Orgasm Charades: 10 Facts About Faking It

“Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.” — Coco Chanel

For years into adulthood, the orgasm faking phenomenon eluded me. Then I met Humphrey—a soft spoken accountant with whom I had extremely little in common. (Two words: early twenties.) We’d been dating for a few weeks when after a Valentine’s Day dinner, we decided to have sex for the first time. Considering the romance in the air and our unmissable arousal, one might imagine that our physical intimacy would have matched the decadence of our heart-shaped chocolate cake. But pheromones can be deceiving.

Have you ever tried on an outfit that appeared perfect-for-you/glam on the rack, only to discover that it somehow made you look like Elmer Fudd? Let’s just say that Humphrey and I were not each other’s optimal outfits. Nothing about our bodies, preferences or movements seemed to fit right. We were able to get the “outfit” on, so to speak, but within minutes I began wishing we could exchange it for more cake.

Sex is awesome! Except when it's not.

Sex is awesome! Except when it’s not.

Humphrey either failed to notice, agree with or speak up about our incompatibility; the latter seems most likely. At one point, I tried to make eye contact to assess whether he felt equally awkward while withholding a blurt—something along the lines of, “This isn’t working! How about checkers?”—but we couldn’t even manage eye-lock. Perhaps he was too polite or embarrassed to express his dissatisfaction. Regardless, it was taking way too long.

When I asked him he wanted me to do, hoping for some direction, he said, “Keep going.”

Ugh! Help! Boredom struck me like Algebra class in Latin as I explored ways to expedite the process, resisting the urge to jump up and flee. If Humphrey was actually enjoying himself, he was the rockstar and I, the wimpy liar. I should’ve spoken up, but for once in my life, I didn’t. I felt guilty for making love disingenuously, and certainly didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But if we didn’t stop soon, I knew I might explode—and not in a YES, YES, YES! type way. I had to do something, even if that something was arguably nothing.

When we bonked noses, I thought for sure things would near a halt. Instead, he bit my earlobe (I still don’t get that), made a soft growl-like noise and whispered, “Come.”

Divine intervention! I had my cue.

Donning my acting skills, I made like Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally. With my muscles tensed and my back arched, I let my vocal chords take over, crescendoing from hungry-sounding to climactic. I may’ve gone overboard, as Humphrey seemed to wince the way one does in response to an obnoxious car alarm; hopefully I was slightly more erotic. (I know… Poor Humphrey!) He climaxed shortly after, or seemed to, then fell asleep as I sat wide awake, feeling the need to run sprints.

Nowadays I’d have gone another route—communicating and potentially demonstrating more. I’d also have recognized the mismatch we were before coupling up. Looking back, I see countless ways in which Humphrey and I were incompatible. Our lack of sexual chemistry seemed analogous to many facets of our short-lived relationship, from which, I suspect, we both learned a lot.

Not all fake orgasm experiences are as dramatic (fortunately!), and some women rely on them often. Whether you relate or not, I feel we can all learn from the common trend. Here are 10 facts I find intriguing about the falsified big-O.

10 Facts About Faking Orgasms

1. They’re common. Based on various recent studies, between one-half and two-thirds of women report having faked an orgasm at some point—that’s more than the amount of women who smoke, have high blood pressure or exercise daily in the U.S.

2. Men fake them, too. While male fake orgasms have received less scholarly attention, they do happen. A study conducted at the University of Kansas in 2009 showed that one-quarter of young men admit to faking it. A more recent study showed that divorced men fake it significantly more so than single, never before married men. Since men are less likely to admit to faking orgasm, researchers speculate that the numbers are likely higher.

(If you’re wondering how that’s possible for men, condoms are a common concealer, along with pulling out before faux-maxing in the dark.)

3. They’re often used to save time and guard feelings. This holds true for both men and women (including me with Humphrey). “Men tend to fake for similar reasons that women fake,” said Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, “to help their partner’s ego, to not hurt their partner’s feelings [or] to end sex so that they can go to sleep or go home.”

4. For many women, it’s a self-consciousness issue. If you’re feeling low about your body, ability to please your partner or climax, orgasm won’t come easy. Women see highly orgasmic women in movies and feel that’s the norm, according to Vivienne Cass, PhD, author of The Elusive Orgasm—unrealistic standards to live up to. Meanwhile, men who watch porn are more likely to expect similar notions and feel less aroused by their beautiful, but more natural/normal-looking partners, making arousal and climax tougher for both partners. Some research also shows the women fake orgasms when they fear their partner will leave them.

5. It can also be a trust issue. “There’s a vulnerability and emotional risk that comes with climaxing in front of someone,” said Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, author of Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover in an interview with Women’s Health Magazine. Orgasm increases bonding between pairs, which can make us feel more vulnerable to hurt and rejection. Faking it may seem like a natural way, even subconsciously, to keep a partner at arm’s length.

6. Men want women to have real orgasms. An estimated ninety percent of men care whether women orgasm, reports the American Medical Association. They may value female orgasm for emotional reasons—genuinely caring for a partner’s satisfaction, as an affirmation that they are skilled lovers and, possibly for evolutionary reasons. Preliminary evidence suggests that female orgasms function to selectively uptake one man’s sperm over another’s, according to William McKibbin, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.

7. Past hurt sets the stage. Research shoes that women who’ve had difficulty in a past relationship are more likely to fake orgasms to avoid feeling insecure about themselves than women with a less rocky romantic past. Faking it may make you feel a bit better for these reasons, but it won’t address underlying issues or allow you to experience the countless benefits of a pleasurable, orgasmic sex life. If faking it has become your norm, you may want to investigate why so that you can begin making positive changes.

8. Same-sex couples fake it less. Homosexual couples tend to fake orgasms less because of gender empathy, according to Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; they better understand how each other’s bodies work than heterosexual pairs. Same-sex couples also tend to take more time for foreplay than partners of the opposite sex, says Roach, which makes orgasm for both parties more likely.

9. They can make way for real Os. Acting as though we’re about to orgasm can increase arousal for both partners. Women tend to make more sexual sounds than normal when they fake it, found researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Leeds in the U.K. This can be a mega-turn on for men, which can be a mega-turn on for women. So faking it until you make it might actually work for some couples—as long as it’s an exception, versus the rule.

10. Increasing emotional trust and intimacy can erase the perceived need. Amping up intimacy and trust outside the bedroom paves the way for satisfying sex and relationship fulfillment overall. Couples who communicate and aren’t afraid to express their desires are more likely to engage in routine, orgasmic sex. They also don’t sweat it if one or the other doesn’t orgasm during sex on occasion. If your sex life involves more acting chops than authenticity, focusing more on cultivating connectedness with your partner and assuredness within yourself can go a long way.

Have you faked an orgasm? How would you feel if you learned your partner had? Did any of the above facts surprise you? I love hearing your respectful thoughts. (Honestly – I swear!) ♥