It was 1 am, just a few minutes after we’d had sex. We were in that fragile span when things could potentially get awkward really fast as both of us struggled to put our clothes back on, consciously avoiding eye contact. Just when I was clumsily hopping about with one leg inside my jeans, he looked at me and asked, “So, did you like it?”
His timing was just… all wrong. My brain immediately went into an overdrive, “Uh, so parts of it were really uncomfortable. I wish you’d used less tongue, I feel sticky and sore… I liked when you held my waist, hated when you grabbed my hair – it was not mind-blowing, but it wasn’t also bad.” As I prepared to parrot these words out, he kept looking at me like a deer caught in the headlights. I noticed a vein throbbing in his neck, so I plastered a smile on my face, and instead answered, “Yeah, it was amazing.” I could see his face relax and the tension in the room dissipate. We ended up affectionately cuddling. He was satisfied with his performance; I was glad that he was content.
That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how different his reaction would have been if I’d honestly told him how I felt. It wasn’t the first time I was experiencing this mental volte-face. I’m certain women around the world make these rapid mental calculations when forced to give a sex report card right after class ends.
The asking of the question doesn’t bother me – after all, the healthiest, most satisfying sexual relationships are premised on honesty – as much as the import of the question… and the damage that a frank assessment has the potential to inflict. The query seems like some sort of a validation, sought to massage your partner’s ego. The focus is less about the pleasure of the partners, and more about the man’s performance.
This is unfair to both the partners: It places the entire burden of sexual satisfaction on the male partner, causing this anxiety. It negates the role of the female partner in the equation, who could well be holding the keys to a great encounter. And then, when a sexual encounter underwhelms the partners, their right to be disappointed is undercut by the man’s dejection.
For women, “Did you like it?” is always a loaded question. Not because, we don’t know the answer to it, but because how on earth do we answer it without making the guy feel insecure, defensive, or insulted? Besides, what’s the barometer for “liking it”?
Think about what we’ve been fed about losing our virginity. Women have repeatedly been told that sex will be painful for them the first time. Even before we begin to have sex, we subconsciously prepare for someone else’s pleasure. Considering our introduction to sex, it’s not difficult to see why women don’t go into sexual encounters expecting a mind-blowing orgasm. Our expectations are in fact disgustingly low.
In an essay titled “The Female Price Of Male Pleasure”, Lily Loofbourow, writes, “Women have spent decades politely ignoring their own discomfort and pain to give men maximal pleasure. They’ve gamely pursued love and sexual fulfilment despite tearing and bleeding and other symptoms of ‘bad sex.’”
As we’ve read in books, seen in movies, and experienced in our daily lives, male pleasure is so central to the sex act, that men are rarely taught the language of female pleasure. You don’t need a study to tell you that more men orgasm through sex than women, (although, there are plenty) or movies that comfortably peddle just how much men enjoy sex, while women’s sexual pleasure is framed as a mythical, unattainable creature.
Unfortunately, this patriarchal conditioning has also trickled down to how most women view sex when they start off – an act where their pleasure is optional. Later in our lives, even when we know better, we’ve habituated ourselves to putting on a moan in bed… or promptly smiling and nodding enthusiastically when asked that dreaded question.
Come to think of it, I’m less angered by how ill-equipped most men are to guide a woman to her orgasm than I am with how hard this world has made it for us to tell them that we didn’t like it. Masculinity is such a fragile thing that even the tiniest indication that you were uncomfortable will be perceived as a lack of his sexual prowess.
You see, when a man asks a woman “Did you like it?”, we already know that he doesn’t really want to know the truth. Because, for men, orgasms are slam dunks and they all hope to be Michael Jordans.
So maybe, it’s up to us women to be honest with our partners when they ask us “Did you like it?”. They might end being a little more receptive to the answer. Or maybe, if all that feels too revolutionary, we can probably flip the timing of the question. So how about asking us if we like it during sex?
We’d be much more inclined to give you an A that way.
Sreemoyee Mukherjee spends her time deconstructing irresponsible pop-culture and thinks that her love of fries and her Literature degree are both privileges that she is fortunate to have.