Fakin’ It Ain’t Feminist

Check out the following excerpt from Michael Kimmel’s new book, Guyland:

Most hookups are not great sex. In our survey, in their most recent hookups, regardless of what actually took place, only 19% of the women reported having an orgasm, as compared to 44% of the men. When women received cunnilingus, only about a quarter experienced an orgasm, though the men who reported they had performed cunnilingus on their partner reported that she had an orgasm almost 60% of the time.
The orgasm gap extends to intercourse as well. Women report an orgasm 34 percent of the time; the men report that the women had an orgasm 58 percent of the time. (The women, not surprisingly, are far better able to tell if the men had orgasms, and the reporting rates are virtually identical).

The data Kimmel is referencing appears to be representative of heterosexual contact only, though it could use some clarification. In any case, HOLY SHIT.
It’s not that I’m shocked by these numbers. I’ve heard enough horrendous hetero hook-up stories to know that they’re usually not all that orgasmic, or even all that pleasurable, for the ladies involved. I’m one of those who believes that long term relationships (or at least multiple hook ups with the same partner) are pretty necessary to figure out how your two unique chemistries best match up for good sex (widely defined). This, of course, goes for queer lovin’ as well.
What really made my jaw drop was the discrepancy between the way women reported orgasms and the way men reported women’s orgasms. As Kimmel put it, “Many women, it turns out, fake orgasm.”
Okay, so let’s talk about this. Again. (Samhita and Jess have already written great stuff on this in the past.)
First and foremost, you deserve pleasure. You deserve orgasms. You deserve to be honest about the presence or absence of orgasms. And of course, every sexual encounter doesn’t have to lead to orgasm. Sometimes it’s not happenin’ for various reasons. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to perform some sort of ego saving climax.
I know, I know, sometimes it seems like it’s easier, especially with someone you don’t know, to just pretend that the hook up is awesome so that you don’t have to explain why it’s not, teach some guy about basic female anatomy, or deal with his frowny face grumpy pants routine. But the path of least resistance, my feminist friends, is not cool in this case.
It’s not cool for a couple of critical reasons. It’s not cool because you deserve better–both physically and in terms of your own integrity. But it’s also not cool to the rest of the poor gals who might be next in line with this poor fool who doesn’t know where the frickin’ clit is. Or whatever. You see where I’m going with this.
It is your feminist duty to 1) seek pleasure and feel entitled to it and 2) to make the world a more orgasmic place for other women.
If the last girl that had taken that dude home had taught him a thing or two about a thing or two, you wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. You hear me?

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107 Comments

  1. fatsweatybetty
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s late in the thread but I kind of have to back up Black Thirteen on some of his points. There was a thread just a couple weeks ago on Feministing (don’t remember which, sorry) wherein a woman said that her bf would repeatedly harass her for sex until she consented. No threats or violence, but harassment nonetheless. She said she would submit to sex, but to her it was more like rape. All of the other commenters fully supported that her consent was not freely given and consent granted only after this kind of browbeating is not actually consent. (This is, of course, different than someone genuinely changing their mind and freely deciding to have sex after rebuffing previous requests.) So this is not an argument that Black Thirteen is merely pulling out of his ass.
    Also, I do have some issues with the original post and the whole thread really. I think there have been a lot of people conflating what “good lovers” SHOULD do with what is the basic obligation of every sex partner. The two are not the same. Ultimately, people are responsible for their own sexual pleasure (whether this makes someone selfish or “bad” in bed is irrelevant). If I want an orgasm I either have to a) get myself off, b) communicate with my partner what she/he can do to help me get off, or c) decide what to do if it doesn’t happen. And the same goes for them. Even as a willing sex partner, I am still not responsible for their orgasms or for the orgasms of their future sex partners.

  2. JenAurora
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    While I completely agree that it can be really powerful and important for women to claim sexual pleasure as our entitlement as much as men seem to be able to claim it as theirs, I think that we also need to remember that it’s not our responsibility to educate ignorant men.
    There are endless articles in every magazine telling us how to better please men – why aren’t men reading about how to please women? Why don’t they go read up on how women don’t normally achieve orgasm from vaginal stimulation?
    We need to be able to take the power back to demand our own pleasure without sitting around waiting for men to figure things out, but we also need to refrain from taking on responsibility for men’s ignorance.

  3. VeriteBlesse
    Posted October 5, 2008 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Note to some posters: She said it was your duty to seek pleasure, not necessarily orgasm. And if you are having sex without pleasure, that is definitely a problem. And as for the second part, I think you have to read a lot into to see victim blaming. Making the world a more orgasmic place for other women does not have to mean teaching men to be better partners. What about not slut shaming? That’s one way to make the world a healthier sexual place for women, and there are others that have nothing to do with victim blaming.

  4. dawn_of_the_bread
    Posted October 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I feel moved to comment. Everyone here is being so whiney about whether you can “deserve” to have an orgasm. Orgasms aren’t a “right”, a truth held to be self-evident. BUT if you’re in a loving relationship, why would you NOT want to give your partner as much pleasure as possible?
    I always make sure my girlfriend comes, whether it’s by penetration, oral or “manual stimulation”. I want her to feel good about herself. If I didn’t want her to enjoy sex what sort of a boyfriend would I be?
    On the issue of oral sex, I quite enjoy going down on my girlfriend but I must confess that the FIRST two times I ever gave oral I felt like I was going to be sick and lost my erection. It was worth it though because it gave the woman pleasure and now I enjoy it.
    NB: Any other men/women find that if you spell out the alphabet with your tongue when you’re going down on a woman it works a treat every time?

  5. a.k.a. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted October 5, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    dawn_of_the_bread,
    “whiney”? really?? That’s not going to win you many fans around here…
    “While I completely agree that it can be really powerful and important for women to claim sexual pleasure as our entitlement as much as men seem to be able to claim it as theirs, I think that we also need to remember that it’s not our responsibility to educate ignorant men.
    There are endless articles in every magazine telling us how to better please men – why aren’t men reading about how to please women? Why don’t they go read up on how women don’t normally achieve orgasm from vaginal stimulation? ”
    Okay, I read plenty on how to please men, but fact is it did me basically no good when I got to the flesh-and-blood thing. There are actually a lot of articles out there for men on how to please women, but they’re not going to work all the time. Plus as has been stated here countless times, everyone likes something different. I think it’s only profoundly ignorant men these days who don’t know about the clitoris these days. But if you want decent sex, good communication has always been and still is the best way to ensure that…

  6. Jess
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I’m find Kimmel’s assertion that women are faking orgasms problematic.
    Couldn’t Kimmel’s research support these alternative arguments?
    a) Men are under a weighty socially/culturally constructed pressure to provide orgasms for their female partner. In this way, it’s likely that men lie about their partner’s orgasms (hence the discrepancy in numbers), or interpret a high rate of arousal as orgasm. In either case, both mistakes are made consciously or unconsciously to satisfy the masculine duty to “make their woman cum.”
    b) Besides vocalisms, some men don’t know other physically signs that point to the female orgasm, such as: the clenching of the vaginal walls (which a man could feel on his penis or fingers), or the ejaculation of fluid from the urethra.
    Whether or not one finds these arguments plausible, I think it’s important to consider the notion that Kimmel’s research says as much about masculinity, and its prescriptions for men during a heterosexual encounter, as femininity and women having (heterosexual) sex.

  7. Jess
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’m find Kimmel’s assertion that women are faking orgasms problematic.
    Couldn’t Kimmel’s research support these alternative arguments?
    a) Men are under a weighty socially/culturally constructed pressure to provide orgasms for their female partner. In this way, it’s likely that men lie about their partner’s orgasms (hence the discrepancy in numbers), or interpret a high rate of arousal as orgasm. In either case, both mistakes are made consciously or unconsciously to satisfy the masculine duty to “make their woman cum.”
    b) Besides vocalisms, some men don’t know other physically signs that point to the female orgasm, such as: the clenching of the vaginal walls (which a man could feel on his penis or fingers), or the ejaculation of fluid from the urethra.
    Whether or not one finds these arguments plausible, I think it’s important to consider the notion that Kimmel’s research says as much about masculinity, and its prescriptions for men during a heterosexual encounter, as femininity and women having (heterosexual) sex.
    My broader point, masculinity is also a feminist issue.

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