Let's Talk About Orgasms.
Orgasms are ________.
Go all out. Insert whatever descriptors you like in the blank. It’s cool—I’ll wait. If you said blissful, powerful, pleasurable, or insanely mind-blowing, you’re not alone. Then again, if you said almost painful, meh, fleeting, confusing—have I ever had one?, or I wish I knew!, you’re certainly not alone either. And if any combination of these words sprang into your brain (a la mind-blowing and fleeting, for example), you’re in good company there too. Orgasms are less trusty visitors than you might imagine. Sure, 75% percent of men and 29% of women say that they can count on an orgasm every time, but this also means that a quarter of men and nearly three out of four of women cannot.
Does this mean that we must be defective in some way if we don’t climax regularly, find it troublesome to get there, or have never experienced one? Of course not! Yet, perception is reality. All we have to do is buy into the notion that we’re broken in some way, and the self-doubt piles on.
People can place enormous pressure on themselves when it comes to sex and orgasms. It’s easy for the Big O to become a Big Pain in the A when climaxing turns into a must-have goal…or else.
Or else what?
Well, that varies from person to person. For some folks, an orgasm is a sign that they’re functioning normally, and that something is amiss with them if it doesn’t happen. Other people feel pressure to climax to show that they’re turned on, or to send a message to their partner as if to say, You’re getting it right and I’m loving it! The tricky part is that when we view orgasms as the primary way of showing our partner that they’re ringing our bell, we raise the stakes of achieving an orgasm tremendously. I mean, who in a healthy relationship doesn’t want to show a partner that they’re doing a bang-up job in the sack and raise their self-confidence? On the flipside, many of us carry around the notion that it’s incumbent upon us to make our partner reach that glorified peak. This arguably reflects the belief that a) orgasms are an essential, must-have part of sex, or else it isn’t satisfying, b) we’re not great lovers if we don’t make our partner climax, and/or c) we’re just not doing the trick for our partner. Wow! Talk about pressure galore, particularly considering that we don’t actually have full-scale control over whether ithappens. After all, there are two people involved.
Unfortunately, reassurance that it’s common and gasp! okay not to have orgasms all of the time isn’t always at hand. Take what we see on TV and in movies, for example. It’s hard to imagine that those steamy scenes of passionate sex and rocking orgasms do a whole lot to hearten the many, many people who don’t find it easy to get there. No offense to scenes with hot sex and glorious orgasms. Californication and Game of Thrones are illustrative examples, and they are both exceptional shows, in my humble opinion. It’s just that if we’re looking for guidance on what to expect when it comes to orgasms, the screen isn’t our best resource!
No, the best resource to have a sincere dialogue about sex and drain the air right out of these hyped-up, Big O notions is your romantic partner, right? I’m a huge fan of couples talking about their sexual experiences, their wishes, and their questions and concerns in an open, caring, and authentic manner. The hitch is that this doesn’t happen a great deal. According to a Durex survey, even though 84% of the surveyed couples admitted that talking with their partner about sex would bring a boost to the bedroom, only 27% actually sought their partner’s advice about it. As an aside, 42% of couples said they went to their friends for guidance. Although our friends may not be our primary wellspring of information (hint: It’s our partner!), if we’re unwilling to turn to our partner to talk about sex, then it is an excellent idea to seek counsel from someone rather than wonder all alone. That said, our partner is generally the best person to confide in—and in case you were keeping score at home, I said it three times just to highlight the point!
Unfortunately, it can be an uphill battle for people to have a transparent discussion about sex, orgasms, and naughty delights when their partner clams up too. And then, if we throw sexual deception into the mix, the blockade to open communication gets taller. According to a 2010 study, 25-28% of men and 50-67% of women admitted to faking orgasms. Why did they do that? Here are some popular rationales:
- To protect their partner’s feelings
- To make their partner feel good
- To stop having sex
Moreover, there’s a sexual playbook that a number of heterosexual couples believe they’re supposed to follow. The woman has to climax first (no pressure, ladies), followed by the man, with the man being primarily responsible for the woman’s carnal peak (no pressure, gentlemen).
So, to sum up what we’ve been talking about, let’s do into a little sex math, shall we? Partners who feel like they’re on the hook to have an orgasm or make their partner climax, along with a sexual script that may be layered over it all + a lack of sexual communication = greater odds of faking it.
And it’s not just in the bedroom (or the room of your choice, let’s not limit ourselves…) where couples are less than up front. Couples fake it when they’re sexting too. Forty-eight percent of couples who sexted admitted to veering from the truth when they typed what they were doing and/or what clothes they were wearing (or, um, not wearing). More women (45%) than men (24%) lied while sexting, and although the main reason people gave for their deception was to heighten their partner’s pleasure (67%), a third of those who lied did so to enhance their own pleasure or relieve boredom.
Faked orgasms, scripted lovemaking, zipped lips, and falsehoods. Great Scott! That doesn’t sound like heaps of fun does it?
What can you do if you’re in this boat, along with so many others?
Number One: For heavens sake don’t be hard on yourself or your partner. Insecurity wields a heavy hand at times and when it does, the idea of faking orgasms or remaining closemouthed can seem rather tempting. So it’s understandable how you got here. The key is not to stay put.
Number Two: Take the pressure off of yourself and your partner to have an orgasm every time. Even better, change your aim from orgasms to relishing sex-play with your partner in the moment. See what happens if you focus less on the outcome and more on enjoying the journey. Arguably, much of sex is mental, like just about all of life. So, if you’re laser focused on
- Needing to orgasm
- What’s wrong with you because it’s taking you so long
- Questioning what kind of a lover you are if your partner doesn’t climax
- A host of other places your mind could wander (e.g., worrying about external problems, questioning whether you look sexy enough, planning your to-do list, doubting whether your partner is into it, etc.)
then it’s no wonder your body won’t cooperate. It starts with the mind, and if you mentally tune in to the present and let go, you’ll be much more likely to have great sex. Ironic, I know, but true.
Number Three: Take a chance and genuinely communicate with your partner. Undoubtedly, this can be hard to do, as open communication entails a certain amount of vulnerability. But it’s also how relationships become closer. For example, partners who share more about themselves when talking to another couple feel more bonded to each other as a result.
Of course, the upside of openness doesn’t minimize the fear that can creep in when it comes to authentic communication about sex. If you share what you like, what turns you on, or your hopes and fears, what if your lover were to judge you, to feel hurt, or dismiss or reject you? Even as these questions and the unease that accompanies them are totally understandable, try to remember that those fears may not reflect reality. Just imagine: What if your lover reacted to you with acceptance, appreciation, responsiveness, love, and passion?
If it helps, a 2011 study by Temple University researchers shows that you have good reason to be optimistic about openness. Not only does talking about sex with your partner improve your sexual enjoyment together, it turns out that sexual authenticity extends to your whole relationship. Couples who talked openly about sex were more likely to be happier together in general.
So, if you take a chance and talk about sex with your partner, think of it as a worthy investment in the two of you. Besides, you just might make it easier for your partner to reveal more to you too. A wealth of research shows that when we allow others to see more of us, they allow us to see more of them too. So why not open the door to deeper sexual communication yourself? Someone has to make the first move.
Drouin, M., Tobin, E., & Wygant, K. (2014). “Love the way you lie”: Sexting deception in romantic relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 542-547.
Durex® Encourages Couples To Communicate Openly Through Honest Pillow Talk. (2014, March 21). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/durex-encourages-couples-to-communicate-openly-through-honest-pillow-talk-251419741.html
Marter, J. (2014, July 28). Mindfulness for Mind-Blowing Sex: 5 Practices. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-marter-/mindfulness-for-mindblowi_b_5608649.html
Montesi, J.L., Fauber, R.L., Gordon, E.A., & Heimberg, R.G. (2011). The specific importance of communicating about sex to couples’ sexual and overall relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28, 591-609.
Muehlenhard, C.L., & Shippee, S.K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending orgasm.Journal of Sex Research, 47, 552-567.
Slatcher, R.B. (2010). When Harry and Sally met Dick and Jane: Creating closeness between couples. Personal Relationships, 17, 279-297.
The Kinsey Institute - Sexuality Information Links - FAQ [Related Resources]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#orgasm