Rachel Parris didn’t have an orgasm until she was 24. Now we want what she’s having.
I have never faked an orgasm, or at least, not with the man I was in bed with. I have, however, faked the idea of me having an orgasm with many of my closest friends.
For years, I was bluffing all the detailed night-time chats with close friends, especially when we were around 19-21, the age when we had enough sex to be comfortable about it but still excited enough to want to talk about it.
Everyone else seemed to find it really easy, so I misrepresented, I dissembled, I fibbed, I pretended I understood their descriptions of electric pulses across, warm wave of, the after-glow that, the rush when – and I doubt I was convincing:
Them: “You know that angle where it just hits the right spot…”
Me: “Oh I know the angle. I AM the angle.”
I started having sex at 18 and I didn’t have an orgasm until I was 24 (and I wasn’t exactly on hiatus during those years). And to be clear, it wasn’t the men’s fault – they were doing a sterling job, but it was impossible because I didn’t know my body or how it worked, at all. I knew Kim Kardashian’s vagina better than I knew mine. I think we all do.
I started being honest in relationships and saying, “I never have.” I thought this would take the pressure off but the opposite happens; when you tell some men you’ve never had an orgasm, they treat you like a bench that needs fixing and they’re the hero to do it. I went from femme fatale to Unicef outreach mission in one easy step.
They were good men, good at sex and trying so hard but it was pointless until I’d found out for myself what made me tick. After a few years I was so in my head about it that Thor himself couldn’t have broken down that psychological barrier – as soon as I got close to the big moment, I panicked and my body just waved a white flag and gave up.
“I found out when I was 20 that half my friends started touching themselves when they were 12, so when they eventually ‘did it’ they were pretty much world-class Olympians and I felt betrayed; no one told me, no one even hinted that I had to learn that.”
After six years, I was almost resigned that it wouldn’t happen for me – I thought I was broken. This was just something I would never do, like knitting or butterfly stroke. I didn’t think about all the time but it was at the back of my head – a small, sad thought.
So here’s the problem. No one ever talked to me about female orgasm (I imagine no one talks much to boys about it either…). Oh we talked about male orgasm, because that could get you pregnant. In sex education at school, we all had a big laugh about condoms and semen, but no one ever talked about women coming. Not once. I went to a girls’ school and was taught this stuff exclusively by women and no one mentioned that female orgasm was a) a thing or b) a thing that doesn’t happen automatically. And it doesn’t.
I mean, sure, some women DO come really quickly and obviously I hate those women a little. But for most women, it’s something that you need to sort of practise – like cooking a soufflé, or perfecting the Fosbury Flop.
I found out when I was 20 that half my friends started touching themselves when they were 12, so when they eventually ‘did it’ they were pretty much world-class Olympians and I felt betrayed; no one told me, no one even hinted that I had to learn that. And I’m a good learner – I pick things up quickly! If they’d told me it was a self-educating test, I’d have ‘revised’ all through my teens and then got an A*!
And there came a time at the age of 24 when it seemed the right time to take action and the way I knew it was the right time was that I had a solid three days off work and my flatmates were away. The planets had aligned.
I stayed in bed for four hours, stopping and starting, trying to beat the panic and the fear, and just kept on keeping on until – foof! It was glorious.
“It’s not enough to tell girls about the birds and the bees – they need to know that the birds need to be feeling it and how the birds can get their rocks off, not just how birds can prevent getting knocked up.”
Part of me can’t help thinking that it wouldn’t have taken so many years to confront it if we talked about these things more openly. People think that we live in an age where everything about sex is an open book, is everywhere, all over the media, on display, but it’s not.
That’s the shiny, fake sex – the sex we see in films, where it’s up against a wall with no difficulty, or in the shower and the angles miraculously work, and the woman and the man finish at exactly the same time, every time. It’s the ‘position of the fortnight’, it’s the ‘how to drive him wild’, the one-sided, the glitter and the pink and the glossy side of sex, but actually, there are huge gaps in what we are willing to read or write about or talk about.
And I’m all for retaining the mystery. I’m not going to write in public about the greatest times, the most exciting, the most personal, but I think it’s important that when we start to mention the bits that aren’t magazine-fodder, it isn’t greeted with awkward shuffling and staring at our feet.
When comedian Cariad Lloyd brought up an interesting fact about the clitoris on Q.I. a few months ago, the studio exploded with embarrassment, the male presenters literally making siren noises and hiding beneath their desks. That show, like so many panel shows, regularly makes easy innuendos about penises and sex, but presented with the female sex organs, it made a (self-aware, but still) joke about how uncomfortable it made them.
We talk of men’s bits much more freely than we talk of women’s, and we really don’t want to talk about sex being difficult (for men or for women) but I think sometimes, we need to.
We should at least be telling girls about female orgasm, because it’s important and it’s so easy to entirely miss out on it, believe me. It’s not enough to tell them about the birds and the bees – they need to know that the birds need to be feeling it and how the birds can get their rocks off, not just how birds can prevent getting knocked up.
We’re getting there. Compared with when I started having sex, we are light years ahead. I love that we live in a time when you can unashamedly explore your own body without being labelled, a time when we really can start an open, honest discussion of what sex can be and a time when the rechargeable quantum silver rabbit comes with an option of 10 different speeds, for her pleasure. What a world.
Rachel’s new comedy show Best Laid Plans is on at the Edinburgh Fringe, 3-28 August.9957 Views
Rachel Parris is a comedian, musician, actor and improviser. She is best known for her award-winning musical comedy songs, presenting Thronecast on Sky Atlantic and improvising in hit show Austentatious. @rachelparris