Is she having all the fun?

Orgasms are just so unfair, says Jonathan Margolis. Compared with a woman’s physical fireworks, a man’s big moment is a bit of a damp squib male multiples truth or myth?

What is going on here? By far the most likely explanation for men’s reticence is that, frankly, the male orgasm is rubbish. Nature gave us the desire to ejaculate with tedious regularity, yet she also ensured that the experience, though addictive, would be a bit piffling — a cunning method to get us to have sex and spread our seed as frequently as possible. But however transitory and unsatisfying the male orgasm is, we get to see women go through the 5, 10, 30 seconds of face-contorted, white-knuckle yes, yessss ... then bliss. Sometimes, we feel the aftershocks in their vagina for even longer. We hear them purr contentedly in the afterglow. And, while we might feel rather smug for having played our part, real or imagined, we also somehow sense that we were at a different party.

For those of you who don’t know, let me explain what the male orgasm is like. It starts with an irritable sensation in our testicles and the end of our penis. WH Auden memorably called this “the intolerable neural itch”. Try to analyse the “itch” and it soon becomes apparent that it consists of little more than a large body of semen hollering to get out and go swimming as fast as possible. The mechanism by which this cargo of gunge will be released is as crudely sensitive as it is simple. It is so eager to go that, often, especially when we are young and eager, it will happen before we have even got our trousers off. But whether our sperm makes its exit in that undignified manner, or as a result of well done sex, or badly done sex, or, indeed, in the course of a good solo session, the sensation is identical. There is a slight, sweet/sour twitch from the prostate gland; a rather pleasant muscular gurgle from the testicles, followed within nanoseconds by a reasonably satisfying liquid rush the length of the old John Thomas; then, a further fraction of a second later, a moderately agreeable liquid awareness around the tip. And that, other than a few moments in a lifetime when there may be an extra fusillade within the same orgasm (typically, when we have avoided ejaculation for a lengthy period), is it. There follows a brief spell when we feel content and sleepy, and our prostate (if we are aware of its existence, which most of us aren’t, until it starts to go wrong in our forties) aches in quite a nice way.

That level of after-sales service tends to last no more than a few minutes or hours before the urge builds up again. The lasting thing, the satisfying thing, for men is not so much the scratching of that neural itch, but the (admittedly vain) feeling of having impressed, amazed, delighted, whatever, a woman you like and want to please. I am almost sorry to admit this, but more than 30 years of sex have convinced me that the male orgasm in itself is not much more satisfying than a desperately needed wee. It is my strongly held conviction, having been doing this stuff since the mullet haircut was unironically fashionable, that, because of the disappointing nature of their orgasms, it is men who crave the romantic garnish of the slow build-up, the wistful gazing, the expression of undying love around their sexual meat and two veg. Women, however, blessed with a vastly more satisfying orgasmic mechanism, are able to be more pragmatic about enjoying sex for sex’s sake.

If, and admittedly it is a big if, a woman is with a man who knows what he is doing, she will get enough physical payback from the deal to keep her happy for days afterwards and won’t be bothered by the lack of romance, let alone love. Heterosexual men are increasingly less into sex and more into love; women, more into sex and less into love. This is entirely to do with the vastly better quality of the female orgasm compared with the male version. I have talked to men about having sex with prostitutes, which many women mistakenly believe is the male ideal. Most men find it far less enjoyable than they believe it will be. Emotionally uninvolved sex is a letdown for men.

I was discussing these matters with a female friend the other day. I thought she might be the one to undermine my theory. She is a fairly traditional, monogamous, moral, quite religious girl, who, while deeply involved with her career, will admit she is also actively husband-hunting. I put my view to her that sex without a backdrop of, at least, deep affection and, at best, love, is a waste of time and we would all be better off doing it for ourselves. She couldn’t have agreed less. “I’m totally faithful to my boyfriends,” she said, “and I will practise and demand complete loyalty from my husband. In my experience, though, there’s absolutely nothing to beat a night of good, old-fashioned sex with a guy who’s really good and makes me come lots, but who leaves when he’s told — and doesn’t start phoning and e-mailing the next day and becoming a nuisance.” Vive, as they say, la différence.

Jonathan Margolis is the author of O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm (Century £14.99)

male multiples truth or myth?

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