Orgasms, Real or Fake?

Probably one hundred percent of men believe that their female partners don’t fake orgasms, but in recent studies, approximately fifty percent of women admitted to having faked at least one. Remember the famous scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally? It was when Meg Ryan’s character debates with Billy Crystal’s about whether or not a male partner can tell when a woman fakes an orgasm.

    Her command performance of a loud fake orgasm in the middle of a bustling cafe suggested that men can’t.  Since most people think a female orgasm should look dramatic and loud like Meg Ryan’s, a male partner’s ability to judge the difference between real and fake orgasms is somewhat disabled, because many women actually orgasm quietly.  The difference between reality and expectation creates a murky situation in which lovers have difficulty creating satisfaction.

    Is faking an orgasm a problem? Can be. It is deceitful and signals a breakdown in communication.  Without sincerity, the satisfaction of an intimate connection is limited. Yet a fake orgasm is a seemingly painless solution to a difficult problem, like a little white lie.  On the surface, faking an orgasm can be motivated by kindness, to help a sexual experience end gracefully while saving face.  It may spare a couple awkward moments of discomfort.  At first the situation appears comical, but under the surface, some harsher truths are hidden.

    The reality of sex is that it is complex and highly political.  Partners’ sexual choices are informed by both realistic and unrealistic expectations.  Self-esteem is on the line in each sexual encounter making sex a highly charged cauldron of pressure.  When good outcomes seem unobtainable, something’s got to give…and often that is a well-executed faked orgasm. Woman react to the high expectations placed on them by their partners.

     If sex were less burdened with expectations, a woman may feel freer to say she hasn’t had an orgasm or doesn’t desire one.  This would be a vast improvement.  Unexpressed expectations create pressure for a sexual drama to proceed along a pre-defined plot, otherwise hurt feelings ruin a well-choreographed experience.  A faked orgasm is a symptom that a problem exists

    Why would women do such a thing? Each woman’s reasons vary.  Most women don’t orgasm during intercourse, but believe they should, so faking an orgasm helps them to live up to their own “should’s” about sexual performance.  Other women make this choice to soothe their partner’s sexual insecurities; many men worry that their female partner’s failure to reach orgasm their signifies their own lack of sexual skills, a misplaced burden some female partners carry.  Some women, if ready for sex to end, may fake an orgasm to gracefully conclude it.  A faked orgasm also frees a woman from having to ask her partner for the stimulation she may really need to reach orgasm, a conversation many women prefer to avoid, especially if she fears the request would upset her partner or be rejected.

     Is it a victimless crime?  The partner may never know how real a woman’s orgasm is unless she herself reveals it.  Openness is a relationship ideal and faking an orgasm violates it. If sex is troubled by emotional disconnection, a faked orgasm does nothing to address the problem, but only prolongs it.  In an emotionally safe relationship, a more vulnerable but sincere approach may include having an honest discussion about sex, expectations and sexual limitations.  Gaining more sexual information may be an important step. It takes a strong person to embark on such a journey. The results may lead to learning and increased sexual confidence that benefits the relationship and heightens the mutual satisfaction of sex.  

Andrew Aaron, LICSW

Sign-up for exclusive content. Be the first to hear about updates from the Aaron Institute.