I’m going to make a prediction.
Most men won’t be able to read to the end of this column without feeling uncomfortable.
In 10 years of writing about the female sexual experience, I’m yet to meet a guy who isn’t convinced he’s the exception to the rule when it comes to faking it – that faux pleasure doesn’t exist in his bedroom.
The women he’s bedded, he’ll insist, have all climaxed. (One reader was so adamant in his conviction, he took to Twitter to declare his lover had over 20 orgasms in a single session, unironically adding that she laid motionless the entire time.)
Many men believe they are the exception to the rule when it comes to faking it. Photo / Nadia Bokody
In a culture that equates sexual prowess with masculinity while failing to examine women’s pleasure, leaving men to educate themselves via PornHub – where the orgasms happen spontaneously and without foreplay or lubrication – it’s little wonder we’ve ended up here.
As someone on the receiving end of men’s rage every time I so much as acknowledge feigned orgasms in my work, one thing that’s abundantly clear to me, is the need to make men more comfortable with receiving critical feedback from women.
Our obsession with protecting the male ego to the point of labelling any woman who challenges it a misandrist is creating an epidemic of performative pleasure.
There’s perhaps no better example of this than this TikTok video that went viral this month, in which a young man innocuously asks, “Ladies, what does sex actually feel like for y’all?”
This guy went viral after asking women what sex felt like for them and they admitted it wasn't that great. Photo / TikTok@owenbouressa5
Within hours, the comments section was overwhelmed with female TikTokers revealing a searing truth men are typically shielded from: sex is routinely disappointing for straight women.
“It’s an acting career,” confessed one woman.
“It’s like when your kids help you clean and you tell them they did a good job, but you end up doing it yourself,” joined in another.
Others got equally creative with metaphors to describe the orgasm gap.
“Like when you go to the fridge because you’re starving, but you leave empty-handed,” commented another.
“Like you’re about to blow out the candles on the cake, but someone else does,” said a fourth.
Women had so much to say, the TikTok post quickly amassed more than 44,000 comments.
Though some of the comments were comical, including the woman who described having sex as “like biting into a chocolate chip cookie and realising it’s oatmeal raisin”, or the commenter who simply remarked, “Like I should have been a lesbian”, most echoed a depressing theme of performative pleasure and sexual disappointment.
And this TikTok underscores something researchers confirmed in a 2016 study: sex isn’t orgasmic for a significant portion of women who have sex with men.
In fact, the study found while 95 per cent of heterosexual men orgasm every time they have sex, the same couldn’t be said for straight women, who reported climaxing just 65 per cent of the time.
Nadia Bokody says female pleasure is not complex, men just aren't equipped to care enough about it. Photo / Instagram@Nadia Bokody
Notably, lesbian women had almost as much orgasmic success as heterosexual men, achieving the “Big Oh” 86 per cent of the time. Which is important to point out, because scientists have long treated the female sexual response as cryptic and complicated.
In reality, women’s pleasure is no more complex than men’s – our culture just doesn’t equip men to spark it, or to care about it.
I once joked in a column, which ended up attracting a lot of abuse from men, that there are two types of women in this world: those who’ve faked orgasms – and liars. And though I was being facetious, I was getting at the heart of something that’s become increasingly evident to me since I started pulling back the curtain on what sex is like for women: women are scared to speak honestly with their male partners about sex.
I hear routinely from friends and female readers alike about the lengths they go to protect their significant other’s egos, even when they’re having sex that’s not only unsatisfying, but physically painful. Sometimes these women will proclaim they don’t like sex or simply don’t have robust libidos, but in my experience, this is rarely the case.
They’re capable of feeling arousal and of having joyful, deeply satisfying sex – and more often than not, they do so on their own via masturbation – they’ve just come to associate partnered sex with the laborious task of performance, and to ultimately view it as something that leaves them smaller and emptier than they came into it.
Until we condition men to get comfortable with this truth, and to interrogate the mechanics of female pleasure, I fear this column will exist merely as a sponge for male fragility and rage.
I didn’t start writing about female sexuality to be controversial or – contrary to popular opinion – to anger men. I began sharing my own sexual experiences as a woman in order to say the things I knew women were feeling but not vocalising.
Because I believe in a world where women’s voices and pleasure matter, and more so, I have faith that, when we give men the tools to do better, they can rise to the challenge. Even when it involves wrestling with some discomfort.