Welcome back to Sex on the WKND! We’re an anonymous YDN column dedicated to answering your burning questions about sex, love and anything in between. Last year, we had one writer, but now we are a collective of students, each with our own unique sexual and romantic experiences. We’ve had straight sex, queer sex and long, long periods without sex. We’ve been in long-term relationships, we’ve walked twenty minutes to avoid former hookups on Cross Campus and we’ve done the whole FroCo-group-cest thing. We may be different this year, but we’re still sex-positive, we’re still anti-capitalist, and we sure as hell still support the Green New Deal.
Obsessing over sex is a Yale tradition as old as the Oldest College Daily itself. Whether you’re fucking your roommate, still yearning for your first kiss, or dealing with an unsettling skin rash, Sex on the WKND is here for you. Nothing is too personal or silly. Ask us anything
Submit your anonymous question here: https://bit.ly/sexonthewknd
Dear Sex on the WKND, is it ever okay to fake an orgasm?
Yale philosophy professor Shelly Kagan begins his lectures by sitting crisscross applesauce on a table atop a stage and telling you that he’ll probably give you a C. All those other professors, he says, they’re lying to you. You turn in work that you know isn’t good, and they give you As even though you know that they know it isn’t good, either. Shelly sticks to Yale’s official grading rubric, so As are reserved for truly excellent work, and merely satisfactory essays get Cs. It’s not because Shelly think you’re dumb. In fact, it’s because he thinks you’re smart, smart enough to deserve an honest assessment of your work. So, out of respect for you, he’s not afraid to give you a C.
Shelly Kagan is an adult man who exclusively wears low-top Converse, so I don’t entirely trust his judgement. But I think he’s correct that overly generous feedback can inhibit improvement. And just like getting an undeserved A on a paper won’t make you a better philosopher, being falsely told that you’ve made someone else cum won’t make you any better at sex.
Shelly teaches philosophy students to state their arguments up front, so here’s mine: you should never fake an orgasm. There are plenty of reasons why people fake orgasms, and all of them are bad. It’s not a compliment or deserved ego boost for your partner. It’s a lie, and lying is bad — I would quote a moral philosopher here to prove my point, but I chose to Credit/D/Fail Shelly’s class. And it’s not just a little white lie. It’s a deception that is destructive to individual relationships and, when it’s normalized, to sexual culture as a whole.
Sex is weird and awkward, and we don’t always get it right, especially with a brand new partner. But part of the fun is learning together what gets you both off. Fake orgasms get in the way of this learning, like how cheating on a practice test won’t help you ace a midterm. And once you fake an orgasm, it’s hard to take it back. Your partner will probably do it the same way next time, confident that you loved it before, leaving you to choose between an eternity of bad sex or coming clean about your lie. Sex should be honest, and honesty works best when it’s respected from the start.
The conversation around faking organisms mostly focuses on people with pussies, and it’s worth thinking about how gendered expectations are often at play when it comes to feigned climaxes, especially during straight sex. Many men at Yale claim to be feminists, which likely means they claim to care about pleasing female partners. I’m sure some of them actually do. But if all men really want their partners to have a great time, then why don’t all their partners feel like they can speak up if something isn’t working? Why don’t all their partners feel like they can say they had fun and be believed, without having to cum to prove it?
I know a dude who doesn’t believe in lube — I wonder what Shelly Kagan would have to say about that code of ethics. He told me that it shouldn’t be necessary if he’s done his job right. What I heard was that he doesn’t actually care about his partner’s pleasure; he’s more concerned with bolstering his ego. In his short story collection “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” David Foster Wallace writes that these types of men “think they’re generous in bed” when “the catch is, they’re selfish about being generous.” With men like this, faking an orgasm becomes a fulfillment of male desire, which for a very long time women have been told should be their purpose in bed. Sex shouldn’t feel like a women’s, gender and sexuality studies seminar, but it’s important to recognize that big ideas like gender roles can sneak their way into even the most private of encounters. This recognition can allow you to better understand your experiences and give you the language and the confidence to seek out something better.
Of course, faking the big O happens during all types of sex between all types of partners. It’s often done out of the misguided, but well-intentioned belief that cumming is the marker of good sex and only way to show your partner that you had fun. Orgasms are fantastic, and we should want lots of them for ourselves and our partners. But they’re not the only reasons we fuck — if they were, most of us would find it a lot more efficient to go at it solo. Sex can be a way to express yourself or feel closer to someone else. Sometimes, even during really great sex, one or both partners don’t cum. If you’re satisfied at the end, orgasm or not, then that’s awesome! You and your partner should feel excited, not disappointed just because someone didn’t finish. The real orgasm, one could say, is the fun you had along the way.
If you’re tempted to fake an orgasm, or have done it in the past, think about why. Do you not feel like your partner would be receptive to a little constructive criticism? Are you trying to protect your partner’s ego? Do you think the sex was too fixated on the destination, not the journey? Remember, a sexual dynamic is a conversation between two people who each bring their own preferences and insecurities. Think about how you can improve the way you communicate your wants and expectations as well as what your partner could do to better meet your wants and needs. Setting the right atmosphere for sex isn’t just about romantic candles or a great playlist. It’s also about building the groundwork for trust, respect, and openness.
I started this by stating that you should never fake an orgasm, but what I really should’ve said is you should never even feel like you have to. Whether it’s in the context of a hookup or an exclusive relationship, you should feel comfortable being open and you have the right to ask for the same candor from your partner. Fake moans don’t make for better sex. Only honest conversation can do that. So the next time a partner rolls over and asks you how it was, feel free to say, “Out of respect for you, I’d give it a solid C.”