We’re Lori and Jeff, married, licensed psychotherapists specializing in couple-to-couple relationship counseling and coaching at Aspen Relationship Institute. We’ve journeyed through the joys and challenges of marriage to create a connection that is powerful, tender, raw, and intimate.
She Said, He Said is a dual-perspective relationship advice column. This week we’re looking at the realities of faking orgasm.
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My girlfriend and I have been together for about two years and most things seem to be going well, except that I can’t really tell if she still enjoys having sex with me.
I’ve tried to ask her if there are any problems or things she would like me to do differently, and she sort of shrugs off my questions by saying that everything’s good. I’m worried she’s resigned herself to the fact that it’s just good enough.
My biggest concern is that she may be faking her enjoyment of sex with me. Is this something women do?
Questioning What’s Real
Lori and Jeff: The short answer is sometimes—but don’t worry just yet.
Men being surprised (and sometimes hurt) that women fake orgasm is a very prevalent theme in our culture. There’s the great “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry is shocked to find out that when he and Elaine dated, she regularly faked it. And there’s the well-known diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” where Sally’s orgasmic theatrics convince Harry to reconsider his belief that no woman has ever faked it with him.
Jeff: To quell your concerns even more, it might be helpful to know that men also fake orgasm. Studies show it happens less than half of the time it does with women, but it still happens. The fact that men fake orgasm gets a lot less attention because men tend to worry more about their partners faking orgasm than women do. For us, climaxing is almost always the end goal of having sex, so it holds more weight. We assume it’s the same with our female partners (it isn’t) so we are hyper-focused on whether or not they have the big “O,” and are more negatively impacted if they don’t.
Men also tend to attach more of their sense of confidence and masculinity to external events and experiences, so there’s more at stake when it comes to whether or not we can satisfy our partners. There’s also the belief that the better we are as lovers, the less chance there is for our partners to stray. This all may have a negative repercussion, however. Pressuring our partners to “enjoy” sex, so that it may better reflect upon our own sense of worth, might be encouraging women to fake it more often.
Lori: Okay men, deep breath. Research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2010 indicated that about 80 percent of women fake orgasm about half the time that they are unable to climax. But much more importantly than the numbers is the why. The main reason for fictitious “oohs” and “aahs” is actually encouragement. Women know that most men are goal directed between the sheets. They want to please and often don’t want to stop until the task is completed.
Women, on the other hand know, that a true firework finale is sometimes mission impossible. Faking is a way of letting you off the hook without you putting your performance into question. Women don’t want a 5K to turn into a marathon when they know there’s no way to cross the finish line. But they also don’t want to sour the experience for their partner. The fact that a woman has faked also does not mean that she didn’t enjoy the connection and pleasure of being intimate. Ultimately it’s the woman’s responsibility to determine the type of experience she wants to have in any given encounter. And, (ladies listen up!) if she wants more from your sex life together, it’s on her to show you how.
Lori and Jeff: If you’re concerned she’s faking, you have a couple of options. First, you can continue to ask for feedback in the moment about how to get more dialed in to her. Second, consider giving her an out. You can let her know it’s okay if she can’t get there, but to do so, you may have to put aside your ego. Focus on enjoying intimacy as a journey together rather than trying to be a stud who sends her into orbit.