Many women admit to faking orgasms, but the most common lie told in the bedroom is actually ruining your sex life, says Nadia Bokody.
Women are terrific actors.
I know this because each time I write about fake orgasms, my inbox is inundated by men insisting they’re outliers.
That, somehow, they’ve managed to evade the same ruse perpetrated on their gender since Cleopatra first rolled out of Mark Antony’s sheets and began crafting a rumbling cylinder of bees to finish the job. (Legend has it we have her to thank for the modern-day vibrator.)
The reason we’re so convincing at feigning enjoyment, is because we’ve had a lifetime of practice ignoring discomfort.
We quite literally teach girls to associate pain with womanhood. While we’re busy enlightening boys on boners and wet dreams, we warn young women losing their virginity will probably hurt. And so will childbirth. And periods. And underwire bras and heels, for that matter.
I hadn’t realised how much I’d internalised this message until about six months ago, when I underwent surgery to discover the source of a searing sensation in my abdomen that had plagued me for almost two decades.
“It’s incredible you’ve been able to get through this for so long!” my surgeon remarked, pointing at a patchwork of crimson splotches studded over my uterus and ovaries on his computer screen.
The surgery had uncovered extensive endometriosis; a condition that causes tissue which normally lives inside the uterus to grow in other parts of the body, resulting in excruciating pain and – if left unchecked – infertility for an estimated one in 10 women.
It wasn’t really incredible, though. Like so many of the women I know, pain had become not so much a thing to “get through”, but part of the wallpaper of my existence.
According to research, the average time it takes a woman to get a formal diagnosis of endometriosis is 7.5 years. This is in part due to the fact it can only be accurately diagnosed through surgery, but largely because women’s pain is so routinely dismissed by medical professionals.
A PubMed paper on patients reporting to the emergency room with acute abdominal pain found women typically wait an average of 16 minutes longer than men to receive analgesic relief. Another study, published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, showed we’re also seven times more likely than men to be discharged in the middle of a heart attack.
We’re so conditioned to ignore our body’s signals, many women are unable to recognise their own hunger. The boom of intuitive eating – an anti-diet movement focused on eating in tune with your hunger cues – was sparked in no small part by scores of women who’d lost their ability to eat instinctively, after decades of deprivation.
It’s not particularly startling that women also ignore discomfort in the bedroom. Or that surveys reveal up to 80 per cent of us (the honest ones at least!) admit to faking our way through it with our partners.
What is striking, is the fact we’ve essentially become complicit in our own sexual disenfranchisement.
Most women in a study published in the Archives Of Sexual Behaviour cited making their partners feel good as the number one reason for feigning pleasure. But a disconcertingly large number of respondents also cited “to get the sex to stop”. And that’s really at the heart of the issue: women are having sex they don’t actually want to be having.
Faking it isn’t just costing us our orgasms (research shows we climax just 63 per cent of the time during sex, as opposed to men, who do so 95 per cent of the time) – it’s perpetuating a cycle of bad sex.
There’s no denying women have been short-changed by a culture that’s not only taught us to put our comfort last, but embedded doing so into the code of womanhood. However, at some point, we have to realise for ourselves, this just isn’t working.
So, here’s a truth bomb that may help break through: sex should feel really, really good. It should leave you coming out of it (no pun intended) better than you were going into it. And in spite of all we’ve been taught, this isn’t exclusive to men.
Women can – and do! – have profoundly satisfying sex. But that can only happen when we prioritise our pleasure, which, I’m afraid to tell you female readers, requires actually letting your partner know that thing they’ve been doing for the last six years? Yeah, it hasn’t been working for you.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Your partner’s ego may be bruised – certainly if the adamant men in my inbox each week are anything to go by – but the discomfort will be short-lived, unlike the pain of having a lifetime of bad sex.
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