Let’s talk about sex, and the lies both men and women believe about female sexual pleasure.
Please note that this article is for readers 18+.
Talking about sex can be uncomfortable, but it’s important because it’s such a big part of our lives (I mean, the human race kind of depends on it to procreate). It’s also important to bust destructive lies and myths that our culture tells women like that they aren’t supposed to have sexual desire or orgasms, or they should fake orgasms.
Lie #1: Women Aren't As Sexual As Men
Whether it comes from purity culture or pure ignorance, there’s an unfortunate and widely-held belief that women don’t have any sexual desires, and it’s time to nip this myth in the bud. Is female sexuality different from male sexuality? Yes. Is it more complicated? Yes.
In addition to biological factors like sexual interest that can fluctuate throughout the cycle, social factors contribute to sexual desire, as Edward O. Laumann, Ph.D., professor of sociology at The University of Chicago, writes, "Sexual desire in women is extremely sensitive to environment and context.”
Sexual desire in women is extremely sensitive to environment and context.
Research shows that while men tend to “think more about sex” and “seek sex more avidly,” women tend to take a “less direct route to sexual satisfaction.” New York-based psychotherapist Esther Perel writes, "I hear women say in my office that desire originates much more between the ears than between the legs. For women, there is a need for a plot — hence the romance novel. It is more about the anticipation, how you get there; it is the longing that is the fuel for desire."
Perel also believes that female sexuality “is more contextual, more subjective, more layered on a lattice of emotion” than male sexuality. In short, the myth that women don’t experience sexual desire is far from true, it’s just different from male sexuality. There’s no shame in experiencing sexual attraction as long as you’re honest and responsible because it’s natural.
Lie #2: Women Experience Orgasms Just Like Men
Now that we know that men and women experience sexual desire differently, it shouldn’t be a surprise that female orgasms are very different from male orgasms. Like female sexual desire, there are plenty of myths about the female orgasm (run away from any guy who believes there’s no such thing as a female orgasm because he’s clearly immature).
There are many different ways for women to reach orgasm, but all trigger a similar response in the brain and body. During orgasm, the part of the brain responsible for reason, decision making, and value judgments temporarily shuts down. You’re also less sensitive to pain. Orgasm also triggers a release of serotonin, making you feel relaxed and happier, as well as oxytocin (a bonding hormone) and dopamine (a reward/motivation hormone).
Lie #3: Men and Women Have the Same Reactions to Sex and Intimacy
Another dangerous myth is that both men and women have the same physiological responses to orgasms, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though both release feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, the responses to oxytocin are different, while dopamine remains the same. Women tend to release higher levels of oxytocin, and for a longer period of time (hence, cuddles), which helps women develop a close connection and attachment to their partner. Though men also release oxytocin, the male equivalent of a “bonding hormone” is vasopressin. Vasopressin doesn’t act as quickly as oxytocin, which is why men tend to need more time to develop an emotionally intimate bond with a partner.
Women release higher levels of oxytocin and for a longer period of time than men do.
This perpetuates the idea that it’s emotionally healthy for women to "have sex like men," a.k.a. no-strings-attached sex. Ignoring these biological realities encourages women to engage in behavior that will likely hurt them, and nobody wants that.
Lie #4: We Need To Use Sex Toys To Have Great Sex
Go to any mainstream women's magazine, and you won't be able to get away from articles encouraging masturbation, sex toys, and porn use. I'm sorry, what? When did we decide that sex and pleasure should be separate from love, intimacy, and a partner? The biggest lies to come out of this trend are the ideas that masturbating is better for women to achieve orgasm, or that sex toys are preferable to a loving partner.
The fundamental issue here is that we talk about women's reproductive organs as if they're the same as men's. Most women believe that orgasms should be achieved vaginally, during sex, just like a man's. And when that doesn't happen, we're left with three options. One, that our body just "doesn't work" like everybody else's. Two, perhaps our partner is a bad lover. Three, we need the "help" of a sex toy to achieve orgasm. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
We need to start educating ourselves on how our reproductive parts really work, including the clitoris.
We need to start educating ourselves on how our reproductive parts really work – and that includes the clitoris (sorry, I said it.) The fact is that a woman's clitoris is actually the sexual equivalent of a man's penis, not our vagina. If you're ignoring it during sex, you're probably not getting enough bang for your buck (excuse the pun). Start doing some research, or even better, sign up for a class with a sex therapist. There's probably nothing wrong with you, except that you're not doing what you need to do. Add a loving, patient partner in the mix, and you'll be ready to go.
Lie #5: It's Okay To Fake Orgasms
Okay, ladies, I’m going to need you all to be brutally honest for a second. Have you ever faked an orgasm? If you have — here’s some tough love coming at you — you need to stop because all it does is hurt your sex life and your relationship.
One of the reasons why women tend to fake orgasms is because they want to boost their partner's ego, but this “little white lie” can lead to big communication issues in your relationship. Lying to your partner isn’t a good thing to do, and faking an orgasm makes your partner think that they did something to please you. If you keep lying about what pleases you in bed, you’ll never get what you want from your partner. Plus, if your partner finds out you were faking it, their ego will be crushed anyway.
If you keep lying about what pleases you in bed, you’ll never get what you want from your partner.
Other reasons women tend to fake orgasms include getting in your own head and wanting to get it over with, as well as problems within your relationship. It can be difficult because, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., “Women are responsible for psychologically preparing themselves for orgasm. According to the focus group members, men are responsible for the physical stimulation, but women need to get their gameface on in order to achieve orgasm. Whether it’s better to carry the physical vs. the psychological burden is a debatable question. However, because it’s their responsibility to get in the right frame of mind (focused attention, receptive to the man’s actions), if women don’t achieve orgasm, it can be seen as a lack of emotional commitment not to be swept away by their partner's adroit moves.”
While some problems can be solved with communication, some problems are signs that you’re in the wrong relationship. As one woman writes, "I only ever faked an orgasm with my ex-husband because I hated having sex with him in the end and would fake it so he'd get off me."
If this is the case, it’s time to break up. Life is too short for bad relationships and bad sex.
Lie #6: Women Desire Variety in Partners Just Like Men
It's no secret that men enjoy variety in their sex life. Monogamy may be preferable for them as a lifestyle, but it's not necessarily their natural setting. Women, on the other hand, prefer emotional intimacy and connection to a never-ending trail of different lovers. You can think of it in this way: men have a horizontal orientation, while women's sexuality is vertical.
As we discussed above, emotional intimacy and trust are incredibly important for women to feel safe and satisfied in their sex lives. Casual hookups deny this fundamental aspect of our sexuality, leaving many women unsatisfied with no real explanation. So instead of feeling guilty that our sexuality is different from men's, we should embrace it proudly. Men also benefit from long-term, loving sexual relationships, and it's our job to remind them how good they can be – for both partners.
Sex is a beautiful thing when you share it with someone you love, and we shouldn’t make it difficult by telling women these lies.