For too long, the male orgasm has been the focal point – the main event – of sex. Meanwhile, the female orgasm remains unrealised, misunderstood and all-too-often forgotten about. By mythologising the female orgasm as a mysterious entity that only the most sexually experienced of partners will be able to unlock, we collectively lower our expectations, and make excuses for when it inevitably doesn’t happen.
Is female sexuality ‘more complex’ than our male counterparts, or is it just misunderstood? Is it harder for women to climax, or is the problem really that sex is so phallocentric that vagina-having-people are left behind?
In my experience, either my own pleasure is completely out of the question, or there’s pressure to cum – but not for me, for the sake of a (male) partner’s ego. It’s all well and good saying ‘I want to make you scream‘, but that’s only going to happen if you put the work in. And, for a lot of women putting the work in means doing something other than penetrative (penis-in-vagina) sex.
I suppose where female sexuality does get complicated is when we start to consider what exactly ‘putting the work’ in means. Not all women enjoy oral sex, nor do they all enjoy clitoral stimulation, or fingering. Chances are they do know what they’re into – or at least have a rough idea on what they might be into – so why not just ask. If asking is too scary, trial and error is far better than ignoring the matter altogether.
Most women who have sex with men have left at least one sexual experience feeling a little underwhelmed. You have sex, he cums, you don’t, he turns over, grunts, and swiftly falls into the deep deep slumber of the unoppressed. It’s as if the concept of female pleasure, of the female orgasm, is so alien to them that the idea of asking ‘how was it for you?’ simply slips their mind. Maybe not even ‘slips’ because that would imply the idea was ever there in the first place. When I first started having casual sex, I normalised this kind of behaviour. I didn’t even think to ask myself ‘how was it for you?’ My expectations were low; I didn’t expect any man to even bother trying because,well, it’s all a bit too complicated.
I will also confess to yet another depressingly common hetero-sex phenomena: faking orgasms. Again, if you’re a woman who has sex with men, you’ve probably done this at some point. And, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but if you’re a man who has sex with women – and you don’t put any time into their pleasure – chances are a partner of yours has summoned the transferable skills learned in their GCSE drama to pretend-cum. For any guy who reckons they know the difference, I would like to refer you to the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally – just Google it.
But why do we do it? Because we feel bad otherwise? Because the male ego is so fragile we feel like not bolstering their self-esteem wherever possible might reflect badly on us? Because we just want it to be over? Ultimately, we’ll fake it because that’s somehow easier than asserting our sexuality to request we get something in return.
The day you learn you’re well within your right to expect reciprocation – for the orgasm gap to be closed – is a game changer. There is literally no shame in asking for head, or whatever it is that gets you going. Obviously, during sex no one is obliged to do anything they’re uncomfortable with – and they could always say no. But women should be able to at least ask without feeling like it’s ‘too much’. It’s an orgasm, not a free and equal society in which everyone has access to a well-funded welfare state. Although ideally we’d all have both of those things.
On the flipside to all of this, I think sometimes too much weight can be placed on the orgasm generally. With all the pressure to cum, sex can feel incomplete on both sides without it. However, for lots of people (regardless of gender) climaxing simply isn’t on the menu. This can be down to mental health disorders, certain medications, or even hormonal levels. Any substances (especially alcohol) will also have a discernible impact on someone’s ability to cum. Sex can still be enjoyable – and completely valid – if neither party cums. Orgasms aren’t a metric you can measure sexual success on. So long as everyone had a lovely time – even if it was more sensual than sexual – you successfully had sex.