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Why Do Indian Women Fake Orgasms?

"I don't know," she started to say, "I just never have been able to have an orgasm with someone before. It's not like I don't enjoy sex, I just feel like it's hotter for him if I... finish. Faking orgasms is just easier."

It’s no secret that women fake orgasms but the fact that we do is much more complex than it seems. A large number of Indian women are in relationships where their pleasure is not considered important by male partners, nor are they in a position to insist that it be a factor.

Also, it’s not just the women who don’t have any say in their sexual lives who fake orgasms (or just don’t have them) orgasms. I know dozens of sexually-liberated and privileged women who also fake their orgasms. Their reasons may not be the same, but the pressure to fake is being felt by women across the spectrum.

Why? Why do women feel the need to fake orgasms?

A while ago a friend told me that she had been faking her orgasms for twelve years. By most standards, my friend is a modern woman, in a stable, progressive relationship. They’ve been together for over a decade, they have a child together, they’re both accomplished professionals, they aren’t married but they share a home.

I was shocked to learn that this friend faked orgasms. Not because I am unaware that women fake orgasms, but because I never thought the women so close to me, the ones with whom I had discussed and celebrated female pleasure for years were faking it too.

“Why do you fake it?” I asked her.

“I don’t know,” she started to say, “I just never have been able to have an orgasm with someone before. It’s not like I don’t enjoy sex, I just feel like it’s hotter for him if I… finish. Faking orgasms is just easier.”

The ‘pleasure gap’

The sexual playing field is not level. There exists, especially in heterosexual relationships, a prominent pleasure gap. According to a survey conducted by Durex, while 70% of men report having an orgasm every single time during sexual intercourse, 70% of women report never having an orgasm with their partners during sex.

As much as I would like to live in a world where the generally-accepted definition of sex does not mean penis-in-vagina intercourse, I do not live in that world.

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The truth is that for the vast majority of people, sex ends when the man has an orgasm, which not only makes it harder for the woman’s pleasure to be prioritised, but also makes it seem like female pleasure is ‘optional’ to sex while male pleasure is vital. The act of sex, here, means that the man has his pleasure, and never mind if the woman doesn’t.

So women, especially those with some empowerment, masturbate for their orgasms later, in privacy. There have been no widespread academic studies about the pleasure of Indian women, but most surveys conducted indicate that Indian women have the majority of their orgasms through masturbation, and by themselves.

Nothing wrong with masturbation, but…

There is inherently nothing wrong with that at all, I’m a strong proponent of self-discovery and having a sexual relationship with yourself, but what’s interesting is that women who are able to have orgasms by themselves, still feel the need to fake these orgasms with partners.

Masturbation is an activity that is focused on the self, its goal is always self-pleasure and/or relief, and most importantly, no one is watching you while you do it.

Sex is more complex. Sex includes another person, and often the person can represent all of society. There is a performative aspect to it and I suspect that it is within this performance that the answer to faked orgasms is found.

For most men, women are ‘just bodies’

It is common for men to objectify women during sex, to reduce our bodies to orifices that are made to give them pleasure, and our skin to their pleasure of seeing and touching what they feel is ‘sexy’.

But I suspect the objectification goes deeper than that. When you perform an orgasm during sex, what you are doing is performing an imitation of your pleasure in the interest of the pleasure of another person. You are putting on a show, which also implies that when you are having sex you are unable to be immersed in the activity as a sexual being, as the part of your brain that is conditioned socially is still involved in putting up an act.

Let us dissect ‘orgasms’ from a physical and social POV

Orgasm is a point of extreme pleasure, but also one of extreme vulnerability and authenticity, and the ability to be so open with another person is contrary to everything women are taught throughout their lives. Women are taught to sacrifice every little pleasure they can imagine, from the last slice of cake to the fluffier pillow, in the interest of everyone else, so it makes many of us feel selfish for wanting something that is so intensely about ourselves.

Having an orgasm also means that the woman can no longer maintain the ‘chaste’ image you are taught since birth. While for men there is the ability to let go in the moment, heavily reinforced by the fact that male pleasure is normalised, for women, they are more likely to wonder how letting go in the moment, revealing their sexual selves to their partner will impact them tomorrow.

A number of women will also fake an orgasm to avoid actually having an orgasm because an orgasm means a loss of control at that moment. You can fake one in controlled settings, whereas the loss of control, even during sex, can be dangerous for a woman.

My personal experience of how this vulnerability is dangerous

I’ve experienced this with a previous partner.

I am very sexually open and liberal, and given that he was having sex with me regularly, he was aware of and participating in any off-the-cuff fetishes I had. He was very enthusiastic about them and very involved in the process of my orgasms. However, when things turned sour between us, he turned around and accused me of being a slut, going into immense detail about the nature of my sexuality that I had divulged to him in moments of pleasure and vulnerability.

At that time, I realised how faking pleasure during sex acts is like an insurance policy for women. Because you want enjoy some of the parts of sex, but you know that there may be a cost to being yourself completely, so you hedge and prioritise your safety over complete liberation. Half the pleasure is okay, if that means you won’t be ostracised or attacked tomorrow.

The very real fear of men

Fundamentally, unfortunately, there is a sinister truth at play when it comes to (heterosexual) women’s orgasms, and that truth is that we fear men.

I was really taken by something Ali Wong said in her latest Netflix Special Don Wong. She said that “faking orgasms is something we, as women, taught ourselves, it isn’t knowledge that is passed down to us. However, the fear of men is passed down to us, and that fear is so strong that even when we’ve taken off our clothes and shed inhibitions around a man, we still fear angering them or making them feel inadequate.”

Some of us know we have to do that, because that is the reality of a lot of Indian marriages, but some of us just do it because it’s safer to make him think that you did orgasm, than have him question you, get upset or worse, accuse you of being broken because “all my other girlfriends had orgasms.” It’s safer for women to make men think that they’re good at sex and finish ourselves off back at home. I would suggest that we counteract that by being vocal about what works for us during sex and guiding the person with us to our pleasure until they are able to learn it, but I realise that is idealistic.

It isn’t considered ‘becoming’ for an Indian woman to initiate sex

For the most part, women don’t even initiate sex because it’s improper to do so. Women who vocally desire it are often maligned by their partners for being sluts and whores, and in some cases even accused of cheating or abused for it.

It’s not so easy to just say that we ought to speak up about our pleasure, but if you are in a position of sexual privilege, like me or my friend, perhaps you have more of a chance to do it. The problem is that this conspiracy of faked orgasms ultimately harms us as a gender.

In a world where female pleasure is already more taboo than rape, when we fake it, we make it seem easy as well. Already the movies are doing is no service by representing female sexuality as either deeply brazen or completely emotional, but we add to that when we fake orgasms. There is a chain reaction to faking orgasm. When I fake one with a man today, and you sleep with him tomorrow and don’t have one, I make that man more dangerous for you and society than he was before me. I’m not taking responsibility for male behaviour here, but perhaps I am taking responsibility for the misinformation.

Slut shaming because ‘how can she masturbate?’

I have another friend. She started sleeping with a new guy recently, and she is aware that it is difficult for men to enable her orgasms, so she usually brings her own vibrator to the party. The first time she slept with this man she just didn’t have an orgasm, so the second time she brought the vibrator and pulled it out after he was done. He was not pleased with her decision.

“All your nerve endings have become dead because of vibrators,” he told her, “All my other girlfriends had orgasms but you have ruined your vagina by using these unnatural things.”

This is what happens when we fake orgasms for men and they are then confronted by women who bring their pleasure out of masturbatory spaces into sex with a partner. Women get shamed for having real orgasms around men, especially when those orgasms are aided by our own understanding of our bodies.

He didn’t quite say it, but what he meant was that her own experience in giving herself orgasms, and knowing that he may not be able to do so, made him feel sexually inadequate, and the only way he knew to handle that was to attack her. Eventually, the narrative of faked orgasms adds up to an environment that is more and more repressive.

Personally, I cannot understand a world where I am expected to fake my pleasure for someone else. I cannot wrap my head around it even when I understand every depressing detail that contributes to it.

To me a faked orgasm means that even the most personal part of my sexuality exists only for the pleasure of men. It means that a deep fake of sexual liberty is more palatable and acceptable from my body than the real thing. It means that even inside a space of intimacy and vulnerability, I cannot trust the person inside me. It means that somehow the curriculum of things you must learn as a women includes learning how to do an imitation of an orgasm that you are fully able to just have for real. That’s more than just a pleasure gap. It’s worse than just a pleasure gap.

Image source: a still from Lust Stories

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About the Author

Aarushi Ahluwalia

Aarushi Ahluwalia is an author, journalist and columnist. She has been covering women's issues and rights for various news organisations throughout her career of almost a decade, and now runs a women's media read more...

11 Posts | 37,497 Views

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