Robert W. Birch, Ph.D., ACS
Certified Sexologist & Adult Sexuality Educator

        In today’s "sexually liberated" society, we have become increasingly aware of a woman’s sexual potential and her ability to be as reliably orgasmic as her male partner, and quite often more so. With the increase in research on the female sexual response, there has been a proliferation of articles and books portraying all women as readily orgasmic at least once during each sexual encounter. Men have come to expect it, but still are likely ask, "Did you make it, baby?" All too often the woman has not, but she feels the need to answer, "Oh yes!"
        In talking with women, I have identified four basic reasons women have for faking an orgasm:

1.        The first reason has to do with the woman’s perception of herself. If she feels inadequate because of her inability to orgasm, she might not wish to disclose this "sexual disability." In these cases, the woman usually believes an orgasm should be easy and reliable. Since she is not getting there, she feels abnormal and too embarrassed to talk about it with her partner. To maintain her image, she fakes her orgasms.
        Frequently the woman who needs to pretend in order to project what she thinks to be the normal female sexual response has read either too much or not enough. If she has read all of the "super-sex" books, she feels grossly inadequate in comparison with descriptions of women who are multiply orgasmic or who orgasm with breast stimulation (or less). She is probably unaware of the estimate that around 15% of all women have never experienced a climax.
        To complicate the problem, many women believe that their orgasms should occur only during intercourse. While reliably orgasmic with manual or oral stimulation, they will still complain that they are not having orgasms "the right way." The majority of women, however, are not orgasmic during intercourse – never have been.– never will be. Unlike the male, who typically orgasms with the stimulation of vaginal thrusting, only between 25 and 35% of all women do.
        The expectation that the woman should climax as easily as the man during intercourse is frequently reinforced by the male partner who also believes that this is the way it should happen. In support of this belief, many men claim to have had large numbers of partners, all of whom, they claim, have had orgasms during intercourse. My reaction is that they have either been extremely lucky, they didn’t know the difference, or they have encountered a lot of women worthy of an Academy Award for their bedroom acting. (Remember the 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally?")
        The male’s expectations of what should happen is the second reason why some women fake orgasm. Acutely aware of the "fragile male ego," these women fake orgasm not to protect themselves, but to protect the man. They sense that their partner would be devastated if he even suspected that he was not stimulating her to orgasm. The need to protect the delicate male ego is heightened if the partner happens to be one of those men who believes that he has brought every one of his previous partners to orgasm. She dare not disappoint him. She fears that he will either blame her for being broken, or blame himself for being so incompetent. She might also fear that unless he always feels successful in her bed, he might abandon her in the quest for a woman who can maintain his sexual self-image.

2.        Many men who can only bring their partners to orgasm with manual or oral stimulation worry, as men are apt to do, about the size of their penises or their durability: "If I were only big enough," or "If I could only last long enough," they obsess. However, it is not size nor stay-power that makes a difference. It is clear that intercourse is ineffective for many women because they are not receiving enough direct clitoral stimulation. The walls of a vagina are relatively insensitive, whereas the clitoris is rich with erotic nerve endings and is the source of sexual pleasure for most women. Hence, more women orgasm during manual or oral stimulation of the clitoris than during intercourse. (Some positions work better for women.)
        A woman’s difficulty in reaching climax during intercourse becomes a problem only when one or both of the partners expect the orgasm to happen as the man thrusts into the woman’s vagina. If early in the relationship she began faking orgasm to maintain her image as an adequate lover or to protect his ego, it might work for a while. As the relationship grows, however, the woman might become frustrated with her lack of orgasms but might feel guilty about not being honest.
        In many instances the woman is too embarrassed to admit her past deception, worrying that her partner will be disappointed, will lose trust, or be angry. I have counseled many women faced with this dilemma. Should she seek her own sexual satisfaction by owning up to her "little white lies" at the risk of damaging an otherwise good relationship, or should she maintain the deception and risk never sharing orgasmic bliss with this partner? Many women opt to maintain the secret at the expense of their own gratification.

3.        A third reason why some women fake orgasm has to do with their concept of love and sex. One woman told me, "I love him so very much. I just can’t understand why I can’t get there!" If we feel good about ourselves, feel good about our partner, and feel good about the physical intimacy shared, the physical sex is likely to be good. But, we cannot negate the role of the body or of the importance of knowledge. If a man is off-target by a quarter of an inch in his stimulation of his partner’s clitoris, the woman will probably not orgasm. Intense and devoted love does not compensate for a misdirected caress.
        If the woman believes, however, that the level of her love dictates her orgasmic response or that her partner might interpret her lack of orgasm as a lack of love, she might fake the orgasm to convince herself or her partner of her undying devotion. Clearly, the ability to reach orgasm is not related to the ability to love. It makes no more sense to believe that the lack of orgasm signals a lack of love any more than believing that having an orgasm is a sure sign that love exists. I have seen many women who have fallen out of love but continue to orgasm with that same partner, well after the affection had died.

4.        The final reason that some women fake orgasm is to get it over with. These women say, "I hate sex, but I know it’s my duty as a woman. I fake orgasms so that he’ll hurry up and finish!" Giving the phony message, "I just came" gives the man permission to finish also. Since the average man can ejaculate in less than three minutes with rapid thrusting, a non-aroused female can invite penetration, encourage vigorous intercourse and fake a simultaneous orgasm, with the whole precess, from beginning to end, being finished in a matter of minutes.
        It is essential to remember that the range of sexual response among women is quite wide. Some women never reach orgasm, others have frequent orgasms, while still others have several. There is no standard to describe all women.
        Each woman uniquely falls somewhere along the continuum from never to always and from zero to many . . . and each woman might find that her orgasmic response changes over the course of a month or over the course of her life.
        The vast majority of women who can reach a high level of arousal can learn to reach orgasm if they are motivated to do so. Why fake orgasms when it is possible to have real ones? Societal messages and unrealistic expectations play a role in setting a woman up to pretend. Men, also being a product of our "super-perfect-sex" society, share some of the responsibility for creating an atmosphere in which a woman believes she must fake it. Men who assume that they know all about female sexuality but persist in the belief that they can do all the magic with their penises need to be reeducated about the realities of female anatomy and physiology.
        Because the majority of women cannot reach a climax with intercourse alone, men need to explore other forms of stimulation while women need to be open in giving directions. The success of the encounter should not be measured by how or whether the woman reaches orgasm. Evaluating a sexual experience as a "success" or "failure" detracts from the pleasure of the intimacy and puts pressure on both the man and the woman to do better the next time.
        Within a caring sexual encounter, open communication is essential, and there is much to be said for frank discussion and playful experimentation. With honesty comes the challenge of exploration, the thrill of discovery and the emotional bonding that grows out of a genuinely intimate encounter.
        If a woman has felt the need to pretend, she should ask herself the following questions: Am I faking orgasm to project a false image of myself as a way to protect myself from having to deal with my own feelings of inadequacy? Am I presenting an image so that my partner’s ego is not threatened? Am I confusing sexual response with love? What will I gain and what will I lose if I’m honest?
        A woman should ask herself, "Am I rushing intercourse and faking orgasm so that I can avoid sexual or emotional intimacy? Do I, as a woman, need to work on my comfort level and learn more about female sexuality in general and my own sexuality in particular?"
        A woman can derive erotic pleasure and gratification from a genuine sexual experience, but there might be some risks involved. But, as in many aspects of life, growth cannot occur without risk, and sexual growth is no exception.
        For many people, both men and women, the idea of honest sexual communication initially stirs anxiety. In the long run, however, honesty is once more the best policy and really getting to really know a partner sexually is the greatest form of intimacy possible.

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