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October 20, 2022

"Did you orgasm?" 

Many of us have been hit with that awkward question, and I'll admit that I've found it easier to just say yes sometimes. Having an uncomfortable conversation about my sexual satisfaction isn't how I want to end most nights.

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Eventually, I found it easier to just pretend, and my partners stopped asking. These little white lies seemed harmless at first, but the lack of communication was hurting my sex life, and my less-than-ideal sex life was tanking my relationships.

And I know I'm not alone here: One 2019 study found well over half of women have faked an orgasm1 at least once before.

Why fake an orgasm?

It's no secret that society hasn't always valued female pleasure, but why do women feel the need to pretend instead of being honest about their sexual experience? 

The aforementioned study found that 59% of women had faked orgasms, and 55% said they wanted to talk about sex with their partner but decided not to. Here are some common reasons why:

  • 42% said they didn't want to hurt their partner's feelings. 
  • 40% weren't comfortable going into detail. 
  • 38% were embarrassed. 
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I've also had clients and friends confess that failing to reach orgasm led to a conversation that felt like a chore. One client had started antidepressants—which can make it difficult to have an orgasm—and couldn't consistently achieve orgasm for the first couple of months. This upset her boyfriend, who insisted on trying to solve the "problem," even though she said she was enjoying her sex life. Eventually, she started faking orgasms so she wouldn't have to talk about it. Her partner wanted to communicate, but he wasn't listening to the fact that she was sexually satisfied without orgasms as she got used to her medication.

Our partners (men especially) sometimes stake their egos on our sexual satisfaction. We know this, so we often fake it to avoid making them feel like sexual failures. In other cases, our partners simply don't care whether or not we reach orgasm or don't consider it at all, and it's easier to fake it since they won't listen to our suggestions.

Perhaps the most frustrating reason is that our partners simply don't understand our orgasms. It's not any more difficult for a woman to reach orgasm than a man, but it usually takes more than vaginal intercourse.

No two women are the same either. Several of my female partners have had to help me help them come, and vice versa. Sometimes it just feels easier to fake it than to try to explain your unique sexual sensations to another person.

Why you need to stop faking orgasms. 

If you "fake it till you make it"…you'll never make it.

Faking orgasms is a slippery slope that never leads to a positive outcome. Even in one-night stands (unless you fear for your safety), it doesn't help either of you to fake an orgasm.

Why?

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1.

You're committing to lackluster sex.

By faking orgasms, you're conditioning your partner to be sexually incompatible with you. If you act pleased with what they're doing, why would they change?

2.

You're associating your partner with sexual dissatisfaction.

You may not think it's important at the moment, but our experiences with people sink into our subconscious minds. As you associate your partner with dissatisfaction, you'll steadily begin to feel more distant, and it will be even more difficult to enjoy sex. Even worse, it can disconnect your mind from your sensations, making it harder to reach orgasm in general.

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3.

It's a form of lying.

It may seem harmless, but ask yourself: Why don't you trust your partner with this conversation? Why aren't you comfortable with this conversation? Plus, your partner might already know you're faking orgasms and be bottling up their own dissatisfaction.

4.

It'll be hard to change things down the road. 

Like any lie, it's hard to dig yourself out of. Once you decide to ask them to change their sexual behaviors, they'll begin to wonder if they've been satisfying you up to that point.

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5.

It builds the expectation of an orgasm every time, which isn't always realistic.

We need to normalize the fact that, regardless of gender, not all people will reach orgasm during sex every time. It could be anxiety, stress, physical ailment, medication, or any number of reasons that prevent an orgasm. On occasion, this is normal, and we shouldn't be treating it like a sexual failure on either side.

6.

It may signal a larger issue in the relationship.

As a sex therapist, I say this every chance I get. If you don't feel safe expressing discomfort or displeasure during sex, then your relationship is not healthy, and you need to get out. Even if you believe it will lead to an argument, defensiveness, or verbal abuse—run.

Sex isn't "just sex." It's an intimate part of your relationship that carries as much weight as any other part. If your sex life isn't healthy, then your relationship isn't healthy. Before we get into fixing your sex life, it's important to make sure that you have a partner who's open to communication and cares about your satisfaction and well-being.

For example, I had a client who never orgasmed with her partner because he refused to let her be on top. He simply didn't like it, felt it was emasculating, and didn't care whether or not she was satisfied. She faked orgasms to placate him, but it wouldn't have mattered either way. The relationship was toxic, and having better sex wasn't going to fix it.

As we start to talk about coming clean, the assumption is that your partner cares about you, treats you as an equal, and is willing to listen and communicate.

How to come clean.

If you're deep in the faker game, it can feel near-impossible to stop. The best way to bring authenticity back to your sex life is to try a solution that's proportionate to the problem. This means bringing back honest sex in the same measure that you let it go.

If you've only faked a few orgasms:

It's best to just let the cat out of the bag. Try not to surprise your partner with this information during sex; rather, let them know you want to talk about it and set aside time.

It will likely be an uncomfortable conversation, but it clears the air and sets an honest tone for sex afterward. Explain what you do like about having sex with them, what you don't like, and what you would like to add.

Ask them how they're feeling about sex too. Are they enjoying it? Do they want to try different things? 

If you've been faking it for a long time:

Try gradually changing the tone of your sex life. Let your partner know you want to communicate more. Don't be afraid to stop during sex and switch positions, ask your partner to do something, or use toys.

(Here are our guides to the best oral sex positions and best sex toys for couples for a little inspo.)

What needs to change:

Maybe you're unsure how to reach orgasm together and need to do a little research—which is also a great tactic if you feel like your partner is unsatisfied. Ultimately, you and your partner will feel better when you like what each other likes.

It's also important to set expectations. Many of us don't reach orgasm from internal stimulation, but our partners can't know that unless we tell them. There are also times when one of you won't be able to reach orgasm but still want to have sex. It's OK to tell your partner this.

However, if you're rarely or never able to reach orgasm, that may be indicative of a larger problem, and you may need to talk with a doctor or experiment with other forms of stimulation.

The takeaway.

You have the right to be satisfied.

While it can sometimes feel easier to fake an orgasm, you're not doing yourself or your partner any favors. You have just as much right to sexual satisfaction as your partner, and they deserve a fair shot at pleasing you.

We fake orgasms to keep other people happy because society tells us their happiness is more important than our sexuality, but it isn't. Never cheat yourself of a healthy sex life just because someone else wants you to smile and look happy.

It's never too late to start talking about sex openly and honestly, and it's never a bad thing to try.