Empowerment through fake orgasms: the Gospel according to Fay Weldon

I’ve long believed that no one hates men as much as an anti-feminist. After all, they are the only ones declaring that men are so debased that the mere sight of woman’s out-turned ankle is enough to send them into fits of psycho-sexual rage and violence. If a woman is raped, the anti-feminists are quick to jump to any conclusion about the way that woman’s behavior somehow compelled an otherwise civil and well-adjusted man to acts of horrific violence: what was she wearing? What was she thinking walking around in that part of town, that late at night while in possession of a vagina? We’re told by Forbes that our jobs are counterproductive to male health and happiness, since men are too stupid and immature to get themselves to a doctor when they are sick, and need our constant nagging to remind them that a deep chest cough is probably indicative of a respiratory illness, and would you like me to hold your hand while we go to the doctor to get you some antibiotics? And don’t bother picking up your dirty socks and loading the dishwasher, dear, since your poor, delicate, manly constitution so rebels against such work. Of course, being impervious to cognitive dissonance, the anti-feminists have no problem reconciling their image of male fragility with the belief that men are uniquely situated to rule the world. I guess when you’ve got a woman cleaning your messes and monitoring your health (while conveniently shuttering ourselves indoors to avoid tempting men to rape), it frees up a lot of time to do the important work of holding dominion over the earth.

Knowing that man-hating is truly the prerogative of the anti-feminists, I’m saddened to see that one feminism’s most ardent supporters has seemingly jumped ship. Fay Weldon’s latest work, a book of advice to young women titled What Makes Women Happy*, posits, among other things, that women are saddled by the expectation of sexual pleasure, so much so that we should be willing to fake orgasms if it should soothe our fragile lovers’ egos. To wit:

According to Weldon, sensible members of the sisterhood should, therefore, follow the example so graphically set by the actor Meg Ryan in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally, and fake orgasms whenever necessary.

'If you are happy and generous-minded, you will fake it and then leap out of bed and pour him champagne, telling him, "You are so clever" or however you express enthusiasm,' she says. 'Faking is kind to male partners ... Otherwise they too may become anxious and so less able to perform. Do yourself and him a favour, sister: fake it.'

Apparently, Weldon’s much ballyhooed conversion to Christianity skipped over The Song of Solomon, a paean to the joys of monogamous yet reciprocal love. Weldon’s assertion that lying to men is kind and just is exactly the trap that anti-feminists set up for women: we cannot be expected to be fully-realized, because our self-actualization must in some way compete with men’s crippled egos. Since patriarchy demands that women and men’s interests be in opposition, any attempt by women to fashion a relationship with men that represents our interests is seen as an act of emasculation. And since the castrating harridan never gets the guy, we ladies need to lie back and think of England, all while uttering wildly enthusiastic orations, lest our man’s inability to please us be a testament to his worthiness as a lover.

But Weldon and the anti-feminists** have it backwards: we do men no favor by lying to them, particularly if our mendacity is predicated on some ridiculous notion that men are such hothouse flowers that the truth is anathema to their emotional health. Maybe I’m the strange one here, but most of my male friends would agree that a vocal and enthusiastic partner, one who is unafraid to ask for what turns her on, makes for better sex. I find the comparison to Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally very telling, since Sally’s orgasmic outburst at the deli wasn’t about soothing Harry’s ego, but rather a pointed gesture to prove that men are incapable of discerning a real orgasm from a cleverly faked one. Sally isn’t assuaging Harry’s fears, but compounding them by illustrating just how out of touch he is with what women really want. It’s a funny scene, but you ultimately feel that Harry is pretty pathetic for his inability to trust in his sexual aptitude. One wonders if Harry had a partner who confidently stated what she wanted in bed, would Sally’s performance be less convincing.

* I’m so sick of these “what makes women happy” articles, as if women were such enigmatic and inscrutable creatures that our needs are mystifying enough to demand a constant barrage of questioning and analysis. I’m pretty sure that the answer to what makes women happy is the acknowledgement that we are human.
**That would be a kick-ass band name.


annamaria at 12:01 PM

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