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Heterosexual Sex Has a Problem: Half of the Participants Are Faking It

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Jun 11, 2019

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For #IFakedItToo, a recent social media campaign by Durex, comedian Kaneez Surka uploaded a video recounting a less-than-satisfactory sexual experience. Rather than fake an orgasm to reassure the other party, she says, she decided to tell her partner it wasn’t good for her. “So, he got up, went to the bathroom, turned around and said, ‘cool, I’ll let you finish up,’ and then just shut the door,” she says, incredulously. Accounts like Surka’s have been pouring in, in response to the condom brand’s campaign, which purports to start a conversation around orgasm inequality.

While the campaign is obviously a marketing ploy to promote the brand’s newest “mutual climax” condoms (which I highly doubt solve the problem at hand), women of all ages across the country are shedding light on an orgasm gap between heterosexual partners — and a rampant cultural devaluing of female sexuality.

While society shames women for their sexual interests, especially for indulging in casual sex, it celebrates heterosexual men for the same. This double standard deters women from asserting their sexual preferences confidently, and makes it difficult for men to learn to be receptive to their female partners’ needs. It also conditions us to conflate men’s sexual prowess with their self-worth and manhood. So, in instances when men aren’t able to please a female partner, an expression of dissatisfaction can mean feelings of deep personal failure for them. For the woman, the sexual encounter can become an exercise in avoiding personal offence, either out of concern or fear of blame — and the possible, corresponding responses steeped in toxic behavior.

The internalized shame of sexual desire is further exacerbated by societal beauty norms, which lead women to feel insecure in their skin and pre-occupied with the appearance of their body and performance of sex. The pressure to have an orgasm, or make it seem like you had one to validate the man’s virility, further interrupts sexual arousal, increasing anxiety and making it even more difficult to climax.

Thus, we have a large swathe of the sexually active population feeling embarrassed and too self-conscious to enjoy sex, and a culture that normalizes fake orgasms, instead of open, honest communication between intimate sexual partners. According to a 2014 paper evaluating the causes for heterosexual women ‘faking it,’ researchers determined six reasons why women fake orgasms: they want to make their partner feel good; faking it turns them on; they are insecure or afraid; they want to make the sex stop; they are embarrassed or self-conscious; or they are worried they can’t orgasm.


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But, the problem runs deeper than those explanations, which assume knowledge that female pleasure is possible. A large subsection of the population has never been taught the intricacies of pleasure, the ways to ask for it, or even that it exists for women. This, when combined with the double standard for female sexuality, manifests in a cultural ignorance of the clitoris. The external clitoris (important to distinguish, as the clitoris is a giant organ that exists inside and outside the female body) is a small nub that contains more than 8,000 nerve endings, and is the source of orgasms for most women. Unfortunately, the clitoris is nowhere to be found — both in sex-ed, and thus in men’s repertoire, University of Florida professor Laurie Mintz, author of the book “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — And How to Get It,” told NBC News.

A major culprit is the dire state of sexual education in Indian schools, which, if provided, only teaches reproduction, not pleasure. As men’s reproductive ability is inherently related to their achieving an orgasm, it’s easier to understand and prioritize their pleasure. This reinforces the idea of women as frigid, baby-making machines only. Debby Herbenik, sex educator and professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health puts it aptly,”When it comes to ‘good sex,’ women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms,” The Week reported.

It doesn’t help that porn usually takes the place of sex ed, perpetuating faulty notions of sex, especially of female pleasure. Endless minutes of rhythmic, penetrative penis-in-vagina banging, while the woman utters moan after moan, is not how actual sexual encounters go. But this myth fills the information gap that exists in heterosexual couples’ sexual understanding, which unsconsciously prioritizes male orgasms over female, and further complicates notions of sexual pleasure.


Related on The Swaddle:

Women’s Sex Drive Isn’t Lower Than Men’s; It’s Just More Variable


The responses to the #IFakedItToo campaign mirror this analysis, ranging from “Why is it that even if you tell them where [the clitoris] is, they forget it every time? They don’t forget the way to their homes. Our vaginas are not even that big a territory,” to “After a while, I started fake moaning cause I wanted him to get it done and just go,” to “I have to fake it, just so that he doesn’t feel sad. I once told him that it’s not helping, then he got so angry and shouted at me that ‘humesha toh hota tha aaj kya ho gaya?’ (It happens every time, then what happened today?)”

It is a shame that we have normalized the idea of women not climaxing and the obligation to perform sexual pleasure at the expense of physical and emotional well-being. It’s high time the ‘fair sex’ had a shot at having fair sex.

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Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news in New York City. Back in the homeland, she spends her free time trying to dismantle societal beauty standards, laughing uproariously at comedy shows, and fervently following her football team, Arsenal.

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