This would have been my crowning moment: I would have taken to the stage and tearfully thanked past lovers and society at large for teaching me my partner’s ego was something delicate, not to be destroyed.
I would thank the porn industry and the movie and television industries for their depictions of sex that made it seem as if a woman’s orgasm was just a few thrusts away. When I finally received the award for the numerous times I had faked satisfaction over the years, I would have my speech ready.
The reasons for the dozens of times I moaned and writhed in exaggerated ecstasy differed according to the partner, position, place and time, and included the usual suspects. Sometimes it was to soothe my partner’s ego, sometimes it was to get it over with, sometimes it was simply because I was checking to see if I would be caught out, because I used to be a maverick like that.
I was one of about 50% to 68% of women who fake orgasms, according to various studies.
Many a conversation I have had in some of the work I do, namely hosting dialogues and workshops on safe sex and pleasure around the continent, shows how, even in a world of twerking and being able to google the health benefits of orgasms, many women are still denied sexual pleasure.
This is often because of factors such as silence about sex and a passive engagement with one’s pleasure, most of which stem from the socialisation that sex is something that happens to women rather than a collaborative activity.
We live in a world marred by continued female genital mutilation, #MeToos and where partners put bleach in their vaginas so as not to appear to be “too wet and into sex”. In this world, where a woman’s bodily and sexual autonomy is still seemingly a negotiation, having orgasms is not only a comforting notion but also a necessary one.
During a recent facilitated dialogue with older women, many of whom had been married with children for years, the idea of how to have good sex came up. The point of the gathering was to allow the women to unpack anything they wanted to about ideas and the execution of their sex lives in a way they were not always able to, but within the safety of a facilitated conversation.
What was discussed was everything from the mundane effect of marriage to kids and body image, and even masturbation and squirting. Clearly women wanted to talk about the sex they were (or were not) having.
But a turning point in the conversation came when one woman explained how she had not come for the first 10 years of marriage and then explained the journey she had taken to finally achieve the Big O, which involved her husband doing some research. It was then that it became clear that this journey was one many women struggled with, no matter their path in life, and some were still very much on.
Growing up and discussing sex in a healthier, more open way has made me realise that demanding good sex is not as easy as the magazines tell us. It is not simply 10 steps to making that kitty purr because there is still so much unlearning one has to do and so much pushback from society. In a world of first dates and third impressions, there is the constant internal debate about whether your request for decent dick is going to get you called “thirsty” or not.
But I have witnessed women who are able to break those social taboos and push a sex-positive agenda in their personal and public lives. Women who are part of the “hoe is life” movement, who dropped some serious rhymes during the “for the D challenge”. Who archive their stories of bad sex and great sex or even no sex. Women who are wrapping sexual reproductive health rights in a cloak of sensuality. Women who participate in kink and others who send me videos of their book collections — and in the corner is their vibrator (one of those exquisite ones with the clit stimulator). Women who are coming for everything, if you will excuse the pun.
A lot of work needs to be done to unlearn negative ideas about sex. It takes more than lying on your back. It takes gathering information, trying things out and having some uncomfortable conversations with your partners and, most importantly, with yourself. Unlearning silences and shame about sex is difficult, but the journey is very much worth the destination when you arrive.
Kagure Mugo is the cofounder and full-time curator of HOLAAfrica!• Watch Thrills with Dr T, a sexual edutainment talk show hosted by Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, every Wednesday at 9pm on Moja Love, channel 157 on DStv. Also watch the TED Talk, How to Have a Healthier Positive Relationship to Sex