The Science Of Faking Orgasms

This article was scientifically fact-checked by Human Sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz.

A recent survey showed that around two-thirds of women have faked an orgasm. I suspect the remaining third have faked an answer in a recent survey.

That’s not fair, I’m kidding. But it’s safe to say the majority of women have faked an orgasm at some point in their life – or at least given the impression that they’re enjoying sex* more than they really are.

(Before anyone in the comments says ‘yeah well men do that too’, I know. This isn’t about them.)

Faking Orgasms

Any sexologist worth their saltiness will explain in detail how and why faking it has a negative impact on sexual satisfaction. Especially in a long-term relationship, amplifying the amount of pleasure to make it seem more than it really is will only encourage the partner to continue, when instead some minor changes might enhance the experience for both of you.

So why do we do it? What compels us to pretend to be orgasmic when really, we’re… not?

There are three primary reasons:

  • 57% of women who fake it do so because they want their partner to feel successful
  • 44% just wanted it to end because they were bored or tired
  • 37% didn’t want their partner to feel bad because they liked them

Ok, so those are the overarching reasons that women give for feigning climax. To understand these reasons, we need to look at the reasons behind the reasons. Sounds reasonable.

The team that conducted the study that produced the statistics above (their results can be found here) have theories. Well, one theory, and it’s kind of obviously true. They believe that a lack of sexual communication is partially responsible for orgasm acting.

It makes perfect sense. If we don’t feel comfortable telling a partner how we want to be touched for whatever reason, or if they’re not willing to be receptive to it for whatever reason, then what chance do we have of our desires being satisfied?

On the other hand, if we’re comfortable to express what we want and how, and our partners are receptive to it, then the outcome can only be positive for both of us. So what’s stopping us?

In the study, the majority of women who said they regularly fake climax do so because they find talking explicitly about sex embarrassing. They said that the discomfort of talking about unsatisfying sex was more desirable than the unsatisfying sex itself. So they put up, and shut up. (Or should that be put out, and shout out?)

As you might expect, it was the youngest age bracket in the study, 18-24, who were far more reluctant to communicate what they really wanted. But of all the women who said that fake it frequently, 55% said that they wanted to talk about it, but decided not to out of a combination of the need to protect their partner’s feelings, discomfort going into sexual details, and straight-up embarrassment.

Now, how about this for a fun little bit of sex trivia? The authors of the study found that women who “strongly agreed” with the statement “I feel comfortable using the word clitoris” were significantly more likely to report higher levels of sexual satisfaction compared to those who “strongly disagreed” with the statement.

So go to the bathroom, look your reflection in the eye, and just repeat the word ‘clitoris’ over and over again to yourself. Then, get comfortable saying that word to your partner and showing him or her how to touch yours!

*In this article, for ease of reader understanding, we are using the words sex and intercourse as synonymous, as is done in popular culture in general. Similarly, we use the word “foreplay” the way it is used in popular culture (i.e., the sexual acts such as oral sex that come before intercourse). However, as aptly pointed out by our sex expert Laurie Mintz, we would also like to acknowledge that such language exalts men’s most reliable rout to orgasm and linguistically erases women’s most reliable route to orgasm—clitoral stimulation, either alone or coupled with penetration. Indeed, only between 4% and 18% of women reliably orgasm from penetration alone. We look forward to the day when such language is not commonly used in culture.

Facts checked by:

Dr. Laurie Mintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Florida, teaching Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year. She has published over 50 research articles and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Mintz also has maintained a private practice for over 30 years, working with individuals and couples on general and sexual issues. She is also an author and speaker, spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance sexual pleasure.

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Written by: Stuart Nugent

With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it's fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO's resident sex geek, he's been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. Here on Volonte, he turns his spotlight onto the important events affecting sex right now in a regular op-ed. Views are his own.

One comment

  1. The reason I faked it in my first marriage was that he wasn’t open to input. I have never been squeamish about talking about sex, but when I made this or that suggestion, he would get defensive and hostile. I was an Olympic-calibre orgasm-er in those days, could climax with 2 – 3 minutes of penetration, after perhaps 10 minutes of foreplay. (A damned good thing, too, because that’s all I ever got!)

    Worse, he’d also get cranky if I didn’t come! (Ego too fragile to accept input from me; ego too fragile to accept ‘failure’.) So … when trying to make a suggestion got me angry defensiveness, and not-coming wasn’t an option, on those infrequent occasions it wasn’t happening, OF COURSE I’d fake it.

    Obviously, that marriage had to end, and eventually did!

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