When Is It Okay To Fake An Orgasm?

Sometimes lines from Kenny Rogers’ famous song, The Gambler, apply eerily well to life, love and even sex. The whole “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” even works with orgasms. After all, with experience, women and men often develop some sense of when to persist in their quest for an orgasm and when to give up. And while some people truly do fold their orgasm cards and let their partner know that an orgasm is unlikely, but the sex is great regardless, others embrace the other four letter F word that’s relevant to sex: they fake it.

Fake anything generally gets a bad rap. I will not, for example, eat fake crab. Nor am I a fan of fake designer handbags and I’m certainly not one to fake an orgasm. But some women and men do fake orgasms. And who’s to say there’s anything wrong with that?

I often tell the story of a woman I know who knows an awful lot about sex. She also knows all sorts of things about her own body, including what types of stimulation and pleasure are likely to lead her to orgasm during sex with a partner. But you know what? She fakes orgasms with new partners. From her perspective, she hopes that faking her orgasm helps to enhance her partners’ self-esteem. As time goes along, she shows them how to please her – teaching them new ways of licking or stroking, while never letting on that the old techniques never worked in the first place. Given how much some people need to feel as though they are pleasing their partner the way they want to, this could be a good idea for some.

I’ve also heard from various men, women and couples who struggle with orgasm. Often, the woman does not orgasm and she chooses not to fake it, but to be honest about her experience and communicate with her partner about (a) how to make it work for her or (b) how she doesn’t need an orgasm in order to feel sexually satisfied. In some cases, a woman’s partner has been unable to comprehend how sex without an orgasm could possibly be satisfying. No amount of convincing on the woman’s part seems to make it better. These different views of sex have caused problems in some relationships and even contributed to the end of a few I know. Would it have been easier in these cases if the woman simply faked it?  Or were they cases in which the man not accepting the woman’s experience reflected bigger problems in their ability to communicate with each other or accept one another?

Women and men pretend to have orgasms for any number of reasons: to end sex without making it a big deal, because they’re tired, because they want to make their partner feel special or skilled, or even because they wonder if they can indeed be that convincing. To learn how to explore your body, alone or with a partner, in ways that ease your experience of pleasure and possibly orgasm, check out Because It Feels Good or For Yourself.

Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a research scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, a widely read sex columnist and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Satisfaction.

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About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • http://reclaimyoursexuality.com DrCastellanos

    Debby,
    This continues to be a dilemma because our society is still primarily orgasm-focused. When people are able to move beyond this to accept ALL of the pleasures that their sexuality and sexual contact can bring, then there is not so much pressure on the orgasm – either to have it as an end point or base their evaluation of the whole experience just on the orgasm. Thanks for posting this.

    By the way, when are you coming to New York?

    ReclaimYourSexuality.com

  • http://askgarnet.com Garnet Joyce

    So nice to see a non-villifying portrayal of orgasm fakers. Sometimes it is okay to fake an orgasm, who are we to judge? When I was much younger and able to orgasm from piv sex alone I used to fake an orgasm or two to get the ball rolling. It wasn’t about a performance for my partner or anything like that. Instead, it was about faking out my own body. I found that if I just faked the first one or two orgasms that the real ones came a lot faster.

  • Debby Herbenick

    Thanks, Garnet. What a great example of “fake it ’til you make it!” :)

  • Debby Herbenick

    Thanks, Dr. Castellanos! No immediate plans for NYC but hopefully soon… it’s a great city.