Now one of those experts is out to raise awareness of this and other male sexual issues he feels are widely misunderstood.
In his new book, "Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men And Sex," Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School, draws on 25 years of clinical experience to detail the sexual challenges men face. In an interview with Tracy Clark-Flory published Saturday on Salon, Morgentaler argued that the dearth of information about how men work sexually has given rise to certain myths about male sexuality, including the idea that men always want sex.
"We accept complexity for women but we simplify the story for men. It’s as if people think we know everything there is to know about men, and it’s false," said Morgentaler.
One of the male sexual issues that surprised Morgentaler most early in his career, he wrote in his book, was the habit of men faking orgasms. As he told Salon, the reasons also surprised him: Most men who fake it do so because they want their partners to feel good about the encounter. "In their minds, it’s actually a form of kindness," he said. "They’re kind of letting the other person know that they’ve done a good job."
Morgentaler attributed many of the sexual problems his patients report -- from premature ejaculation to erectile dysfunction -- to changing gender roles. As women excel professionally and financially, he told Clark-Flory, it becomes more important to men to be the "provider" in bed, but men simultaneously become paralyzed by the pressure they feel to be amazing lovers. Morgentaler's observation seems to echo the predictions journalist Liza Mundy in her book "The Richer Sex," in which she argued that, as women become the breadwinners in more relationships, the responsibility for being sexually appealing shifts from women to men.
"A guy’s sense of his masculinity, especially in the sexual realm, is not about what he experienced himself; he gets his sense of masculinity through the eyes of his partner," said Morgentaler, adding, "The idea that a man might be rejected because he can’t be an adequate provider sexually turns everything upside down. It wasn’t that long ago, the ’50s or so, that we saw this term about women doing their 'wifely duty.' It was assumed that women didn’t enjoy sex and that part of the marriage relationship was that the woman had to submit to it for the benefit of the relationship."
Morgentaler's observations obviously don't apply to all men. As Clark-Flory points out, the author's sample is self-selected: "These are men who have sought out sex-related medical help." Also, Morgentaler admitted in the interview that there is very little data on how many men fake it. A small 2010 study out of the University of Kansas found that 25 percent of men in a group of under 200 college students said they had faked it. The men's site Askmen.com's 2012 survey of a much larger sample -- 2,000 men -- found that 34 percent of participants said they'd faked it at least once, up from the 17 percent the annual survey yielded in 2010, but those surveys weren't peer-reviewed academic research.
Still, his observations do raise an interesting question: If this book ends up resonating with large numbers of men, if more men admit to faking it, how will that affect sex? Women are already known to have plenty of their own insecurities around sex -- feeling like you may not be pleasing your partner as much as you thought can't help. And if lots of men are faking it, will they now be subject to endless articles about whether or not to fake it, why they should "never, ever do it again" and on and on? Thoughts?
Click over to Salon for more of Clark-Flory's interview with Morgentaler, including his views on gay male sexual dynamics and why he won't actually say how men fake it.