Pressure, Pleasure, & Why I've Considered "Faking It"

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Mouths1_GabrielaAlfordIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Incidentally, so is the road to fake orgasms. You want to get it over with because you're not enjoying it, or maybe you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. (There are a host of reasons). I've never faked it, I'm just not a good enough actress for that. But, recently, for the first time in my life, I've considered it.

The funny thing is, this is coming at a time when my boyfriend of several years and I are closer than ever, sexually and emotionally. We're very much in tune in a lot of ways, we're going through what you might call a sexual renaissance, aided by several very enthusiastically buzzing vibrators and polished off with a renewed appetite for each other's bodies. That stuff? It's all amazing. But, there's one facet of this whole sexual reawakening that is leaving me feeling a bit perturbed.

My partner — let's call him Jason and pretend he's the popular boy in a '90s teen rom-com — is very much interested in my own pleasure. He's completely committed to giving me a good time, and I believe that he genuinely enjoys it less if he feels my experience is in any way lacking. He enjoys giving oral sex and is totally willing to explore any of my desires, which tend to veer a little further from the perceived, socially acceptable norms than his. That all sounds great, in theory, but the reality? The problem of my pleasure ends up becoming a source of serious pressure.

I'm not one of those girls who can orgasm through vaginal sex. (It's so far from my truth that I'm still not entirely convinced that this exists, but I'm no expert.) Oral sex, well, I require a very specific set of conditions that include total silence, lying on my back, and not being touched in certain areas at the wrong moment. I have a lot of my own insecurities, and I very easily get caught up in my own head, so it's easy for me to lose the mood — and then the concern that I might be losing the mood makes me lose it even more, and then the worry that I'm worrying so much about losing the mood makes me lose it even more, and you get the idea. So, even under perfect circumstances, achieving an orgasm can be difficult. That's not to say I don't enjoy sex or that I don't have great orgasms. In fact, I consider myself to be a very sexual person, and I am perfectly capable of having a good time during sex, even if I know there's no "end" in sight for me.

On top of all this, my boyfriend's well-intentioned concern only adds onto the heaping, knotted mess that is my sexual psyche. Of course, when I actually bring any of this up with him, he is apologetic and sympathetic and generally great. He says that I shouldn't feel pressured into anything, and the truth is, he's not pressuring me in any active way. But, to say it in the words of the perpetually sexually troubled Carrie Bradshaw (groan), I couldn't help but wonder: Is this investment in female pleasure really just another form of the male gaze? You know, the constantly reinforced impression that everything a woman does is and should be to increase her beauty, worth, and convenience in the eyes of a monolithic male point-of-view. Oh, and the feeling that you're constantly being watched. That male gaze.
bodyIllustrated by Sydney Hass.


The concept of the male gaze, its effects on men and women, and the many constructs wrapped up in it are all gigantically enormous and not something I can even begin to unpack right at this moment. But, ultimately, I think we can agree that there is a pretty prominent fetish among straight men that involves women getting off alone, or of their own accord. Jason is definitely one of those men. And, I think that for him, the desire for me to orgasm is partly out of love and a shared interest in my happiness — but still partly out of a desire to see me orgasm, for his own purposes. I think there is a way to find empowerment and pleasure from some level of performance during sex. You know, making more noise than you strictly have to, getting a little cinematic about it. But, when I'm trying to have "my time" as we've come to call it, I need everything I can get to create the illusion that I'm alone in a locked room with nothing but me and my personal fantasies.

Feeling like I'm performing is just one step away from feeling like I have to perform. It's such a disappointment that when I finally started to get over my self-consciousness about the size of my thighs, etc., my brain had to turn my boyfriend's sweet, caring interest in my pleasure into a pressing manifestation of patriarchy. I don't want to imply that men can't care about women's pleasure without engaging in the same power dynamic present in a viewer-cam girl situation. But, what is the truth is that, often, that's how I end up reading the situation, despite my best intentions.

Perhaps the issue is, in part, that I am too concerned with the male gaze and male pleasure. Maybe I've built up just how much Jason actually cares about me orgasming and how much that affects his own experience because, ultimately, I'm more worried about his pleasure than my own. The fact that I feel like a failure and can't enjoy myself when he's going down on me for a solid 30 minutes definitely suggests that.

I'm expecting at least one comment telling me to stop being so uptight, let go, and just enjoy life. If only it were so easy! I don't consider myself to be a particularly repressed person, and yet, when it comes to my own sexual pleasure, I act like a schoolgirl who's just escaped life in the nunnery. I don't know what to do, and for those of you experiencing the same thing, I don't have an answer. The only conclusion I can come to right now? If this personal story isn't evidence that female pleasure is still ingrained in most humans as some kind of sinful, less-than biological accident, well, I don't know what is.