Female sexuality might seem to be a mystery. I often hear from women I am treating in my sex therapy practice in Los Angeles that they have never had an orgasm in their entire lives. Others say that it takes them “too long” to climax. Many share that they think it is easier for them to even not try!
Research has showed that this is a common sexual pattern in women. One study found that only 64 percent of women surveyed said that they’d had an orgasm in a recent sexual encounter, compared to 91 percent of men.
The pop culture mainstream, quite frankly, does not help. We are presented with a definite view of female sexuality. Then we are made to feel inadequate or that something is wrong with us if our sexuality is quite different.
One of the most misunderstood topics in female sexuality is the orgasm. In Hollywood movies, the final goal of any sexual encounter is the orgasm. However, in reality, orgasms can be quite elusive. You can’t think too much about having one, and you can’t actively seek them out.
If they don’t understand this reality, women may feel under pressure to have an orgasm. When they do not have one, they may feel that they are doing something wrong. And if it happens regularly, they may fake an orgasm.
What’s Wrong with Faking an Orgasm?
I interviewed Dr. Lonnie Barbach, author of the groundbreaking book Going the Distance: Finding and Keeping Lifelong Love, and she told me that, while it might be OK to fake an orgasm every now and again, but if it is an ongoing pattern, you are sending mixed signals to your partner. Whether or not you mean it that way, your partner will internalize the clues you are giving and assume that he or she is doing everything right. The more you fake orgasms, the less likely it is that you will have one naturally because your partner will continue to do the same thing he or she is doing.
How do you break out of this cycle? That’s a question I commonly hear in my sex therapy practice in Los Angeles. It is also one that Dr. Barbach has spent much of the past 30 years investigating. She tells couples the secret is better communication. You simply can’t understate the importance of good communication in a sexual relationship.
Please check out the video below, if you want to hear my entire conversation with Dr. Barbach:
One key struggle I notice in women is their own lack of clarity in communicating what they want sexually. Many of my clients have learned from our sex-negative culture that sex is dirty and “nice girls don’t think about sex.” As a result, they don’t take time to notice what external and internal stimuli arouse them. They might expect their partner to be a mind reader and just know what they want! They get frustrated their partner doesn’t know arouses them.
Another group I meet in my sex therapy office are the women who have some awareness around their sexual fantasies and desires but also have excessive guilt about them. This keeps these women from sharing their fantasies. Chances are that their partners are seeking to have more open communications around sexual desires but be unable to approach it. Couples benefit when they are open and honest.
It is important to remember that there is tremendous breadth in sexual preferences. You simply can’t live up to an external standard. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with two people in a relationship who have different sexual preferences. That’s only natural. Just as two people might have different tastes in food or music, they might also have different tastes in sexuality. But that doesn’t mean that you are incompatible. It only means that you need better communication with your partner.
Ultimately, if you only seek a single goal—the orgasm—you’ll miss things along the way. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the less that you focus on this final goal, the easier it is to achieve. First though, you need to be able to talk. Talk about what interests you sexually, what turns you on, and how your partner can help you feel comfortable and safe in your relationship. Once you can do that, the door is open for better sex in the future.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a licensed psychologist and an expert in the psychology of food, sex, and drugs. She has supported many women and couples in their struggle with a variety of sex-related issues, including low libido, mismatched libido, painful intercourse, and past sexual abuse and trauma in Los Angeles, California. She is the creator of a weekly podcast series called “The Sexology Podcast.”