“Fake it till you make it” isn’t the best motto when it comes to sex. But if you’ve ever gone through the theatrics of pretending to have an orgasm, you’re certainly not alone. One study found that 67% of heterosexual women admitted to occasionally faking climax in bed, a number that’s nothing to scoff at.
Why do so many women put on an enthusiastic yet ingenuous performance for a partner? The persistent myth that sex isn’t any good if a woman fails to cross that finish line is one major reason, says Rachel Needle, psychologist and certified sex therapist in West Palm Beach, Florida and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. Another factor is the deluded idea that if you don’t have an O, there’s something wrong with you—even though reams of studies have shown that the majority of women do not have an orgasm during penetrative sex.
Faking isn’t a good thing; you fool your partner into thinking that you’re experiencing true pleasure, and you cheat yourself out of it as well. In the moment, it seems harmless, but over time, it can start to damage your bond. Since it’s so common and controversial, we decided to take a deeper dive into why so many women do it, how it affects relationships, plus easy ways to turn things around so you get the authentic orgasms you deserve.
All the reasons women fake orgasm
Pretending to climax can be a simple way to get sex over with. Maybe you’re not into your partner, you’re too wired with anxiety, you’re seriously exhausted, or you’re worried that your partner is getting bored waiting for you to hit that high note. Whatever the reason, you close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and rattle off a string of oohs and ahhs.
Another reason women fake is because they’re playing a role—they want a partner to think of them as fun and sexual, says Kimberly Resnick Anderson, certified sex therapist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. There’s a case to be made for this, Anderson says, because when a woman sees that her partner is turned on by her supposed climax, it could make her more excited. That could potentially help her get to an orgasm IRL. But it’s still performing, and there’s something dishonest at the core.
The biggest reason women fake orgasm? To protect a male partner’s ego. “Men often define themselves as good lovers by their partners having an orgasm, so they can be rather insistent,” points out Deborah Fox, a certified sex therapist in Washington, DC. Yet by pretending, women are only perpetuating the myth that goal-driven sex (the goal being an orgasm) is the only way sex can be truly satisfying.
The damage it can do to your relationship
So faking it is like telling a white lie—no one really gets hurt, right? Not exactly. When you have a faux O, you convince your partner that their strokes and touches truly got you off—so they repeat the same moves next time, and then the next time. This inhibits them from trying new things, warns Dr. Needle. Even if you’re faking it to make your partner feel validated or macho, you’re doing your relationship a disservice by not exploring moves that really might lead to an orgasm…and give them a true reason to feel pumped.
By faking, women also end up “perpetuating an unhealthy message that female sexual pleasure is less important than male sexual pleasure,” says Fox. There may be times when you want your partner to just lean back and enjoy, sure, but you can’t always put your needs on pause. If you do, you’ll eventually want sex less, because your not pursuing the action you actually want. Faking an O also tricks your partner into thinking that women always climax via penetration, which, as we said earlier, just isn’t true.
How to come clean and have genuinely awesome orgasms
The first thing to do is realize that there’s no way around a potentially awkward conversation. Whatever your reason for playing along, you’ve got to (wo)man up and talk it out with your partner. Approach it from a neutral place, and frame things in a positive, direct, yet gentle way—that you want to have more, better, deeper orgasms. And you have a few sexy ideas you want to try out with them to make it happen.
Uncomfortable, sure, at first. But your partner wants you to feel pleasure (and if not, reconsider the whole relationship). It’s a convo you have to have, so use the opportunity to reveal the strokes you want more of, fantasies to experiment with that will allow you to let go, and other things you both can do to make sex more comfortable and connected.
Eight out of 10 women aren’t able to climax from penile-vaginal penetration, according to research, so consider taking intercourse off the table and suggest sex that’s more hands-on, or oral sex, or sex involving toys like a vibrator. Clitoral stimulation and different types of touch are definite orgasm triggers, and they keep your partner a part of the action.
And don’t forget, you can still rock the sheets and feel sexually satisfied without even having an orgasm. If it’s just not happening for whatever reason, it’s fine to “say, ‘lets take a break’ or ‘I’d like to stop” without having to justify it any further,” says Brandy Engler, PsyD, author of The Women on my Couch, The Men on my Couch. Allow yourself to let go of the pressure and just forget about the orgasm. Enjoy the sensations and focus on being in the moment, the connection, and the pleasure.