I Don't Orgasm, and I Don't Care
August 14, 2015 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my 30's, and I don't orgasm during sex. I still like sex - a lot! - but I find myself compulsively "faking it" in every single relationship, and I'm not sure how to stop or if I should.

I've been in several satisfying sexual relationships over the course of my life (I'm in my early 30's, cis-female, heterosexual) but only orgasm in my sleep. It's actually really nice; I sort of end up lucid-dreaming when that happens, and I remember it upon waking. But never ever with a partner during sex or otherwise, and not via self-stimulation. That's not to say I don't enjoy both of those things, but I just don't orgasm from them.

I got it in my head that it makes men feel great when they bring their partners to orgasm, so I have gotten quite adept at faking it. Yet, every time I get in a new relationship, I tell myself, "This time you're not going to fake it, he's just going to have to accept that it's not going to happen." And every time, I find myself compulsively faking an orgasm. To be clear: I don't think anything is missing from when I have sex. I could go on with the current status quo of only having orgasms during sleep forever, and I would still enjoy sex. But I get the sense, every time, that the men I sleep with would not see it that way, and would either consider it a challenge (which they'd "fail") or be completely demoralized. (To be fair, I tend to sleep with men who are egalitarian and feminist leaning with "she comes first" mentalities.) I don't see my lack of orgasm during sex as a failure! I'm fine with the way my body works, but I am troubled that I can't seem to start a sexual relationship without the context of compulsively faking orgasm.

So, the TL;DR of this question is:

Is it wrong to continue to fake it, if I am perfectly happy with the status quo but know that the men I sleep with would be unhappy/troubled to discover that I did not orgasm during sex and no harm comes to them when I fake it?

If I were to be upfront about this topic, how would I do that? How would I phrase it? Would just not having an orgasm during sexual relations forever be a dealbreaker to a man, even if he knew I still enjoyed sex?

Is this one of those things that's actually really normal but that no one talks about?

Please note that I am not looking for advice to keep trying because eventually I'll meet the guy that brings me to orgasm through sex. Because I'm of course willing to be proven wrong but I'm not willing to sleep with all the men in North America until I find the proverbial glass slipper.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably not popular, but just my 0.02:

Faking it is fine. It's not a crime. I think telling white lies is okay, too. If I don't like the haircut my boss got, am I going to tell her? Probably not, especially if she's really happy with it. You know? I feel like people get up in arms over Total and Complete Scrupulous Honesty and I just don't agree. For what it's worth, I usually orgasm during sex but have still faked it once in a while when I'm tired or out of whack. I'm even pretty sure a couple of guys I've dated have very infrequently faked it.

Shrug. You're fine. Honesty has a place but not if it's just going to make you and him miserable. It would be nice in a perfect world to find a man who understand this, but I honestly think that will be pretty rare. "Never" is a pretty high hurdle for most guys. "Infrequently and okay with it" is more doable. But I don't think you're obligated to disclose- it's just nice to be able to be in a relationship with someone where you can.
posted by quincunx at 10:17 PM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my opinion (which is just my opinion!), you should stop faking it, and explain to the guy you're with what's going on. Honestly, if you can work through this issue (which shouldn't even be a thing but you know how it is), it's a really good sign about the rest of your relationship.

One way to ease into the conversation is to say "so, I have orgasms in my sleep, so I know what they feel like. But when we've been together, I've never had a real, climactic orgasm-- just a lot of pleasure. I've led you to believe that I've been having orgasms, but I'm just embarrassed about the way things are going and it was easier to be vague and I've worried that you wouldn't understand how much I enjoy sex if I didn't couch it in language about orgasming."

I would 1) avoid being like "I've been faking it for your sake! For your feelings!" because even though that's true, that's going to make them feel 2x worse (like you think they suck at orgasms, and you think they're sensitive babies. ... even if the second part is true.) and 2) be really honest about YOU and YOUR NEEDS. i.e., you weren't worried about hurting their feelings-- you were worried they wouldn't understand you and therefore your needs wouldn't be met. Make it about a thing you want rather than a thing that's missing. There is something that you want, that you're afraid of losing. Be straightforward about that. I think it's much easier to offer up a goal (something that will make you happy) than to just make this jaw-dropping confession that there is a HUGE LACK that CANNOT BE FILLED (I know, I know, it shouldn't be a thing, but that might be how it's taken.)

I do not know how many men would find this to be a deal breaker, so I can't answer that part, but you are who you are and it is a MASSIVE burden of emotional labor to pretend to have an orgasm every time you have sex so that you can continue to have pleasurable sex into perpetuity. It's just a horrible situation women are put in-- they have to play along, or else things shrivel up and die for ego reasons. Personally, I would never have learned to let go and actually orgasm with a partner if I were concentrating on faking int all the time. (If it weren't for that part, I might say faking it forever is fine-- but once I stopped worrying about playing my role as much I became MUCH more physically, sexually satisfied.)

Maybe a good compromise is for you guys to keep open the possibility that you could eventually have an orgasm if you try different things (it's a win/win unless you're just absolutely sick of the notion of trying). Maybe you just want to forget about it and enjoy what you enjoy, which is fine too.

Frustratingly, being honest about sex is one of the absolute hardest things for me in a relationship so I totally understand where you're coming from. For some reason it's just the final frontier, where you can be honest about your needs in every way but sex is just a big off-limits sign. I personally think it's tragic and women should do what they can to be honest about how their bodies work. We are not porn, yo.
posted by easter queen at 10:25 PM on August 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Heeeyyy, I have this problem. Very normal, source of lots of anxiety for many women. Annoying, but not necessarily a bad thing. I have a hunch that I don't orgasm with anyone because I don't trust anyone enough to let my guard down that much but YMMV.

Personally, I have been single for a while but I've promised myself that the next time I have a partner, there has to be discussion(s) first before sex ever happens. And during like the 2nd or 3rd convo, I will say, "So, I haven't yet had an orgasm during sex. It is possible it may never happen, but you never know, fingers crossed. I wanted to let you know though because I've faked it in the past for other partners and I'm not going to do that with you. It's just a thing. :)" And then I'll be like we should totes practice, super excited, don't get stressed if it doesn't happen please. And hopefully I'll get a guy or girl for whom it's a totally chill thing. Because I really, really like sex. I just... Don't have it to orgasm.

That being said, there are definitely guys for whom not being able to orgasm during sex is a dealbreaker because it offends their masculinity soooooo much. Those guys are losers who shouldn't get the privilege of sleeping with you anyway and probably can't get you off either so forget about them. Just my two cents. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:28 PM on August 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


I also would review why you feel obligated to tell them and second quincunx to keep it to yourself unless you meet the right person to tell. For a lot of reasons.
posted by pairofshades at 10:31 PM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I were you, the first thing I would do is conceptualize what an ideal sexual encounter would be, without faking an orgasm. Like, from start to end. Doing that, you can walk into a conversation with a concrete vision or goal - "This is what I want in bed - this is the way I like it."

IMO, it's perfectly ethical to fake it if you want, but man, in my experience it gets a bit tiring after a while in a long-term relationship and it was quite a relief to open up to my partner.
posted by muddgirl at 10:32 PM on August 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am also this person, and I do tell people I sleep with (often the first time we sleep together, these days). I often say something like' just so you know, I'm almost certainly not going to come' and I leave it at that. Sometimes after I tell people they ask more - like, definitely one guy was like 'but how can it still be fun?!?!?!?!' which says more about his attitude to sex than anything else, if you ask me.

I've never faked so I can't advise on whether it's right or wrong to keep on doing that; I didn't realise that was a thing I (as a woman) 'should' be doing, so I never did and now I don't think I could be bothered.

Men do tend to see it as a challenge, which is really tedious and makes for much worse sex than if they just accepted it so I also now pre-empt that by saying something like 'other people have felt like they need to try and fix that, but it doesn't need fixing, and I'm having a good time anyway'. I don't know that it's ever been a dealbreaker as such from their side. But it's normal! If you're a person who likes to read about this stuff, try Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 10:41 PM on August 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


It is not wrong. It is hiding something essential, though, and it would hurt a lot if I found someone felt the need to fake anything with me within the context of a relationship that included sex.
posted by jet_silver at 10:42 PM on August 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not a dealbreaker to this man, at least (my previous gf had infrequent orgasms. No big deal). Having a matching sex drive is far more important to me. I would think that kind of fake performance is tiring and for what - sparing someone's ego? Wouldn't you rather be with a man with the emotional maturity to accept and respect you as you are?
posted by O9scar at 10:45 PM on August 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Guy here. Is it wrong to fake it? In a casual/short-term relationship, no. Do what makes you feel comfortable. In something that's turning serious, or you want to become serious? It's still up to you how you "perform" during sex, but you should let them in on what you told us in the question here, and the way you explained it to AskMe is a perfectly good way to explain it to a partner. It'll be a dealbreaker to some guys, but what can you do?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:50 PM on August 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey, I've never considered it "faking". I prefer to consider it "giving expression to my feelings of pleasure and connection to my partner." Antidepressants killed my ability to orgasm but they didn't kill my desire to express my satisfaction in a way that satisfies my partner as well. And damnit, I DO ENJOY IT.
Oh yeah...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:57 PM on August 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is it wrong to continue to fake it?

Does it matter what we think? If you feel deep in your heart that it's wrong for you to continue to fake it, then is there any intellectual argument in the world that's going to make you feel like it's okay? Can the opinions of a bunch of internet strangers really change what your conscience is telling you? From the way you describe this problem, it sounds *really* important to you to be honest with someone about this, and you sound very disappointed in yourself for failing to do that. I think you should respect that feeling, and keep working on doing what you know is right for you.
posted by sam_harms at 11:14 PM on August 14, 2015


When I was younger and more stupid I would probably have tried to be that special man who made it happen. Now that I am older and wiser I would thank you for telling me and be all the more relaxed for it. I don't think this is a moral issue either way, and you are justified in using whatever discretion you think is appropriate.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:48 PM on August 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'd worry they'd keep doing stuff that may not truly trip your trigger as orgasm is a pretty big clue that immediately previous input has contributed to current outcome.

It would eventually do someone's head in, surely. I'd be saying, I don't orgasm but I'll make lots of noise and give you feedback when you're doing what I love. Please feedback to me similarly!
posted by taff at 11:49 PM on August 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it wrong to continue to fake it, if I am perfectly happy with the status quo but know that the men I sleep with would be unhappy/troubled to discover that I did not orgasm during sex and no harm comes to them when I fake it?

It's not wrong like a sin, but you're doing your partners and their future partners a disservice by giving inaccurate feedback.

If I were to be upfront about this topic, how would I do that? How would I phrase it? Would just not having an orgasm during sexual relations forever be a dealbreaker to a man, even if he knew I still enjoyed sex?

I was with a completely anorgasmic woman for a very long time. It was a little bit of a let down because it's nice getting that feedback that you're giving your lover pleasure but it wasn't a dealbreaker. Being open about it made doing the things that gave her pleasure easier because we could just negotiate how long we wanted to go and what we wanted to do without me trying to push for something that just wasn't going to happen.

There's quite a few women that don't come from sex or with a partner, so I'd expect most guys on the market in their 30s would have come across one already, thought they might not have known it. I'd go with a simple explanation but I'm pretty blunt in my discussions of such things at this point.
posted by Candleman at 12:00 AM on August 15, 2015


Lots of us on SSRIs don't come during sex. I think it's fine to say up front, "look, sex is great for me for all sorts of reasons, but I won't be able to orgasm." If the person is worth having sex with, they won't reply with, "but how can it be fun?"
posted by persona au gratin at 3:03 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Many if not most women do not orgasm during unenhanced PIV sex. The majority of men are well aware of this, and do not demand an orgasm on command. The majority of men can also tell if you are enjoying yourself during sex from your other verbal and non-verbal cues. They won't be upset or disappointed if you don't orgasm because that is pretty normal, especially if it's a newish partner. I have never faked, and have never received any comment whatsoever on my lack of orgasms beyond general discussions on what we liked as the relationship progressed.

The assumptions behind your faking are pretty depressing: "I would still enjoy sex, but I get the sense that the men I sleep with would not see it that way", "would just not having an orgasm be a dealbreaker?"

I mean, who are these terrible guys you're sleeping with? I'm hoping you've just internalised a lot of Cosmo and the guys actually wouldn't give a fuck, but if you're seriously dating guys with egos so delicate that you have to orgasm on demand, date different guys. You aren't a fucking performing seal.
posted by tinkletown at 5:18 AM on August 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some stats
posted by tinkletown at 5:57 AM on August 15, 2015


Is it wrong to fake it? In a casual/short-term relationship, no. Do what makes you feel comfortable. In something that's turning serious,

That's the trick, isn't it? What if you were having something casual, which I agree there is no reason to tell, but started to want something serious, which might be a reason to tell?

I have this problem sometimes too, and it has bothered men in the past. I think that being upfront about it and letting them know it isn't a big deal is the way to go, but I wouldn't blame you for keeping your mouth shut. I don't think it offends guys' masculinity so much as it's kinda a downer to not be able to give that to their intimate partner. I didn't fake it with my current partner but there was a point where I sat him down and said, "Look, I don't come every time, and it is 100% ok to stop trying after a bit, in fact I prefer it." Helped tons.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:37 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was younger and more stupid I would probably have tried to be that special man who made it happen. Now that I am older and wiser I would thank you for telling me and be all the more relaxed for it. I don't think this is a moral issue either way, and you are justified in using whatever discretion you think is appropriate.

This is pretty close to my thoughts. The bottom line is that this is your business and if you have experimented and determined that faking orgasms creates better sexual encounters than does not faking, more power to you. (If you haven't experimented, though, I think you owe it to yourself to see if not faking really does make the sex worse for you and/or your partner -- it's hard to tell from your question what are assumptions and what is based on your experiences.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:45 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The easiest thing to do - IMO - is to just tell your partners the first time you sleep together: "Hey, just so you know I'm almost certainly not going to come, but that doesn't mean I'm not having a good time." And let them know what you are enjoying (or not enjoying if it comes down to that). By taking the expectation off the table you can relax and hopefully feel no pressure to fake anything. In further conversations, as and if you keep seeing them, you can roll out a bit more information about how this works for you.

Would just not having an orgasm during sexual relations forever be a dealbreaker to a man, even if he knew I still enjoyed sex?

It really depends on the guy, his maturity and his experiences, but I think the total dealbreaker reaction would be very unusual (and immature). There are a variety of responses you might get from nonchalant acceptance to taking it personally - and again, it will probably be more than one conversation. But most reasonable guys should ultimately get it and just enjoy giving you a good time in the way that works for you.
posted by bunderful at 7:03 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


don't forget that an orgasm is communication. so if you don't orgasm you may need, in a very crude sense, some other way to communicate both (1) that was jolly nice and (2) you're done now (simplifying a tad).

i know this is obvious, but i think it addresses some of the issues being discussed above. yes, of course there are other signs and ways of communicating, but the emphasis placed on the orgasm culturally means that other signs can be overlooked. and by framing it as a communications issue i think (both/either of) you can avoid some blame and more easily identify solutions.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:53 AM on August 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Faking it is fine. It's not a crime. I think telling white lies is okay, too. If I don't like the haircut my boss got, am I going to tell her? Probably not, especially if she's really happy with it. You know? I feel like people get up in arms over Total and Complete Scrupulous Honesty and I just don't agree.

No, you should have scrupulous honesty in your relationship, and faking it is not fine. It's not like telling a white lie to your boss, because your boyfriend/husband is not your boss. You need to be superficially pleasant to your boss in order to keep your income, even if this might involve a white lie; you need to be honest with partner in order to keep your relationship functional, even if this might involve a blunt truth.

The best way to handle this is to be completely upfront, open, and honest, from as early on as possible. The idea that men need you to fake it is silly. Men do generally expect it because they think women generally have orgasms, so if a particular woman doesn't have orgasms with a particular man, the man will worry that something is wrong. But once you explain that it simply doesn't happen for you and you're fine with it, he should be fine with it too. And if he isn't fine with it, why would you want to be with him?
posted by John Cohen at 8:11 AM on August 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just told partners, right before sex:
"By the way, I really enjoy sex, but I don't have a traditional 'climax'. If I am enjoying it, you will know. You will need earplugs, but I'll often just keep hitting higher peaks, so don't necessarily stop. (I often mime a kind of mountain range of sensations). When I DO want to stop, or if I've gone all shakey, I may ask you you to kind of stroke my body to bring me back down again."

This generally went down A-ok.
When a partner asked if they could come/finish etc, I'd either tell them not yet, or gave them a rough guideline for how much longer I'd need to be satisfied, or told them I was good.

Actually, back before I could orgasm, I was pretty bemused by everyone ELSE with their orgasms. As I attempted to explain it, it's like, "I'm eating cake, because cake is delicious, and basically I'll stop eating cake once I'm either not hungry, or somewhere between there and I physically can't consume any more cake. Whereas, you're all, what? Eating cake, still hungry, eating cake, still hungry, then suddenly having a CAKE-GASM and don't want to eat cake anymore? You're all WEIRD"


If it helps, in my 30s, I have figured out how to traditionally orgasm, but, well, it's a lot closer to my cake-gasm concept than I'd thought. It's quite a bit of work to have an orgasm (and specific required steps), far easier to do by myself, and on the pleasure scale, doesn't even really hit the top 10 of my old, pre-orgasm partnered sex, so I feel kind of relieved that old me really wasn't missing out.
It is nice in that I hit a mild-to-medium peak, have a release of tension, and then the main benefit is having a natural stopping point for sex, whereas previously I often kind of wanted to go for a few hours, which, well, there's other things in life that need to get done too, so it's a little more efficient at least.
posted by Elysum at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


John Cohen: the boss example was bad and I knew I'd get flak for it but that's all that can to mind at the spur of the moment. Better example: would I tell my mom I don't like her hearfelt handmade present? My grandma? My boyfriend that I don't like his special Valentine's meal he cooked for me? I am pretty honest with my partner 99% of the time but resent the implications that if I haven't told him in executing detail that my past boyfriend had a slightly bigger dick or something then I'm a bad lying liar who doesn't understand relationships.

Look, generally I am a fairly blunt and honest person. But I also really like the principal "do no harm." The idea that you're harming future girlfriends or harming the guy's skills seems silly to me because all women are different and like different things in bed.

I also don't see orgasms as that big of a deal and that's why I consider it only a small lie. Orgasms happen along a spectrum of pleasure that has lows and highs anyway, so stretching the truth from "that felt better than usual and was almost an orgasm" to "orgasm" to "most mind blowing orgasm ever" is a pretty murky/grey line.


posted by quincunx at 9:46 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


My partner had this talk with me but said she likes the closeness of sex and she likes when I pet her. That was reassuring. I make sure to make sex intimate and to pet/massage her during and everyone wins.

Speaking strictly selfishly, the only thing that would make me feel bad is if I felt my partner was having sex with me out of obligation. But as someone who tries to be a feminist, I'm not going to question my wife over the fact that I don't get a fireworks show; I'm going to take her at her word that it's pleasant for her.
posted by ftm at 11:33 AM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Guy here. I've faked. Its fine.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not wrong, but it sounds potentially onerous. Is it keeping you from enjoying the moment? Are you thinking about your performance and his reaction rather than what you're experiencing? Is it taking your head out of the game? Are you worrying about being convincing, or about being found out?

You shouldn't feel obligated to add a layer of performativity on top of your sex life just to protect some guy's ego. His self-concept is not more important than your satisfaction. If honesty will let you relax, just tell him up front. If he has a problem with it, that's on him.
posted by babelfish at 1:23 PM on August 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is this one of those things that's actually really normal but that no one talks about?

Yep. Just another 30-something woman here who doesn't orgasm through PIV sex, and I've been pretty consistently actively sexual for the past 15 or so years (married for almost 8). I have faked it, because sometimes that is easier in a casual fling than talking about it. I don't fake it with my spouse. I just enjoy sex for all the other aspects (fun, intimacy, etc.) and don't worry about it - I really like Elysum's cake metaphor! What really worked for my particular spouse was explaining that sex and orgasm and just two separate things for me - both great. Cake and frosting... both good, I just eat mine... separately!
posted by jrobin276 at 4:10 PM on August 15, 2015


Guy here. Note that I am just a guy; I am not every guy.

Please don't fake it. It's not fair to the guy. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Personally, I would be much happier if you were just honest, and felt comfortable with having these types of conversations with me instead of hiding it or pretending you're into something you're not. I understand that every woman is different, and if you set the expectations up front, then I know what yours are and adjust my own accordingly.

If the person is worth having sex with, they won't reply with, "but how can it be fun?"

I have to emphatically disagree with this. It's perfectly normal for someone to be curious and want to ask questions. The dealbreaker comes from their reaction to the answer. The person not worth having sex with is the person who asks this, but continues to be incredulous and disbelieving of the answer, and especially that person that so completely disbelieves you that they make it their personal goal to be their 'conquest' and prove you wrong.

The keeper is the one who asks this, and then continues the dialog by asking what they can do to make sure you're happy and your intimate encounters are enjoyable, and then makes good on that.
posted by SquidLips at 4:59 PM on August 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Almost exactly the same here. I finally orgasmed by using a shower massage, and it's still the only thing that gets me off. The first person I was honest with is now my husband. 11 years this month! Our sex life is just fine, and neither of us fake anything :) Be genuine because it's actually easier on you in the long run. If a guy can't handle it, why would you want to be with him long term anyway?
posted by wwartorff at 9:09 PM on August 15, 2015


I think many men feel guilty if they come before their partner, since they don't want to be the clueless "that guy" who ignores your pleasure. It feels like the guilt of premature ejaculation, even if it's technically not. Make sure your partners feel like they have your permission to have their orgasm. Also, without the goal of orgasm, there is likely to be at least a small amount of "uhh then why are we doing this?" in the back of your partners mind, and I think it behooves you to be both explicit in your enthusiasm and also unambiguous about when you've had enough.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:45 AM on August 16, 2015


I'm male and het, generally prefer to know my partner just doesn't come from intercourse (or at all). It's fine, so long as she's clear on what she does want out of sex I'm happy to accommodate. Would be a little sad to learn my partner had been faking something sexual for my benefit, orgasms or otherwise. But would prefer to know, if so, so she could avoid feeling obliged to continue it in the future.
posted by ead at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2015


I'm like you. I don't orgasm during sex, but I enjoy it, no problem. And it's extremely frustrating in the past when I've dated guys who are like "Whaaat but every girl I've been with has orgasmed during seeex!! You are weeeeiiirrd." and I have to tell them how 70+% of women don't orgasm with just PIV sex while trying not to bruise their ego when they realize other women have faked it. Usually they just think I'm lying though.

So I would say stop faking it. It's not fair to the men to not be honest with them, and it's really not fair to all the other women who don't fake it. We really should stop perpetrating the idea that actual women come as easily as the women in porn.
posted by monologish at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing that strikes me is the fact that you prominently use the word "compulsively," in the sense that you plan to do one thing but always end up doing another. This suggests to me that you feel under pressure. It's almost like a Gordian knot; you can't know if you are under pressure from the other person, because you are not discussing it. In fact, some people probably would be unhappy with the situation and try to change it. But for whatever reason, you are not totally happy with what's going on and I think that is a good enough reason to have a discussion upfront.
posted by BibiRose at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2015


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