“Why He Hates Your Orgasm Face.”
That, says comedian Jessi Klein, is the Cosmopolitan magazine teaser that inspired her to write a joke about angst-ridden women staring into mirrors, screwing up their pusses to practice looking more comely when they’re climaxing.
“He hates?” I thought. “There are men who hate a woman’s ‘orgasm face’? Especially when it’s the face of the women they’re having sex with?”
This was an article I had to read.
Finding the article, from December 2008, was a lot more difficult than finding commentary on it that concluded men are scum and Cosmo is the fetid muck on which they feed.
For example, Dr. Amy Tuteur, an obstetrician-gynecologist and former Harvard Medical School clinical instructor, raged on Salon.com about how Cosmo was not just complicit in a plot to reduce women to being mere sex toys for men, but also the movement’s evil leader.
“You might be pretty, you might be thin, you might be well-endowed, and that will convince him to take you to bed,” she wrote in Your “orgasm face”? Cosmo and the pornification of women. “That’s not where it ends, though. He’s still entitled to judge your performance during sex and find you lacking.”
A post at Jezebel.com titled Once More, With Feeling: Ladymags Generate Anxiety Over “Orgasm Faces” accused Cosmo of manufacturing insecurity: “It’s not enough that you have to worry about your pores, your body hair and your weight: Now you need to think about what you look like while in the throes of ecstasy. Because at the very moment when you’re about to shudder from paroxysms of delight, your man is judging you.”
The first comment was, “What about HIS orgasm face? In my experience, his is way worse than mine.”
And in “Orgasm Face”: Be Sure You Don’t Turn Him Off!, a Society Pages.org post, Gwen Sharp, Ph.D., declared that “Cosmo is reminding us, in case we forgot, that a woman’s sexual pleasure isn’t really about her.”
All valid criticisms. Except, as it turns out, not of this article.
Cosmo’s article—Your Orgasm Face: What He’s Thinking When He Sees It—starts with news you can use: “According to a study, when men view women having sex, they look at their faces first and linger there longer than on any other area of their anatomies. Researchers speculate that a guy may focus on your face because he’s looking for affirmation—your expressions register an honest, visible measure of whether his touches are arousing you and, possibly if you’re having orgasm.”
It goes on to provide tips on how to “let the feelings of sexual bliss wash over you without becoming self-conscious.” Inhaling and exhaling deeply, for instance, will “bring you into a deeper zone free of outside disruptions, where all your senses are heightened and you can truly relax. It’s almost impossible to obsess about your perceived physical flaws when your brain is being flooded with pleasurable sensations.”
Cosmo also suggests women check out their lovers’ faces because “chances are, he’s squinting, mashing his lips together, opening his mouth, clenching his jaw or displaying other expressions of pleasure. Take his expressiveness as a cue to reveal the same passion freely” because “he’ll most likely mirror those looks of excitement right back to you. Bliss begets more bliss.”
It finishes by encouraging you to moan, shout or “otherwise get verbal,” if that’s what you do. “You shouldn’t stifle any sounds or facial contortions that happen naturally because the more you can let go when you’re getting down with your partner, the more you’ll actually enjoy it.”
In other words, Cosmo is not saying women should change their behavior because men judge them, but that women should stop judging themselves. Not that men are turned off when women are turned on, but that women turn themselves off with anxiety. Not that men can’t stand it, but are thrilled, when their women have fun. Not that men hate a woman’s orgasm face, but that they love it so much, there’s nothing else they’d rather see at the moment.
Not manufacturing insecurity, but trying to alleviate it.
To her credit, Sharp recanted her initial screed. Not just parts of it. All of it. Every dot and dash. What changed her mind? She read the article.
Look, there’s plenty in this world to get enraged about. Especially when it comes to gender inequality. And, I know, there are men who suck at sex because they’re only concerned with, as, Laraine Newman once said on Saturday Night Live, “draining the lizard.” I’m right there with you, ladies.
And I’m not ranking on Jessi Klein—sometimes the truth needs a little sculpting to make a joke really kill, and the actual teaser, “Your Orgasm Face: What He’s Thinking When He Sees It,” obviously didn’t fit the joke Klein wanted to tell.
But the very idea that a man would hate a woman’s “orgasm face?” Now, that’s laughable.
I mean, come on.