Just Fake It. Not!
Fay Weldon a feminist icon in the UK tells women in her latest book that if they want to be happy they need to fake orgasms then lavish praise on their partners. What the f*$k kind of advice is that? More importantly, isn’t this backwards thinking from a feminist point of view? As such, I’m going to have to chalk this up as a publicity stunt to sell more books, because really, it does not serve a woman well if she is dishonest about the effect or lack thereof her partner is having on her in the bedroom. True, not every woman can achieve orgasm through sexual intercourse, but there are others ways and encouraging women not to have honest dialogue with their partner dooms any serious long term relationship.
‘If you want to find true happiness, just fake it’
In her latest book, the feminist icon Fay Weldon has caused a sensation by turning the beliefs of the sisterhood upside down.
The Observer, Sunday September 3rd 2006, By Amelia Hill
Telling women not to expect orgasms but to fake them, and to praise their partner lavishly afterwards, is not advice normally associated with a woman who has been in the vanguard of feminism for four decades.
Nevertheless, Fay Weldon gives short shrift to the views for which feminists have fought so bitterly over the years. In her latest book, she not only warns high-flying women that they should expect to end up single, she also suggests that sexual pleasure may be incompatible with high-powered careers and that women should simply accept they are less capable of being happy than men.
‘Eighty per cent of women only sometimes – or never – experience orgasm. Facts are facts and there we are. Deal with it,’ she writes in What Makes Women Happy?, to be published this month by Fourth Estate.
According to Weldon, sensible members of the sisterhood should, therefore, follow the example so graphically set by the actor Meg Ryan in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally, and fake orgasms whenever necessary.
‘If you are happy and generous-minded, you will fake it and then leap out of bed and pour him champagne, telling him, “You are so clever” or however you express enthusiasm,’ she says. ‘Faking is kind to male partners … Otherwise they too may become anxious and so less able to perform. Do yourself and him a favour, sister: fake it.’
Weldon, who created the slogan ‘Go to work on an egg’ in her early years as an advertising copywriter, is seen as one of the England’s most serious proto-feminists thanks to her novels, which include The Fat Woman’s Joke, Female Friends and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil.
But while the writer, now 74, insists she has never aspired either to seriousness or feminism, her new book has been condemned by her peers for discouraging today’s young women to demand equality in the world. It is, they warn, a counsel of defeat rather than of realism. ‘Fay likes to be provocative,’ said Kate Figes, the British feminist and author. ‘But this places the onus on women again, rather than men. If a man can’t cope with having a relationship with a happy woman who is content in her career, then maybe it’s he who should raise his game.
‘These are one woman’s thoughts, and she’s a woman who is not young any more. She comes from a different generation. When Fay was young, a woman couldn’t have a mortgage in her own name. My daughter has never heard of Fay Weldon. What she says is neither here nor there for young women today.’
In fact, Weldon’s views are surprisingly similar to those of Michael Noer, the news editor of Forbes.com, who caused his own furore last week by advising male readers to steer clear of ambitious women or face a lifetime of misery and discord.
‘Marry pretty women or ugly ones, short ones or tall ones, blondes or brunettes, just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career,’ he wrote in an article that sparked outrage on both sides of the Atlantic.
Weldon, however, goes even further that Noer. She does not restrict herself to comments on how women should conduct their sex and careers. Instead, her book covers eating, social life, the family and shopping.
The latter receives high praise: ‘The urge to acquire is in your genes,’ she writes. ‘Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just remember, 12 pairs of shoes is fine but 24 pairs is pushing it.’
Overall, very few things make women happy – and even fewer of them, suggests Weldon, are matters of substance. ‘Ask a woman what makes her happy and she comes up with a list: sex, food, friends, family, shopping, chocolate. “Love” tends not to get a look-in. “Being in love” sometimes makes an appearance. “Men” seem to surface as a source of aggravation,’ she writes.
‘We are all still creatures of the cave, although we live in loft apartments. Nature is in conflict with nurture. Women are born to be mothers.’
Weldon has, however, received some praise for her trenchant views. The American feminist Camille Paglia lauded the book and its author for its courage. ‘It’s an important point that the career woman may often end up alone,’ she said. ‘That scenario needs to be put to younger women as they begin making their choices about life.
‘Faking orgasms is not a good idea. But what she’s actually talking about is trying to be supportive of men, whose psyches are delicate and need to be protected. Men have a tremendous drive and are victim to all sorts of self-doubt and it may well be that it’s a wise woman who realises that.’
Others, however, fear the book could have a detrimental impact on 21st-century feminism. ‘This could have a really bad effect on young people,’ said the author and academic Maureen Freely. ‘It will exacerbate the deepest concerns of the brilliant young women who I teach, who are extremely worried that sooner or later, they are going to have to pay for their independence and intellectual vigour because men don’t like it.
‘We need to talk honestly about where women currently are after such a rapid period of social change, but it’s not helpful to go back to crude arguments like these. We all make compromises in our lives, but that’s what we need to do as human beings, regardless of our gender. But if I had to tell my own daughter to put up with what Fay is suggesting, I would be asking her to put up with situations which are, quite frankly, abusive.’
Other feminists, however, have suggested Weldon’s book reveals something more interesting than her views on other women. ‘This book isn’t the savvy political work it purports to be: it’s a prose poem full of self-loathing about one woman’s own deep ambivalence about being a woman,’ said Janet Halley, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism
‘She represents women as being a nasty morass of repressed instinct. I don’t recognise any of the men or women I know in her reductionist portraits, but it’s interesting to see a woman embracing her own misogyny.’
Feminists who have rocked the boat
‘In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent’
Attributed to Catherine MacKinnon, feminist author
‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute’
‘When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticising her own oppression’
Sheila Jeffreys, lesbian feminist
‘A good part – and definitely the most fun part – of being a feminist is about frightening men’