Gillian Telling

AND FURTHERMORE: Cosmo Columnist Gillian Telling on HBO’s Girls and Faking Orgasms

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In the June issue of Cosmo, Gillian Telling, author of Dirty Girls and former Maxim sex columnist, answered the question: “Why is the bad sex on Girls so fascinating?” Girls is a new HBO series critically acclaimed for its raw and frank portrayal of 20-somethings living in New York City.

The show regularly lays bare the less-than-svelte, if not squishy, body of Hannah (played by the brilliant Lena Dunham), and displays the awkward, excruciating-to-watch messiness of sub-par sex.  Telling, however, says the sex scenes are refreshing to watch for the way they blast the Hollywood and Porn industries’ false notion that women can orgasm “the minute he begin(s) pumping away….”

She spoke with The Slant about the ways in which Girls (and girls) could help improve life in the bedroom.

So how exactly do you think the true-to-life sex scenes in Girls will influence women’s sex lives?

I hope it will encourage them to stop faking orgasms and tell their partners what gets them off.  It would be so much nicer for everyone involved, even for the guys. Women need to stop thinking they’re weirdos because they can’t have a mutual orgasm with their guy two minutes in. This never ever, ever happens. It. Does. Not. Happen.  In fact, I interviewed hundreds of women for my book and my Maxim column, and I’d say only two of them said they came from actual penetration.  So I really wish this whole faking it thing would totally end.  All it does is breed bad lovers.  You get these guys that are in their 30s and you have sex with them and their like “Oh, that doesn’t make you come? My last five girlfriends could come that way.”  And it’s like, that’s because your last five girlfriends are liars!

A lot of people wonder what compels Hannah toward Adam (aka. the lousy lay)?  Not only is he bad in bed, he disrespects her, lacks charisma, and is utterly unsexy?

What it is–and this is true for a lot of women who go back to men who don’t treat them well–is that they’re almost addicted to the person that’s not treating them well because they think they’ve got the power to change them: turn him into a good guy and make him fall in love with them. It’s very egotistical in a way. It’s also a weird form of self-punishment. Sometimes things that are bad for you can be the most compelling. It’s just basic human nature.

So is there something unique to female sexuality that makes women get off on being mistreated?  On Girls, the cutest, nicest guy, Charlie, makes his long-term girlfriend Marnie’s skin crawl! There are so many douchey guys winning the affections of girls on the show. What’s up with that?

I think an asshole comes across as confident and it’s the confidence and assertiveness of that dickheaded-ness that is a turn on.  It’s like “Whoa, why are you so sure of yourself? You must be amazing.” You want to know them better.  Charlie is a classic case of nice guys finish last.  But it’s not the niceness that turns a girl off.  It’s what Hannah calls “a smothering kind of love,” like if the guy is constantly saying “Ok, baby, whatever you say baby.”  Not that he has to be a dick, just more assertive and take charge.  It’s really frustrating for girls to always feel like they make the decisions. To be worshiped constantly takes the joy out of it.  It’s like “Oh god, this guy’s at my feet again.” Every woman should be so lucky to have a guy that worships her, but there’s something about a smothering kind of love that’s a total turn off. There’s no challenge.  We’re all creatures who enjoy challenges in all areas of our lives.

What other bits about sex and how it’s portrayed on film would you have added to your Cosmo article?

That Hollywood and the Porn industry have it wrong: the vast majority of women don’t orgasm within two minutes and solely through penetrative sex. Although I understand why porn pretends that we do:  No one wants to see 45 minutes of somebody going down on somebody else and then taking out a vibrator to finish the job.  That’s not hot!  It’s not what people masturbate to. But while I understand why they make the films the way they do, I want people to know that it’s completely fabricated. It’s fine that it’s out there, but in real life sex looks nothing like it!

Gillian, a mother of one, lives in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow journalist Josh Dean. Her work has also appeared in DetailsRolling Stone and Women’s Health. Get more candid takes on sex and relationships at

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  • Gillian is a great writer and funny as shi* to read. Looking forward to her next book!

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  • Appreciating the persistence you put into your website and in depth information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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