Why People Fake Orgasms, Based On Their Personality Type

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It might not shock you to hear that people fake orgasms. How frequently it happens, however, just might. Oodles of studies and literature over the years show that anywhere from 25 to 75% of people have pretended to have an orgasm (or greatly embellished one) at some point in their lives.

What's less clear is why we do it. Sure, all sorts of motivations have been reported and observed over the years, from hoping the sex will end more quickly to wanting to avoid hurting a partner's feelings. But a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found the various reasons people feign orgasm are related to personality type and relationship type. In other words, specific types of people might be more likely to fake it for specific reasons.

Who fakes orgasms?

After polling over 650 men and women (with an average age of 32), the research team found a whopping 68 percent of participants had pretended to have an orgasm in the past. Of the remainder, 22 percent of them had "quasi-pretended" or embellished their sexual enjoyment to some degree. Together, that's a full 90 percent of people who'd engaged in some form of faking.

Unsurprisingly, women were a lot more likely to have pretended than men. However, men were guilty of bluffing in bed too: More than half of the men polled had completely faked an orgasm in the past, and plenty more had at least played up how much they were enjoying themselves.

But the real value of the study came later in the survey. After compiling a massive list of 37 reasons a person might fake an orgasm, based on previous research, the participants were asked to rate how accurately each reason described their reasons for faking in the past. From the results, the researchers were able to narrow down five key reasons people fake orgasms: positive feedback, boredom, pleasure or sexual enhancement, avoidance, and deception.

Each person also completed a series of personality tests and other assessments to understand their lifestyles and characteristics, including their levels of narcissism, manipulativeness (aka Machiavellianism), psychopathy, sexual confidence (i.e., how highly they perceived their own value as a mate), promiscuity (aka their "sociosexuality," referring to their preference toward short-term dating or long-term relationships), and their amount of sexual experience.

After putting all the data together, the team was able to create an insightful map of what kinds of people are most likely to fake orgasms and why they're most likely to do it. Below are the top five reasons people fake it, and what kinds of people tend to use each:

1. Positive feedback

The results showed the most common reason men and women fake orgasms is to provide encouragement to their partner or make them think they did a good job. Think the old "compliment sandwich" trick, where you praise someone, then give a bit of constructive feedback, and follow it up with more praise. It's an effective way to soften what could be a bit of an ego blow.

Who's more likely to fake it for encouragement:

  • In general, if you fully faked an orgasm, this was why you did it.
  • Women

Who's less likely to fake it for encouragement:

  • More promiscuous people (i.e., more sociosexual people, those who enjoy casual sex with many different partners)
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2. Boredom

The next most common reason people fake orgasms? Boredom!

This phenomenon has been studied and observed before, and the research here confirms it. Both men and women commonly find themselves bored and wanting the sex to end. Faking an orgasm is a pretty effective way of speeding things along. (It's worth adding a note here that "wanting the sex to end" doesn't always mean boredom, although that's how the researchers categorized it. People might want sex to end for a variety of reasons, including sexual pain, discomfort, and consent breaches.)

This was a common reason to fake it among people who aren't interested in a long-term commitment, perhaps because they may not see any value in working toward a better sexual experience. Meanwhile, people who sought long-term connections showed up less in this category, as did people with high self-esteem. These types of people may be more willing or comfortable giving more direct feedback.

Who's more likely to fake it out of boredom:

  • More manipulative people
  • Psychopaths
  • More promiscuous people
  • More sexually experienced people (i.e., people who've slept with more people)
  • Women

Who's less likely to fake it out of boredom:

  • More monogamous people
  • More confident people
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3. Pleasure or sexual enhancement

People also frequently fake or embellish an orgasm in order to enhance the sexual experience, whether their partner's or their own. In other words, they'd pretend to enjoy something hoping going through the motions would actually make it more enjoyable.

Who's more likely to fake it for pleasure:

  • Women
  • Narcissists
  • Psychopaths

4. Avoidance

Even for established couples, it can be a little awkward to talk about who didn't reach orgasm, why, and give feedback for next time. So a lot of people simply choose to avoid these conversations by just faking their orgasm.

Of course, the more manipulative among us showed up frequently in this category. But so did people with more prolific sexual histories, who may be quicker to move on to a new partner who suits them better rather than have a difficult discussion.

Notably, men were more likely to fake it to avoid the tough conversations than for any other reason.

Who's more likely to fake it in order to avoid an uncomfortable conversation:

  • More manipulative people
  • More sexually experienced people
  • Men

Who's less likely to fake it in order to avoid an uncomfortable conversation:

  • More monogamous people
  • More confident people
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5. Deception

Though rare compared to the other reasons on this list, a number of participants in the study admitted to faking or embellishing an orgasm in order to purposefully deceive a partner. Why? They may want the other person to think they're more engaged in the relationship than they actually are, or according to the study, may want to throw a partner off the scent of their cheating by being super enthusiastic in bed.

People with those darker personality traits (psychopathy, manipulativeness, and narcissism) were the most frequent offenders of this kind of deceit, but so were people who are just generally interested in casual flings. After all, no one who likes to date around would want to develop a reputation for being boring in bed.

Meanwhile, people with extremely high self-esteem and more interest in monogamy were unwilling to compromise or pretend, in favor of more direct communication.

Who's more likely to fake it in order to deceive a partner:

  • Narcissists
  • Psychopaths
  • More manipulative people
  • More promiscuous people
  • More sexually experienced people

Who's less likely to fake it in order to deceive a partner:

  • More monogamous people
  • More confident people
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Faking orgasms is a complex behavior. 

The phenomenon of fake orgasms is a lot more complicated than we once thought. Though pretending to get off as a "pat on the back" gesture is still the most common and universal reason, it's far from the only one. In fact, there's an intricate web of relationship motivations, personality traits, and sexual psychology that goes into why someone may or may not pretend to orgasm. And don't forget the role of "quasi-pretending," as the researchers so eloquently put it.

It's a good reminder to examine our own motivations if we ever find ourselves "embellishing." Are we doing it out of love and respect for the other person? Because we think it'll turn them on?

Or are we doing it to avoid awkward but much more fruitful channels of communication that would ultimately lead to better sex for everyone? After all, that's the goal—right?

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