“You gonna come for me?” my date said more than asked, too matter-of-factly as he unceremoniously slid his hand inside my jeans.
“No,” I blurted out, not giving my mind time to volley between honesty and charades. “I’m not.” As the words came out, a jolt of power rushed through my body. Or maybe it was the sudden drop in temperature. I readjusted myself, sitting up a little straighter. I contemplated trying to explain the situation. But the moment I spent searching for words quickly morphed into an uncomfortable silence.
“I have to get up early,” he announced, a ridiculous proclamation given the hour had long since ticked past midnight.
“Okay,” I responded, opening the car door, relieved to be spared sharing the history of my orgasms with someone who didn’t appear interested in putting thought or creativity into the matter.
Here’s the deal. I spent my entire adult life faking orgasms. Well, I can’t entirely call my actions faking because I didn’t realize the big O wasn’t occurring. I had watched my fair share of rom-coms and read too many cheesy, bodice-ripping romances; I just knew something magical happened toward the end of intercourse. And if you were really doing it right, this big bang occurred simultaneously with your partner’s burst of sexual satisfaction.
Naïve? Overachiever? Hopeless romantic? Whatever you label me, I believed real life sex would be the same as idealized fictional sex. But then it wasn’t. So I got good at recognizing in my partner when that moment was poised to arrive and verbally geared up accordingly. Meg Ryan adlibbed that famous scene from the diner in When Harry Met Sally but her acting skills had nothing on mine because I truly thought that this magical thing was about to happen to me. At times I supposed this magical thing was happening and maybe I just didn’t get what distinguished it from the preceding activities.
The truth is I never actually experienced an orgasm until I was 38 years old. When it happened, by accident after “taking matters into my own hands” upon the advice of my gynecologist and best friends, I was overcome with shock. This is what everyone raves about. This is why sex is fun.
Sadly orgasms during sex remain elusive. I can’t explain why, but to this day, I still struggle to reach that sacred point with a partner. Yes, I’ve tried self-manipulation. Yes, I’ve introduced toys into play. Yes, I’ve communicated intimate details of what I like and don’t like. Still, with one exception, I’ve never climaxed during sex or even come with a sexual partner in the room.
But with time, something else did change: I stopped pretending I had.
A (male) friend accused me of being harsh when I gave a definitive no to my most recent date’s inane and premature question. A (female) friend suggested I fake it next time. The common thread to their advice: if I raised the man’s confidence, he would amp up his game. But that equation doesn’t add up. What would giving him a false sense of security do but lead him to believe orgasms come easily to me? I wasn’t about to discount my pleasure potential to make him feel good about himself. I wasted too many years not taking ownership of my body. Lying wouldn’t have been fair to him, but more importantly, I know now that I deserve better.
Chelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.