Why Do Women Fake Orgasms?

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It's an unfortunate fact of the human experience: women's sexual expression, desires, and satisfaction are  culturally and systematically suppressed. Women are shamed, told to be subservient to men, and, in some cultures, mutilated so that they cannot completely experience sexual pleasure. A side effect of this situation is that a majority of women, at one time or another, have faked an orgasm.

In a forthcoming study being published to November's issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers primarily based out of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University School of Public Health sought to find out the precise reasons why.

Dr. Debby Herbenick and her team surveyed a diverse group of 999 predominantly heterosexual American women aged 18 to 70+ in an anonymous online setting. They found that 58.8% of the respondents had ever faked an orgasm. The most common reasons given for doing so were:

  • Wanting a partner to feel successful
  • Wanting sex to end due to feeling tired
  • Liking the person and not wanting them to feel bad
  • Wanting sex to end because it didn't feel good
  • Hoping that, with practice, the person could learn to give an orgasm

Faking an orgasm appears to be rooted in a lack of communication. For various reasons (i.e. feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, or not wanting to injure their partner's ego) , the respondents didn't feel that they could talk to their partners about their sexual pleasure.

The good news from the study is that two-thirds of the women who reported ever faking an orgasm declared that they no longer do.

"They stop pretending orgasm for varied reasons, most often due to greater sexual comfort, confidence, and feelings of being accepted by one’s partner," the researchers write.

The results of the study show the need to de-stigmatize sex and particularly women's sexual pleasure. Moreover, sexual educators and clinicians should foster "open and frank conversations about the vulva, clitoris, vagina, and sexual stimulation," the researchers say. Both men and women should be taught how to communicate healthily about sex.

In the United States, women face barriers that block their sexual safety and freedom, and they are overcoming them. But the path can and should be easier, the researchers insist.

"In spite of the many challenges that women experience relevant to gendered norms and traditional scripts that minimize the role of female sexual pleasure and agency, the story our data and others’ tell is one of women’s persistence, growth, learning, and curiosity. Our findings evoke ideas of women navigating paths through relationships, love, and power differentials to explore and connect with their sexuality."

Read More: The Habits of Sexually Satisfied Couples

Source: Herbenick, D., Eastman-Mueller, H., Fu, T. et al. "Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, Communication, and Reasons for (No Longer) Faking Orgasm: Findings from a U.S. Probability Sample" Arch Sex Behav (2019) 48: 2461. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01493-0

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