Wait, Men Fake Orgasms? Fascinating Facts About Male Sexuality That Blow Apart Simplistic Stereotypes
Several years ago, a 25-year-old male patient walked into Dr. Abraham Morgentaler’s office with a surprising problem: He was faking orgasms.
A man faking it? Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School, had never heard of such a thing. After he got over the puzzle of how a man could effectively pull off such a … sleight of semen, he got to the patient’s motivation. As Morgentaler writes in his new book, “Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex,” his patient was having trouble climaxing during sex with his girlfriend, so he feigned pleasure for her benefit. He “was simply trying to do what he believed was the right thing by her.”
Morgentaler came to realize that faking it was more common among men than he had realized — and that this general sexual sentiment was, too. “That is a refrain I hear regularly from men in one form or another, yet this admirable, loving aspect of male sexuality is hidden among the detritus that passes as wisdom about what men are all about,” he writes. His book — which paints a portrait of men who feel anxious about their erections, pressured into having sex and concerned about their partner’s pleasure — is all about correcting that.
Morgentaler has treated men with sexual and reproductive problems for 25 years and bases much of his book on his decades of experience with clients. Clearly, his sample is a bit skewed: These are men who have sought out sex-related medical help. But Morgentaler says it’s important to know the range of experiences that are out there. Men are more sexually complicated — and kinder-hearted — than we realize, he says. “For every man who behaves badly, I can give you 10 who are dedicated and thoughtful and doing the best they know how to be a man and a solid partner,” he writes.
I spoke with Morgentaler by phone about everything from the prevalence of erectile dysfunction to myths about testosterone.
One of the first myths that you address in the book is that “men are only concerned with their own orgasm.” So how did the men you’ve worked with feel about female pleasure?
The big surprise to me when I started doing this work 25 years ago is that once a man is in a relationship, men seem to care more about their partner than themselves. Early in my career, I remember a guy walked into my office … In the waiting room, he looks too cool for school; he thinks he’s just the cat’s meow. But when he gets in the exam room, he’s totally torn apart talking about his girlfriend and how he can’t satisfy her because he has premature ejaculation.
I have a case in the book of a 27-year-old paraplegic who can’t feel or move anything from the waist down. I treat him so that he can have sex, and he comes back and is totally thrilled. His whole personality is different. What he says is, “It’s fantastic. I feel like a man again!” I think the natural response to that would be, “Yeah, he’s having sex so it must be good for him.” But here’s the thing: This is a guy who feels nothing down there. He feels good about himself as a man; [it's] not because he’s getting off or having these pleasurable sensations from sex, but it’s about what he’s able to provide for his wife.
The other angle on this, which shows how far we’ve come and how much has changed over the past 40 years or so, is that I have men who are divorced or widowed and are dating again, and they’ve got a problem like ED. Men who have ED can almost all still have an orgasm. So in essence, they still have the pleasure from sex, but [ED] is an insult to their masculine identity. This guy in his mid-50s who saw me the other day said, “I can’t even date like this. What woman would want to be with a guy that can’t satisfy her?” The idea that a man might be rejected because he can’t be an adequate provider sexually turns everything upside down. It wasn’t that long ago, the ’50s or so, that we saw this term about women doing their “wifely duty.” It was assumed that women didn’t enjoy sex and that part of the marriage relationship was that the woman had to submit to it for the benefit of the relationship.