Last week, orgasms made the news — and not in a good way. Kim Ramsey, a 44-year-old nurse from Montclair, New Jersey, captured headlines when she revealed that due to her diagnosis of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD), she suffers through the excruciating pain of having upwards of 100 uncontrollable orgasms a day. (Yes, seriously.) Women began commenting in droves throughout the Internet, with reactions ranging from shock and sympathy to downright confusion. It seems whereas Ramsey’s rare and unfortunate disorder puts her on one end of the spectrum, on the other end, there are still many women today, of all ages, who readily admit to “faking it” regularly because they rarely, if ever, have even a single orgasm.
“I think women have been tricked into thinking something is wrong with them when they don’t have an orgasm,” says tell-it-like-it-is psychologist Dr. Michelle Callahan, author of Ms. Typed: Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships and Find Dating Success and new “sexpert” for Durex’s In-Sync campaign. “Women also do it because they just don’t want to be looked at as the person bringing down the sexual energy.” So, what is a woman to do if she finds herself seriously deprived in the ecstasy department? We asked Dr. Michelle to weigh in on why women feel compelled to “fake it ‘til we make it” and how they can put an end to the madness.
ESSENCE.com: Women still fake orgasms?
Dr. MICHELLE CALLAHAN: Yes, they do! It’s so critical that we talk about the fact that women are doing this. Of course, because they shouldn’t have to, but also because the more they fake them, the more they continue to perpetuate the false belief that they’re enjoying themselves when they’re really not. This all comes from women being concerned about men’s egos and not wanting to upset their partners or alter their relationships.
ESSENCE.com: Can it really cause a breakup?
CALLAHAN: The longer you pretend to be happy and comfortable in a sexual situation and you’re not, the more it builds resentment between you and your partner. Then you wait, and six months or a year later, they find out you were faking it and they’re thinking, well why didn’t you say something before? You’re really doing yourselves a disservice. It’s really important to guide your partner in the right direction because orgasms are such an integral part of having a healthy relationship. If your partner is the only one reaching an orgasm, then the whole experience is going to be less intense for both parties.
ESSENCE.com: Is speaking up the first step?
CALLAHAN: It’s about the importance of having an honest conversation about some of the things that you like. It doesn’t have to be a heavy conversation about how they don’t do this or they don’t do that, but it’s really important to guide your partner in the right direction because orgasms are such an integral part of having a healthy relationship. If your partner is the only one reaching an orgasm, then the whole experience is going to be less intense for both parties.
ESSENCE.com: What if a woman feels like it’s “too late” to say something?
CALLAHAN: The more time that passes, the more delicate you want to be with bringing up the issue. Just like how women don’t like to feel deceived or mislead by their partners, obviously he will feel somewhat deceived if all of a sudden you’re well into the relationship and you decide to confess that you’re not happy [with the sex]. Now let’s assume that you have been faking it because you’re very sensitive and you want this relationship to work: I would suggest that you two have a conversation.
ESSENCE.com: How do you start the conversation?
CALLAHAN: It’s good to suggest that you want to try something different. The subtlest way to do so is not to have a big formal sit down conversation — that’s going to immediately scare your partner! It’s simpler to capitalize on opportunities where sex is already being discussed — say you’re reading an article in a magazine or watching something on TV. Maybe suggest a fantasy that you’ve had that you want to live out or a new product that you want to try. Say, “Hey, I read about these new thing and I really want us to try it!” or, “You know I think if we tried this it could really be fun. That way you’re saying it in a way that implies that you want to go from good to great. It’s a great way to kind of test the waters. If your partner is really, really open to hearing the feedback than you can be a little more open about saying, “Hey, I really want to get more stimulation out of this!”
ESSENCE.com: In what other ways can a woman take the lead?
CALLAHAN: A woman has an opportunity to introduce toys and do the things she needs to do to make sure that that [orgasms] start to happen. She can introduce certain toys or other things that might help her reach an orgasm. Over time a couple will start to feel more comfortable together, rather than her feeling like her job is just to lie there and service his needs.