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Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009

Fakin' It

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­What is the most respectful way to tell your partner that you didn't/couldn't orgasm? No man has been able to, but I'm tired of pretending.

Although I don't know the gender of the person asking this question, I'm going to answer it as if the questioner is female. It's more common for women to have difficulty achieving orgasm with a partner than it is for men, for a number of reasons. Chief among these is our sad lack of education about female sexual response (hands up, everyone who learned about the clitoris in health class!), coupled with our general discomfort in talking about sex and the fact that women usually require longer and more varied stimulation than men to come. That said, men sometimes fake orgasm too, so some of what I say below can apply to any gender.

Because you say you're "tired of pretending," it sounds like you've been acting as if you've had orgasms during sex at least some of the time. People fake orgasms for any number of reasons. Maybe your partner is trying really hard to please you, and you think he'll feel bad if you don't come. Maybe you're tired and want to go to sleep. Maybe you feel that you are just not going to achieve orgasm this time, but it's easier to fake it than to explain that to a partner. Maybe you never have orgasms with a partner, or ever, but you're embarrassed to admit this.

Our cultural model of sexual pleasure tell us that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex, with the mythic "simultaneous orgasm" being the sexual Holy Grail. Being able to make a partner come is considered a mark of sexual skill, and sex without orgasm is seen as pointless or as something that only young teens engage in. With this view of sex, of course people are going to fake orgasm. So the first step towards being honest with partners about not coming during sex is, perhaps, to move away from this model.

If you have a new sexual partner, you can let him know right up front that you usually don't have orgasms during sex, but follow that up with information about activities that you enjoy. You could love oral sex even though it doesn't make you come, or you could find spanking really hot. Ask your partner what he likes, and focus on making each other feel good rather than racing to orgasm. Some men have a hard time believing that women can enjoy sex without having an orgasm, so work on communicating what really curls your toes in an authentic way.

If you have a partner that you've faked orgasm with before, things can be trickier, because he may be hurt that you weren't completely honest or feel stupid that he didn't know what was going on. If you sometimes have orgasms during sex and sometimes not, but pretend that you have them all the time, then gradually stopping the fakery and introducing the idea that you sometimes don't have orgasms during sex can change the situation. Since it sounds like you never have orgasms during sex, the best course may be to be completely upfront, let him know that there's something you'd like to talk to him about before you have sex again, and then explain why you felt the need to fake orgasm, in a way that doesn't put the blame on either of you. Tell him the things that you do enjoy about sex, and let him know that you're being honest with him now because you care about him and/or have fun when you're with him and would have even more fun if you didn't have to pretend.

For people reading this who have partners who don't come during sex, the best thing you can do when someone tells you this is to accept it. Do not, under any circumstances, declare that you are going to make her come and/or redouble your efforts to force an orgasm out of her. Pressure and stress are the enemies of orgasm. Your partner knows what she wants out of sex and what makes her feel good; listen to her and follow her lead. This is not about you and your sexual prowess; it's about your partner and her right to her own authentic sexuality.

If you have a partner who asks if you came after sex, do his future girlfriends a favor and tell him, in the politest way possible, not to ask this question. It puts pressure on you to give a dishonest answer, and it negates all of the other fun things that you might have experienced together outside of orgasm. And if you are the person who asks "Did you come?", please stop. It's awkward and no good can ever come of it.

Everything I've written so far has just answered your basic question about how to tell a partner that you don't have orgasms during sex. You don't say whether you are fine with this, or whether you'd like to be able to come during sex. That's a topic for another day…

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side. She has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.