In Juliet Richter’s piece, “Orgasm,” she goes against the idea that having an orgasm is an integral part of sex through talking about the expectations that individuals have when it comes to sexual intercourse. Orgasms are a physiological reaction, whether in a sexual situation or not. Due to social institutions, primarily the media, individuals are taught what should happen during sex. An individual’s preconceived notions about what happens during sex influences how they evaluate their own behavior and experiences. When individuals do not experience sex how they expect it to be, they may see their behavior as being abnormal, or assume that something is wrong with them. Male orgasms tend to typically occur during sexual intercourse, yet that is not always the case for women. As Richter points out in her piece, in many cultures, a woman having an orgasm is even unheard of. This has resulted because many women have been taught that it is their duty to have sex, and it is not something that should be enjoyed. They are there to please their husbands. Views on orgasms can differ all over the world, yet it all comes down to how individuals see them and view them as a part of their culture.
Richter’s piece points out the dangers of the medicalization of sexual problems, which tend not to actually be problems, yet they are issues when an individual fails to perform sex in a socially acceptable way. When a person’s partner fails to achieve an orgasm, it may cause them to feel incompetent, or as if they weren’t doing something right. Women will often fake an orgasm in order to save their partner’s confidence because men often feel a duty to give their partner an orgasm. Men are much more likely to have an orgasm than women when there is solely vaginal intercourse. There are multiple ways to experience an orgasm and there is no correct way to do so. Orgasms are just another way that society has constructed what’s right and what’s wrong.
Richter’s article points out that young men are more likely to women to practice masturbation and as a result, are more knowledgeable about what feels good to them. Yet, she does not go into why this may be the case. Richter treats this statement as a fact, and does not even go into the reasoning behind it. Young women are taught not to act on their desires from a young age. Even if they do have these feelings or urges, they are not supposed to tell anyone because that is not the proper thing for them to do. Young women’s inability to freely explore their sexuality may harm their ability to fully develop sexual subjectivity.
Deborah Tolman’s article, “Adolescent girls’ sexuality,” displays the suppression of young girls sexuality. In order for a young girl to be seen as ‘good,’ she must suppress all sexual desires or feelings that she may have because they are not appropriate. Young girls are expected to go through the process of sexual socialization, the process of figuring out whom they desire and in what contexts, yet not act on it. Young girls are expected to be desired, but not desire. There is a double standard for young men and women, which carries over into adulthood, as represented by Richter’s article “Orgasm.” Based on what society tells us, women are not expected to enjoy sex as much as men do, and when they do, something is wrong with them. When a woman is in control of her sexual subjectivity, she knows what she wants and who she wants, and a result, she poses a threat.
In this scene from When Harry Met Sally, the main male protagonist, Billy Crystal’s character, claims that all the women that he has had sex with had an orgasm from intercourse. Yet, Meg Ryan’s character asks how does he know that they all had orgasms, could they not have faked it? Like most men, he claimed that he would know if the woman he was having sex with had faked an orgasm. She then proceeds to have a fake orgasm, which was extremely convincing. This supports the notion that women are supposed to have an orgasm during sex. In order for it to appear as if a woman is having a good time during sex, she may fake an orgasm. It is much easier for a woman to fake an orgasm than a man. For a woman, an orgasm during sex might not necessarily happen and many are well aware of the fact. In order to play out the script that society has written for what sex should entail, a woman may sometimes fake an orgasm. The lack of an orgasm does not necessarily mean that the person’s partner did something wrong, it just means that they did not have an orgasm. Yet society has pushed people to play out these roles. Orgasms have come to be expected during sex based on what society has presented.
How else does society influence what sex should be like? Are there ways to divorce society’s portrayal of sex from what actually happens, or are they too engrained in peoples’ minds?