My first experience with a fake orgasm was watching a moaning Meg Ryan, aka Sally, throwing her head back in a New York deli and chanting “yes, yes, yes!”. The first time I pulled a Sally myself was a few years back, under the expectant gaze of a partner who asked if I had finished after a few minutes of rock ‘n’ roll, and I giggled awkwardly and nodded.
Upon discussing orgasms with a fellow feminist for research, she said she hasn’t met a girlfriend who hasn’t faked or exaggerated her pleasure at least once. Actual research done by the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 58.8% of surveyed women had simulated an orgasm. The question remains why, in a post-feminist era, are we still faking the Big O?
I come from a conservative South Asian society where sex and pleasure is only talked about in hushed whispers, behind closed doors — so literature and cinema, including porn, become the carriers of sex education. For better or worse, these became my first sources of information about intimacy, pleasure, sexual experiences, and the expectations that come with them. Just imagine me: a wide-eyed, 14-year-old, spectacled nerd taking notes while watching loud women on Pornhub have multiple orgasms within the span of four minutes, sans foreplay!
That my teenage literary selection consisted of unending romance books didn’t help much either, considering our dear female protagonist would come apart, shaking and gasping, from one touch of the dark, brooding hero. These are the same books that sold ‘the first time’ as a magical experience replete with fireworks and butterflies, so I guess I should’ve taken it all with a grain of salt.
While I know we don’t take these expressions of sexual pleasure as gospel, they still create false sex-pectations about how it’s supposed to go down. Google knows how much time I spent researching what an orgasm is supposed to feel like and whether I was doing it right. Clearly, I’d been far from screaming my heart out.
The manufactured pleasure phenomenon also stems from our willingness to not prioritise female pleasure. The embarrassment that comes from having to ask to be pleased — coupled with the internalised belief that being assertive makes a woman an inconvenient, demanding bitch — often pushes us to Oscar-winning performances that could give Meryl Streep a run for her money.
Of course, the age-old rationale of protecting our partners’ masculinity at our own expense still stands strong. But let’s be honest, this only impedes honest communication and exploring full sexual satisfaction for both parties. By faking it, it’s just encouraging interactions that aren’t actually working.
The solution, at least for my somewhat-inexperienced self, is figuring out what works for me and spending more time finding the ins and outs (apologies for the penetration pun) of my own orgasms, in order to guide someone else better. Then maybe next time, I’ll be swapping my self-induced embarrassment for the Big (I’ll even take Medium-Sized) O, or at the very least some brutally honest pillow talk.