The orgasm is widely viewed as the ultimate goal of recreational sex, so why is it be so hard to achieve for so many people? The road of discovery toward the orgasm can be a complicated and frustrating journey but filled with sexual self-discovery. If the orgasm is the ultimate goal for recreational sex then why do so many women (and men) fake orgasm during sexual intercourse? In a study published by the Journal of Sex Research, researchers found that 76 percent of women and 26 percent of men admitted to occasionally faking an orgasm during sexual intercourse.1 However, the same study concluded that on average, most males refused to believe that their partner ever faked an orgasm during sexual intercourse (which the statistics refute). Despite the male tendency to find their own sexual practices to be satisfactory for their partner, 90 percent of men show a concern for their partner’s sexual satisfaction1, therefore why do so many women (and men) feel compelled to fake orgasms?
In most developed countries sexual education is being taught to children starting from young ages. However, many sexual education programs promote an abstinence only policy, while others hope that the students are not engaging in sexual intercourse but still provide them with the knowledge to be safe if they do become sexually active. The question of how to have pleasurable sex is rarely taught by educators, and in most cases this is fair considering the ethical issues of promoting sex amongst young adults. It is assumed that parents and children will be speaking about sex in the privacy of their own home, which is true—to an extent. In a study conducted by Planned Parenthood, 82 percent of parents are talking to their children about sex. However, the conversations were often surface-level because parents were nervous about delving into more ambitious sexual topics. In another study conducted by the Advocates for Youth, they found that 83 percent of teens were worried about talking to their parents about sex for fear of their reaction. Therefore, the conversation is entirely one-sided; the children are receiving some information from their parents but only the information the parents feel comfortable discussing. Now, let us imagine an entirely subverted society in regards to sexual education. What if sex was no longer a taboo subject, but instead a healthy and encouraged part of society. More importantly, what if the orgasm never had to be faked again because young adults were being taught how to perform sexually, with multiple orgasms being the end target? You are now imagining the world of the Mangaian Tribe.
The Mangaia Island (traditionally known as A’ua’u) is the most southerly of the Cook Islands located in the Pacific Ocean. It’s name, meaning ‘Temporal Power,’ is relatively new and was given to the island when peace was finally achieved after 42 battles between rivaling groups.4 Its first contact with the western world occurred in 1777 when English explorer James Cook discovered the island during his Pacific voyage. However, he was not received well by the Mangaian people and he immediately left in search of other settlements.4 One of the most striking qualities of the island was the banning of cannibalism over a century before the first missionaries arrived in 1823. Cannibalism once rampant across the Polynesian Islands, has vanished due to the Mangaian people’s focus on family as the core of society. Since their conversion to Christianity in the 1900s their population has steadily declined and shows no sign of stopping.
The Mangaian Tribe has an open and communicative approach to the sexual education of its young adults. At as young as 10 years old young Mangaian boys are encouraged to masturbate, and explore their own genitalia. Sexual discovery is not repressed but encouraged as a normal part of development. At the age of 13 young boys are circumcised by an older man and then isolated from society for 2 weeks. During this two-week period the older man begins a period of sexual instruction for the young boy. He is educated on sexual intercourse, positions, and techniques with a heavy focus on one’s partner achieving orgasm multiple times. Once this period is over, the young boy begins a sexual relationship with an older female and a period of coaching begins where the boy can practice the techniques previously taught to him. Orgasm is the main goal for sexual intercourse and both men and women are encouraged to orgasm two-three times a night.5 While there is no circumcision or education ritual for young women, they are encouraged to explore their sexuality. Young women are advised to have three-four partners before marriage to develop their preferences and have a wider breadth of experience.5 However, men are considered the more promiscuous gender and on average have more partners than female’s. Young adults often engaged in frequent discussions about sexual intercourse with their family and often observe older couples engaging in coitus. Orgasm is not just a goal but instead is a standard part of all sexual encounters, with almost all males and females reporting a relative ease in regards to achieving sexual climax.5
Despite the Mangaian people’s open approach to sexual education and sexual discovery, it is not a utopian society. The Mangaian Tribe is still heavily patriarchal and despite the open encouragement of multiple sexual partners, sexual violence still occurs. When anthropologist Donald Marshal conducted a study on the Mangaian people in the late 20th century, he noted that men often beat women into submission when sex was refused.6
A free and open discourse about sexuality is considered taboo in many countries. While some cultures try to promote safe sexual encounters, many countries completely refuse to discuss the topic of sexuality. While conversations about safe sexual intercourse are crucial to the safety of younger generations, should they be supplemented with conversations about how to have pleasurable sexual intercourse? Or are cultures forcing young adults to awkwardly fumble through their early sexual experiences before they discover their own sexuality? There is beauty in the diversity of sexuality across the globe, the Mangaian people’s approach to sexual education may cling on the boundary of extremity, but their practices are a small part of a much larger global sexual culture.
1. Dingfelder, Sadie F. "Understanding Orgasm." American Psychological Association, Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/04/orgasm.aspx
2. "New Poll: Parents Are Talking With Their Kids About Sex but Often Not Tackling Harder Issues :: Planned Parenthood." Planned Parenthood. Oct. 2011
3. "Are Parents and Teens Talking about Sex?" Are Parents and Teens Talking about Sex? Advocates for Youth, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
4. "History of the Mangaia." Lonely Planet. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
5. "Pacific Center for Sex and Society - Sexual Behavior in Pre-contact Hawai‘i." University of Hawaii, 2004.
6. Marshall, Donald, Suggs, Robert. “Human Sexual Behavior: Variations in the Ethnographic Spectrum. Basic Books, 1971.
Last Updated 28 April 2015.