Although the discussion of fake orgasms dates back at least 100 years,1 the diner scene in the 1989 classic movie When Harry Met Sally and a 1993 episode of Seinfeld, brought the discussion of fake orgasms into the mainstream, where it has generally remained for the last three decades. Following this discussion, research on fake orgasms has suggested that upwards of one-half to two-thirds of women have faked it.2 But, despite how common faking orgasms may be, very little empirical research has attempted to understand why heterosexual women choose to (or choose not) fake orgasm. Until now.
Five hundred women were asked about why they faked orgasm in the past. Their responses revealed four distinct motivations for faking it during intercourse:2
1) Altruistic Deceit – Some women fake orgasm out of concern for their partners’ feelings. They want their male partners to feel good about his sexual skills, or at least keep him from feeling bad that he didn’t deliver. Sample items:
- So your partner isn’t ashamed if you don’t have a real orgasm
- You are fearful of hurting your partner’s feelings, self-esteem, or confidence if you don’t achieve orgasm
2) Fear and Anxiety – Another reason a woman might fake orgasm is to keep her partner from thinking that there is something wrong with her because she can’t (or doesn’t) achieve orgasm. That is, faking it helps mask her insecurities about not having an orgasm. Sample items:
- Your partner might think there is something wrong with you if you don’t orgasm
- You are ashamed you can’t reach orgasm
3) Elevated arousal – Women also fake orgasms to increase their own arousal and to increase their own pleasure during sex. The idea here is that women may fake it because it enhances sex for them. Sample items:
- To turn yourself on
- To increase the excitement of your sexual experience
4) Sexual Adjournment – Finally, women fake orgasm to end sex. Simply put, they just want to get it over with and move on. Sample items:
- You simply aren’t enjoying yourself
- You want to go to sleep
Although this study is interesting because it identifies women’s motivations for faking orgasm, it doesn’t examine what type of women fake orgasm for each of the reasons that are identified. But that’s how science goes: the first step is to figure out how to measure the topics of interest, and future studies can use these measures in interesting follow-up research.
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1Robinson, W. J. (1917). Woman: Her sex and love life. New York: Eugenics Publishing Company.
2Cooper, E. B., Fenigstein, A., & Fauber, R. L. (2014). The faking orgasm scale for women: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 423-435.
Dr. Le’s research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.