Faking it may be affecting him in ways you never thought of before!
Remember that delightful scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally where Sally demonstrates her ability to fake an orgasm while sitting in a restaurant with Harry? Harry didn’t believe that she could fake an orgasm that well, and assured her that he could tell when a woman faked an orgasm.
But alas, she proved him wrong ...
Women fake orgasms mostly for their partners’ benefit.
Some women explain this with statements along the lines of, “If he doesn’t think I had an orgasm, he won’t give up, just keeps at me until I feel pressured. Sometimes I’m tired and just want to go to sleep,” whereas men often feel disappointed and sad if their partner doesn’t orgasm and report feeling threatened, left out or not good enough if their partner needs to masturbate or use a vibrator in order to achieve orgasm.
Recent research has found that heterosexual women orgasm less than women who identify with any other sexual orientation, and while the reasons for this are likely complex and may not lie entirely on the shoulders of their male partners, it does raise several questions, particularly these:
- Do heterosexual women orgasm less because they feel overly pressured by their male partners to reach that climax?
- Why do heterosexual men focus more on their female partners' orgasms than these same women focus on (and perhaps even care about) their own?
In general, when heterosexual men and women first go to bed with a new partner, they experience anxiety for different reasons. Women typically worry that their partner might not like their body, while men worry that they won’t be perceived by their partner as sexually skilled.
Men’s focus on their partners’ pleasure can be linked to a variety of issues, most of which are rooted in their sense of self, confidence, and masculinity. New research from one of my favorite sexuality researchers, Sari Van Anders Ph.D., sheds further light on this. Chadwick and Van Anders explored whether men’s focus on their partner’s sexual experience and orgasms might be tied to the man’s feelings of masculinity.
In essence, the researchers asked this question: Does giving women orgasms make men feel more manly?
In this study, the researchers invited 810 men to imagine their female partner being orgasmic or not and then assessed what impact that had on the men’ feelings of masculinity. It likely comes as little surprise to most readers that the research affirmed the hypothesis that men felt more masculine when imagined their female partner being orgasmic with them. More interesting, though, were some of the nuances in these men’s responses.
Here are four of the major discoveries the study revealed about how female orgasms affect men's sense of their own manliness.
1. Men who experience higher levels of stress around their masculinity are mostly strongly affected both negatively and positively by their female partner's orgasms.
MGRS is a theoretical construct suggesting that some men may have more fragile senses of masculinity, where their feeling of manliness is more affected by external events or experiences.These men may be more driven to engage in behaviors which can restore or re-assert their machismo.
2. Her number of previous orgasms doesn't matter as much as you'd think.
While there was a significant effect if the female partner in the scenario had a history of having had fewer orgasms — in other words, the man felt more manly if he was able to “give” an orgasm to a woman who hadn’t had many in the past — the size of this effect was small, contrary to expectations.
3. It doesn't matter how "sensitive" or "feminist" men self-identify as when it comes to their drive to achieve female orgasm success.
Men who were more egalitarian vs. traditional in their gender role attitudes did not differ in their experience of the masculinity-enhancing effect from their partner having an orgasm.
So, that “Sensitive New Age Guy" who cares about your orgasm still feels more manly when he believes his female partner has an orgasm.
4. His reasons for wanting her to orgasm don't matter in relation to the effect on his sense of masculinity.
Men who were more communal and invested in their partners’ pleasure (vs. those men who want her to experience pleasure so that she will return the favor) also experienced this masculinity-enhancing effect.
Whether he wants you to orgasm just for your pleasure or wants it because he hopes you will be more willing to satisfy him after didn’t really matter in this study, though it certainly may matter in other ways within a relationship. Both types of men show similar effects in feeling more manly in response to female orgasm.
Chadwick and Van Anders suggest that this research supports theories of sexual scripting wherein men are portrayed as givers and women as receivers.
Thus, in this script, men who “give” more sexual pleasure are seen (by themselves) as more in line with this script of the “real man” — like James Bond, who is such a skilled lover that he leaves women sweaty, exhausted, speechless and sated.
Unfortunately, when a man’s view of himself depends on the response he evokes in his partner, it may put tremendous pressure on her. He is also ignoring the fact that healthy, pleasurable, mutual sexuality involves much more than just the man’s skill.
However, even as the man is potentially being somewhat self-serving here, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also care about his partner’s pleasure, nor that the woman isn’t still likely to experience the full potential of pleasure.
Indeed, all sexuality is, at its core, somewhat selfish, in that partners come together physically in order to experience their own pleasure.
Good sex is, by definition, a win-win scenario.
Where I think things get very interesting, is in looking to understand why men experience this effect so strongly and universally — or, at least, universally among the predominantly younger, white, college student males interviewed for this study. It is possible that more mature males in longer-term relationships who have longer lives of accomplishments behind them, or who are non-heterosexual or from less dominant, privileged backgrounds, may not experience this effect in the same way.
But evolutionary psychology suggests that men may be predisposed to pursue giving sexual pleasure to their female mates.
- Some research has suggested that lower-status males may care more about giving sexual pleasure as a means to try to retain their mate through the bribe of orgasmic sex.
- Orgasms in the female may serve a role in controlling conception, through mechanisms such as changing the ph balance of the vagina. This may kill or slow sperm already present, increasing the chances of conception with the next man’s sperm. If you’re the man involved in that orgasm, you may guarantee your sperm a better shot at the prize.
Men are also seen as more disposable than women.
More men die at young ages and work in dangerous high-risk jobs. For millennia, it has been men who are sent off to battle to die for their group. And throughout history, it is estimated that about 80% of women have reproduced, while only around 40% of men have.
All of this means that men’s status must be constantly earned and re-earned.
“What have you done for me lately?”
A man who rests on his laurels gets left behind and discarded. So, giving pleasure by being a good lover provides a way for a man to be useful and productive, potentially increasing his chances of being valued enough to be loved and/or have the opportunity for sex.
Men also view sexuality differently than most women.
Men more often use sex as a means for stress management, recreation, entertainment, masculinity-enhancement, and as a way to be loved. Men rarely receive love and touch, nurturing or closeness, outside of sex. It’s one reason sexuality is so important and powerful for men, and why men can go to such insane lengths or extremes for it.
Being a good enough lover that your partner has orgasms increases the chances she will want to have sex with you again — and even that she might brag about your skills to other women. Yes, that’s about sex, but it’s also about all of the other complicated things wrapped up in what sex means.
We can help change the script and help men reduce the degree to which they pressure their partners in order to fill their own aching fragile fear of being less of a man.
But we can only help if we recognize that men don’t consciously choose to be this way.
Hopefully, understanding that “giving” orgasms is one way men build up their masculinity may help women better empathize with men. This information should challenge all of us to consider the ways we “emasculate” men such that they sometimes become so desperate to rebuild it.
David J. Ley, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on issues related to sexuality and mental health who has appeared on Anderson with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Phil, among others. His second book, "The Myth of Sex Addiction," triggered a firestorm of debate around the concept of sex addiction, allowing people to finally challenge the hype behind this pseudo-disorder. His latest book, "Ethical Porn For Dicks: A Man's Guide To Responsible Viewing Pleasure," uses a natural question/answer format to offer men a non-judgmental way to learn to view pornography responsibly.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.