Before I embark on this post, I must first warn you that I have long been fermenting a bizarre love-hate crush on Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week.
In case you haven’t encountered his oevre, he’s a dot com millionaire turned self-help author, who writes about how to work in the most efficient way possible, so that you have more time to do man stuff, like becoming a kickboxing champion or taking tango dancing insanely seriously. Tim Ferris can squeeze a competition out of the most gentle situation. He is the walking embodiment of testosterone. I find him enchantingly obnoxious – so hyperactively masculine that I can’t help but slyly adore him.
After reading his first book two years ago, I distinctly remember saying to Herbert, ‘Can you imagine having sex with that man? Terrifying.’
I will confess, therefore, that I let out a yelp of delight when I discovered that his new book, The 4-Hour Body, would feature – amongst other shortcuts to a super-human body – a chapter on how to ‘hack’ the female orgasm. Oh. My. God. I was finally going to get an insight into sex with Tim Ferris.
Well, never shag your heroes, as they say. (Actually, they don’t say that, but I’m hoping to institute a proverb here). Poor Tim seems to exist in a world in which women can’t have orgasms, and his advice isn’t really aimed at those of us who can. He devotes a whole chapter to pointing out that, hey, really the ladies have to take responsibility for their own orgasms. It turns out that the inorgasmic woman who was his case study hadn’t even tried. Once Tim told her to go home and masturbate, everything was fine. Thanks, Tim.
The next chapter focuses on providing a reliable, no-nonsense way for a man to give a woman an orgasm. Oh goody, I think. That sounds fun.
Well, no. Not really. ‘The clitoris looks something like an Imperial Guard from Star Wars,’ begins Ferris (you see? He has this knack of making you wonder whether he’s really witty or just a dick. So hard to tell). And then he outlines a technique that ‘decouples orgasm from sex’.
I struggle to imagine the point of that. Worse, he then adopts a truly odd definition of orgasm:
‘Orgasm is when there is no resistance – no physical or emotional blocking – to a single point of contact between one finger and the clitoris.
The state naturally leads to the involuntary contractions and flushing that most associate with the word orgasm.’
No mention of pleasure, then? This becomes particularly relevant when we try it out.
‘Right,’ says Herbert, ‘Tim Ferris says that you should only be naked from the waist down, and I’m going to blindfold you. I’m fully clothed.’ This feels a bit like a visit to the gynaecologist. Not the blindfold bit, I should point out. I lie on the bed, and Herbert positions himself according to the helpful diagram.
Talk about decoupling orgasm from sex; it’s hard to relate this to sex in any way whatsoever. Had Herbert voluntarily chosen to position himself like this, with his back to me and his knee across my chest, I would have been downright insulted. Instead, I giggle.
‘Wow,’ I say, ‘this is erotic, isn’t it?’
‘Tim says that I have to remind you that it’s a goalless practice. You are not looking to have an orgasm. You’re just having an experience. It will last exactly fifteen minutes.’
‘I’d find it easier to see it as a goalless practice if it wasn’t called ‘The 15-minute Orgasm’,’ I say.
Herbert ignores me, and sets a timer on his phone. Then, he proceeds to stroke a tiny spot at the top left-hand corner of my clitoris.
‘Ow!’ I say.
‘Okay, I’ll go lighter.’
He strokes lighter still, until I can barely feel his touch. That’s about as much as I can handle. I really hate any sex tip that begins with the instruction, ‘pull back the hood of the clitoris.’ It has a hood for a reason.
After about a minute of this, I feel an odd little twitch in my vagina, but then nothing more. ‘Do you think we’ve got the right spot?’ I say to Herbert, and he moves around for a while. Each new place he comes to feels interesting for a while, but the regularity of the touch deadens it. After a few more minutes, I venture, ‘Maybe this would be nicer with some lube?’
‘Tim doesn’t mention lube,’ says H.
‘I’m bored,’ I say.
‘And you’re not allowed to make small talk. Just go with it.’
I try, I really do. I lie there for fifteen minutes, trying to concentrate. When the alarm finally goes off, I take off my blindfold and say, ‘Well, that was pointless.’
‘Technically,’ says Herbert, ‘You had an involuntarily muscle contraction. Tim would say that counts as an orgasm.’
No, Tim, it really does not. Orgasms may be objectively measurable, but that’s not the point of them at all. The orgasms we want – the ones that some women crave for many years before they finally find a way to access them – are subjective experiences, melding pleasure with abandon. We are seeking little moments of ecstasy in our lives, not involuntary contractions of the vagina.
I fear that my Tim Ferris crush may now be on the wane.