a woman lies on the bed looking satisfied and happy

Let’s role play. The mood is right. Consent has been granted from both parties without an ounce of awkwardness. And you are hot and very bothered. Your clothes peel off like you’re in a steamy music video. You’re a vixen, lips puckered and moaning like a porn star. Your partner’s feeling it more than you are. Their eyes roll to the back of their head, and then, just as it starts to really go down…your performance stops. You heard me—performance, meaning all of this has just been an act and you are nowhere closer to an orgasm than you were before you took your clothes off. Now you’re in your head. You’re having an existential crisis and you’re still having sex! Your mind wanders, and now you’re wondering how much of your sex life is just you pretending to feel good? When did you start faking orgasms, and why do you do it? It hits you—you probably don’t know what a real orgasm feels like because you’re always faking it.

That role play went left really quickly, but let’s be real. Do you fake it? Well, I did. And this existential crisis during a sex session really happened to me too. I wanted so badly to feel good and to get into the moment, but it became very clear to me that learning about my body and the way it receives pleasure should be a top priority after we were done.

As painful and embarrassing as it was to admit, there I was at 28 years old not knowing whether I’d experienced a real-deal orgasm during sex before. I’d had orgasmic experiences and very nice sensations before, but had I actually climaxed during sex? Had I ever crossed the finish line? This is a deep question that required a lot of soul and vaginal searching. Once I got over the initial embarrassment, the hard work begun. So, here’s my journey in search of the Big O.

My fakes were so harmless at first. I wanted the people I was with to feel like they were getting the job done, so I passed it on as encouragement. Whether it was the rare hook-up or a long-term partner, it was just easier for me to give into the pressure of being accommodating during sex. They just look like they’re having so much fun! I’d actually said that. I don’t know how much more boring sex can be! I started molding myself into a sexual pushover. Whenever my partner looked like they were about to cum, I pretended to be there too, even if I’d barely felt any orgasmic sensations. It’s easy to cast judgement. I’d never fake an orgasm. Maybe you wouldn’t, but have you ever compromised a little too much to make the people you love happy in another way?

 

via GIPHY

 

Still, why do women fake orgasms? I’m not the first to ask this question for sure. I’d say the answer isn’t a one-sized-fits all, and it definitely isn’t restricted to gender. My reason was that I’m just too damn nice and I have a very weird and constrained relationship with sex. As a survivor of sexual assault and abusive relationships, I have enough baggage in the sex department to fill first-class. I don’t want to make it sound like I was jumping from one abuser to the next. Partners honestly asked if I enjoyed the sex, but I would lie. Poorly, yet still, I lied on my orgasms like they weren’t important. I knew my avoidance of honesty in intimate situations had a lot to do with self-worth, but it also just felt easier. Reaching a climax had always been an equally emotional as well as physical thing to me. Sometimes I would choose to disconnect so I wouldn’t have feel possible heartbreak later.

Before I went down a 13 Reason Why-ish journey of contacting exes and making bad choices in the name of discovery, I did some self-exploration. First, I wanted to know what a genuine orgasm felt like to my body. Every person is different when it comes to cumming. People with vaginas have the especially difficult task of figuring out what works and what doesn’t because—have you seen a vagina? Albeit beautiful, they are very complex and confounding wonders. Figuring out the different parts and pleasure points can take a long time. Then add the shame society has associated with masturbation, especially as a black woman (see my last article for more on that.) I was afraid of dildos, so what else did I expect from intercourse and penetration with someone else? Still, I had to know. Once I figured out what I liked and what I didn’t, I wondered how to connect them when I got to bed with someone. Baby girl had a lot of unpacking to do.

Some of my orgasm issues stem from sheer lack of opportunity. I had been single for 9 years by my 29th birthday. Single people get love too, but orgasming from quick hookups is even harder when you’re the type of person that needs an emotional and mental connection before you get hot. I did the work and the work. Not only did I read and learn more about the female anatomy and pleasure, I tried to normalize my own sexuality for myself before I worried about what it looked like to anyone else. Anything that made the presence of my body and my sexual needs fun and accessible, I did it. I walked around my apartment as naked and free as a spring day. I took sexy pictures in crop tops and tight materials just for myself. I even changed my lifestyle and diet to make sure my body responded to pleasure healthily and at its full capacity. And last, but definitely not least, I learned what made my vulva happy. Although I’d grown to love masturbation, I found out I didn’t love penetration unless it involved another human. It felt weird and sterile to me. Orgasming from a toy was great fun, but there was that emotional connection that lingered before I felt as though I’d had a real orgasm.

 

via GIPHY

 

Enter a game-changer. I met my new partner. By then, I was ready emotionally, mentally, and sexually. I knew what I liked and how to get there. I wasn’t afraid to communicate my boundaries and try to craft a healthy relationship from the ground up. Being vulnerable with another person is tough. The type of vulnerability needed to begin a healthy and happy relationship took admitting I had a complicated relationship to sex and men because of trauma and abuse. Thankfully, my partner supported and heard me. He responded with gentleness and patience in bed. We took finding my orgasm like a game or an adventure. We played and laughed before tussling into each other in the bedroom, and sure enough, I came. Beautifully and undoubtedly.

Just like that, I had my answer. How do I know if I’ve had a real orgasm? You’ll know. When you have one, your body will vibrate and hum. You will release and be fully in the moment. Will I keep faking it? No. Once you know what makes you feel good, you will be firm in ensuring others know too. If someone is worthy enough to pursue your body for their pleasure, you should be worthy enough to demand pleasure of your own.

 

a grey massaging plug balances on a cylindrical object surrounded by artfully draped fabrics