Guilty as charged. Believe it or not, I was in my early 30s before I experienced my first orgasm through partnered vaginal sex (intercourse). Sure, I had had orgasms before on my own and with a partner during other kinds of sexual activity, but never through p-in-v. Did my partner at the time know I didn’t cum through intercourse? Absolutely not, because you better believe I faked it almost EVERY single time. But why did I feel the need to do so?
I look back on that time in disbelief. How could I have allowed myself to fake ‘it’ for so long? I mean, I did study sex and all, so I should know better. Why do so many heterosexual cis-females just like me feel the need to fake their pleasure in the bedroom?
If you are a porn watcher like myself, orgasm from intercourse should be as simple as a couple of fast pumps, which in turn have you singing like a canary, when in actuality 75% of people with vulvas don’t orgasm through penetrative sex. Yes, 75%. Let that number sink in. Vaginal orgasm is seen as the ultimate goal, the gold standard as it were, and if we don’t achieve this, then something must be wrong with us, right? Nope!
So instead of maybe directing my partner’s attention to an area of my body that I knew felt pleasurable to the touch, I felt the need to throw in a few moans and say, ‘Wow, that was the best orgasm I ever had’.
I mean my acting could probably have won me a gold statue from the Academy Awards. My partner’s ego and the fact he had given me a vaginal orgasm (fake or otherwise) became more important than my pleasure. How had I let it get this far? The slope is a slippery one – once you begin faking it and you have been doing so for any extended period of time, how do you all of a sudden say to your partner(s) ‘Oh hey, I actually don’t cum from intercourse’, to which you will probably receive a response such as, ‘But you came from it last night!’
Communicating around sex and pleasure can be a challenge because we do not want to hurt our partner’s feelings, but by not communicating around pleasure you may do more damage to your sexual relationship than good. This had an impact on my relationship at the time because I grew complacent when it came to sex. I certainly wasn’t doing it for my pleasure and I freakin’ love sex! Why was the value associated with his pleasure, not mine? Why was I so afraid to communicate around my pleasure?
There are numerous social and contextual factors that contribute to our willingness to fake it. For starters, for years, penis owners’ pleasure was given more importance than any other person’s pleasure especially if engaging in heterosexual intercourse.
Cue, the orgasm/pleasure gap.
The orgasm gap is something that is well documented in sexuality research. Approximately 90% of heterosexual cis-males orgasm from partnered intercourse versus 40% of heterosexual cis-females. Yes, you read that right! I was flabbergasted when I first saw those statistics and I thought to myself, heck no wonder so many of us vulva owners fake it to make it!
This gap does diminish more when you consider the experiences of lesbian cis-females, who report orgasming about 85% of the time while having partnered sex and 95% of cis-women regardless of their sexual orientation, report orgasming from solo play even if they don’t through partnered play.
What does this all mean? What we see is that the ability to orgasm increases when the focus is not solely on vaginal orgasm. People with vulvas tend to report experiencing more pleasure in their sexual encounters through oral sex, manual stimulation of the clitoris, higher overall relationship satisfaction and when they prioritised and vocalised what pleasured them more. Vaginal orgasm is in fact more a fantasy than a reality for most, so we need to restructure how we think about orgasms and pleasure.
After a lot of self-reflection and much self-exploration, my lesson was learned. Those lines of communication around pleasure are open and honest now because I deserve pleasure, just like you do. Sex does not have to result in orgasm to be pleasurable and for some orgasm isn’t even that great, so fake it to make it, no thanks. By taking the pressure off of ourselves to reach orgasm, we make actually experience real pleasure, the stuff of legends, not that fake make believe fairy tale stuff.
Elisha Miller is a sex educator and Director of 5 Circles Bermuda, which provides modern and inclusive sex positive education and awareness through discussions, workshops and events. Follow 5 Circles Bermuda on Instagram.