Feigning Pleasure

Feigning Pleasure

Most women, at one time or another, have faked an orgasm.

Perhaps that’s why so many women can relate to that classic scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally.’ Almost everyone does it! Thirty years on, research still supports this claim.

A new study in Archives of Sexual Behaviour, led by Dr. Debby Herbenick and her colleagues at Indiana University, shows that 58 per cent of women have ever faked an orgasm during sex with a partner. However, of these women, most (67 percent) reported that they no longer did.

The survey was conducted among more than 1000 women between the ages of 18 and 94, 93% of whom self-identified as heterosexual.

The most common reasons women gave for faking an orgasm were wishing sex to be over because they were tired, wanting their partner to feel successful, and liking the person and not wanting to hurt their feelings.

Faking orgasm functions in part to preserve and protect a male’s ego.

In other words, faking orgasm functions in part to preserve and protect a male’s ego. This aligns with studies of men: women’s orgasm isn’t solely about women’s sexual pleasure, but also about men’s own feelings of masculinity and competence as skilled and able lovers.

Other reasons women gave for faking orgasms included being young and insecure, falling out of love with a partner, feeling pressured to orgasm, difficulties with having an orgasm due to past sexual abuse, and not knowing what an orgasm feels like for women.

When looking at women’s reasons for no longer faking orgasm, more than 90 per cent said they felt greater comfort with sex, greater confidence as a woman, or greater acceptance from their partner, regardless of whether they had an orgasm or not. Simply put, women felt secure enough in themselves, in their relationships, and in their sex lives.

The remaining 10 per cent reported a variety of other reasons: they had a different partner, they were now having sex with women, they started experiencing genuine orgasms, they were more in tune with their sexual needs, or they no longer worried about upsetting the person they were having sex with.

Many women are not supported to have open and explicit conversations about sex and, more specifically, sexual stimulation.

Unsurprisingly, women who had more difficulty communicating about sex with their partner, either because of embarrassment, discomfort or concerns about what their partner may think, were more likely to feel sexually dissatisfied and to report still faking orgasm.

On the other hand, strong agreement with statements like, “I find it easy to use words like ‘clitoris’ when I talk with my partner about sex and pleasure” and “My partner and I are able to talk specifically about what makes sex more pleasurable for us” was significantly associated with both sexual satisfaction and no longer feigning pleasure.

This is consistent with previous research showing that communication about sexuality is important to the development of satisfying sexual experiences, but tends to be lacking among couples have difficulties experiencing orgasm.

This is not unusual. Many women are not supported to have open and explicit conversations about sex and, more specifically, sexual stimulation, particularly when it concerns female sexual anatomy including the vulva, clitoris, labia, and vagina.

In fact, these conversations are often prohibited and censored in society, apparent when Canadian gynaecologist Dr. Jennifer Gunter was blocked from using the word “vagina” in promotional ads for her new book about vaginal health, “The Vagina Bible.”

The consequence of this sex negative culture is that many women are sexually active for a number of years before they feel comfortable and confident articulating and exploring their sexual bodies, interests, and desires.

Case in point, women in Herbenick’s study were, on average, in their mid-twenties before they felt self-assured telling a partner how they wanted to be touched or how they wanted to have sex, and before they felt like their sexual pleasure mattered to anyone. However, this had a wide age including up to 65 years and about one in five women reported never having felt this way.

No wonder nearly 60% of women have feigned pleasure at some point in their lifetime! For some, faking an orgasm may bring unwanted, uncomfortable, or unsatisfying sexual acts to a faster end.

These findings suggest that having more authentic, enjoyable sex requires communicating openly and honestly about your sexual needs, including preferred kinds of touch, activities, and techniques.

For most women, direct clitoral stimulation is key to orgasm, in addition to a variety of sexual acts, like oral sex and deep kissing.

Having said that, not every sexual experience is going to be mind-blowing. Nor is it the case that orgasm is required for an activity to qualify as pleasurable.

Sex is not a performance. It’s an experience.

This article was originally published on Find Your Pleasure.

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