Faking Orgasm: A White Lie?

Who fakes orgasms?

In early 2020, Club Sexu posted a survey on social media, which was filled out by 2,530 of its followers. According to the survey’s data, 74% of women, 80% of 🌈 people, and 42% of men reported having faked an orgasm at some point in their lives! According to other research, about one in two women have faked it, compared to one in four men – yep, women aren’t the only ones to fake orgasms (Muehlenhard & Shippee, 2010)! Compared to other samples, Club Sexu’s followers therefore seem to be more likely to have faked it.

Why fake orgasm?

We fake orgasms for several reasons (Muehlenhard & Shippee, 2010; Séguin et al., 2015)! For example:

  • To please our partners;
  • To give them the impression that they’ve done a good job;
  • To make them believe that we had a simultaneous orgasm;
  • To turn on our partners (or ourselves!);
  • To end the sexual encounter;
  • To avoid appearing abnormal or inadequate;
  • To prevent our partners from losing interest in us.

In a study I published in 2015, the #1 reason for pretending to orgasm, for both women and men, was to please and reassure their partners (Séguin et al., 2015). This research also showed that men were more likely than women to fake an orgasm because they’d had too much to drink, found the sexual encounter boring or unpleasant, or to avoid appearing abnormal.

When you think about it, people fake orgasms because of an expectation or imperative: orgasm “should” be achieved every time we have sex. But where does this expectation come from? Why is having an orgasm such a big deal? Because an orgasm is rarely “just” an orgasm.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “orgasm”? Something along the lines of fun and pleasure? Sexual release? Or wellbeing and self-care? At first glance, that is indeed what orgasm seems to be – reaching that ultimate, intense, pleasurable sensation during sex or masturbation, followed by a sense of release and satisfaction. Yet, the more you think about it, the more you realize that physical pleasure is just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, for many of us, seeing our partner get off brings us enormous pleasure and satisfaction, not only due to the ego boost, but also simply because it’s fun to know that a person we like has experienced intense pleasure (Séguin & Blais, 2019). Many also consider orgasms to be an important part of healthy relationships, as it can serve as a marker of trust, commitment, and intimacy (Lavie & Willig, 2005).

Moreover, most of us, regardless of gender, find that orgasm is a beautiful way of experiencing a moment of intense connection with our partners (Séguin & Blais, 2019; Séguin & Blais, 2021). Conversely, when our partners don’t orgasm, many of us feel disappointed or insecure: “Is it my fault?”, “Is it because they don’t find me attractive?” (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014). And when we are the ones who are having trouble coming, we may be afraid of disappointing or hurting our partners (Nicolson & Burr, 2003).

If orgasms are seen as important and meaningful on a relational level, it’s therefore unsurprising that many of us see faking orgasm as justified when we have trouble getting off.

What if our partners have faked it with us?

While many of us fake orgasms, most of us aren’t too fond of the idea that our partners have faked it with us, whether often or only once. For example:

  • We may feel worried that our partners have chosen to be inauthentic rather than honest with us (“Are they afraid to be direct with me? Don’t they trust me?”);
  • We might think it must be because they find our sex life unsatisfying or because there’s a problem in our relationship;
  • We can lose trust in our partners, especially if they had been faking orgasm very often;
  • We may think that faking orgasm maintains or leads to unsatisfying sex.

But is faking orgasm truly problematic?

It mainly depends on why we fake the big O. According to my own research conducted among 500 people who had faked orgasm, faking was only rarely associated with sexual satisfaction and sexual desire, and when it was, it was more “positive” than one might expect (Séguin & Milhausen, 2016; Séguin & Milhausen, unpublished data). Specifically, faking it to spice things up, to make our partners feel as though they did a good job, and because we had too much to drink was linked to more sexual satisfaction and desire. The only time faking orgasm was negatively associated with desire and satisfaction was when it was done because the sex sucked (big surprise!).

So it seems faking the big O isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least as long as you’re not doing it because you’re having a bad time in bed.

That said, whether intentional or not, faking involves a lack of communication and, in a sense, being dishonest with our partners. When we don’t communicate openly and honestly, our needs are not being met (whether they involve having an orgasm, sharing other sensual pleasures, or even putting an end to the sexual encounter) and we also deprive ourselves of an authentic connection with our partners. Also, according to data from Club Sexu’s survey, it might pay to be authentic! Respondents who had ever pretended to orgasm were more likely to not have reached orgasm the last time they had sex.

Take-home messages

If you pretend to orgasm, remember that most people much prefer their partners to be authentic during sex and honest about orgasm – whether or not it was achieved (Séguin, unpublished interview data). Honesty is seen as preferable to faking it because it nurtures trust, intimacy, and connection between partners.

If your partners fake orgasm, rest assured: it’s rare for a person to fake it because they find that their partners are bad in bed. In most cases, it’s to turn on or reassure their partners (Muehlenhard & Shippee, 2010; Séguin et al., 2015). Also, faking orgasm is rarely associated with being unhappy or unsatisfied with one’s relationship or sex life (Séguin & Milhausen, 2016; Séguin & Milhausen, unpublished data).

That said, we must remember that we all feel more free to be honest and authentic during sex when our partners don’t pressure us into having an orgasm. So, if our partners tell us that they won’t reach orgasm and that it’s not a big deal for them, we should listen to and believe them and not take it personally.

The most important thing is that everyone experiences pleasure, whether or not that pleasure involves orgasms. And there are tons of different ways of having fun!

  • Lavie, M. & Willig, C. (2005). “I don’t feel like melted butter”: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of ‘inorgasmia’. Psychology and Health, 20(1), 115-128. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870440412331296044 

    Muehlenhard, C. L. & Shippee, S. K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending orgasm. The Journal of Sex Research, 47(6), 552-567. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490903171794 

    Nicolson, P. & Burr, J. (2003). What is ‘normal’ about women’s (hetero)sexual desire and orgasm?: A report of an in-depth interview study. Social Science & Medicine, 57(9), 1735-1745. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12081

    Salisbury, C. M. A. & Fisher, W. A. (2014). “Did you come?” A qualitative exploration of gender differences in beliefs, experiences, and concerns regarding female orgasm occurrence during heterosexual sexual interactions. The Journal of Sex Research, 51(6), 616-631. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2013.838934 

    Séguin, L. J. & Blais, M. (2019). Pleasure is just the tip of the iceberg: Social representations, personal beliefs, and attributed meanings to partnered orgasm. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 28(3), 328-342. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjhs.2019-0027 

    Séguin, L. J. & Blais, M. (2021). The development and validation of the Orgasm Beliefs Inventory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50(6), 2543-2561. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-01911-2

    Séguin L. J., Milhausen, R. R., & Kukkonen, T. (2015). The development and validation of the motives for feigning orgasms scale (MFOS). Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 31-48. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjhs.2613   

    Séguin, L. J. &  Milhausen, R. (2016). Not all fakes are created equal: Examining the relationships between men’s motives for pretending orgasm and sexual desire, and relationship and sexual satisfaction. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 31(2), 159-175. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2016.1158803