford
  • If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at irishtimes.com/dearroe