Allow me to make an observation: women in general don’t seem to be completely sexually satisfied with their partners. That’s right, I said most women. Feminist women, adventurous women, dominant women, women who have casual sex, even women who know their partner is good in bed, and all of their counterparts. Orgasm fakery is an equal-opportunity phenomenon. If it makes you angry or uncomfortable to hear it, it should. Women are capable of having orgasms, and I think we can all pretty much agree that women SHOULD be having them.
I know, I know, all you people-who-fuck-women: Nobody has ever faked an orgasm with YOU. Wonderful, unique, sexually-evolved, toned, self-aware, intelligent, powerful, well-endowed, successful, generous YOU. Perhaps you think you can feel it or sense it, or you take the time to tell your female partner that you can go as long as it takes (as if its always an issue of time), and one or two or perhaps all three of these things is your insurance policy. And yes, in those few moments of doubt, you assure yourself that if a woman ever faked it with you, surely you would know, and immediately after her artfully-orchestrated screams of theatrical ecstasy, you would jump out of bed, point your finger at her and loudly declare, “YOU LIAR! YOU JUST FAKED IT!” Then, after your indictment was complete, you would selflessly throw yourself back into bed–like the good lover you are–and make her cum, even if it took two hours and gave you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But THAT would never happen, because you clearly know what you are doing, and a woman would never even have the CHANCE to fake it with you.
Well, brace yourself: statistics say differently. While the shame and secrecy surrounding faking it doesn’t exactly allow for accurate polling, it’s estimated that at least 60 percent of women fake orgasms on a regular basis, and some polls even report as high as 80 percent. And out of that overwhelming majority of women who say they do fake it, 100 percent said their partners had no ability to distinguish between a real orgasm and a fake one.
With this information, it’s pretty obvious that we can all rest assured that women are deceptive, evil she-beasts. In addition, we can also conclude that anyone who has ever slept with a woman has absolutely zero clue what they are doing, can’t trust whether an orgasm is real or not real, and that we should all just swear off sex in favor of the one fail-safe method we know to be successful: masturbate by yourself, fall asleep crying, wake up, devote all your free time to your stamp collection, and sneer at anyone you may find remotely attractive.
Personally, though, I think that idea sucks. So, how about all of us–as a collective group of female-orgasm-lovers–try to get some perspective, gain some knowledge, and practice better communication? After all, great communication and great sex always go hand-in-hand.
Let me share a first-hand account with you by admitting something: I am the 60-80 percent. Or should I say, I was. I was so good at faking orgasms, I could have turned it into a career. I could have won an Oscar for Best Actress, or a Nobel Prize for Climax Thespianism, or some other super-awesome award. Did I fake them because I just loved lying to my partner and the fact that they believed it was somehow satisfying to me? No way.
Perhaps not a lot of the partners of women sit around and ponder why a woman would fake an orgasm. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But for those who do wonder, there is an answer. While some articles you’ve read have a million reasons–she wants it to be over with, you’re not good at sex, she’s tired, the framed picture of you and your grandmother sitting on your nightstand is distracting–at the root of all of those is a common conclusion: women fake orgasms, because they know you have the best intentions. They’re also pretty sure they aren’t going to have one, and they don’t want you to beat yourself up about it but know you will. Babysitting your pity-party over her not having an orgasm is a much larger pain in the ass than pretending for a few seconds that you’ve satisfied her and sparing your feelings. Believe it or not, a woman CAN enjoy sex without having an orgasm. If this idea seems hard to wrap your head around, ask yourself this: When was the last time you had an orgasm from a backrub? Just because you don’t get off from something doesn’t mean it doesn’t still feel good in some way. It’s the idea that she HAS to have one, and that if she doesn’t, something is horribly wrong, that potentially robs sex of any remaining joy for her.
The trouble is, with being constantly shortchanged comes resentment and dissatisfaction. This is why the truth has come out in bitter, spiteful ways at the tail end of many, many relationships. It’s also responsible for instances when the first time a woman’s partner ever hears that she wasn’t getting what she wanted comes after they can no longer do anything about it. Fake orgasms destroy relationships, shatter confidence in both men and women, and perpetuate a cycle of deception and disappointment that is hard to break once it begins. Essentially, whether you’re the faker or the fakee, your accountability can be summed up like this: “It’s your own fault, but it’s not your fault.” See how it’s not making life easier for anyone?
Throughout my faking career, I rarely had a partner question if I was being honest (if they ever did, it was always after the fact, and I felt an obligation to uphold the lie). In my mind, there was a good reason I faked it. I felt that it was MY body that wasn’t responding to something, a faked orgasm was something I could quietly reconcile in my own mind without placing the “burden” on someone else, and for a long time, I didn’t know how to have an orgasm or thought my body just couldn’t do it from sex (which I later found out is very common). Whenever I had tried to be honest that I didn’t have one, I got one response: “The other women I slept with ALL had orgasms. Why can’t I give YOU one? What’s wrong with you? I did what I always do!” Trying to politely explain that at least one of their past partners most likely faked it didn’t help my cause. In fact, the faked orgasm is so common and so carefully shrouded in secrecy, that it might be the only kind of orgasm a woman’s partner has ever witnessed–not because they are doing something intentionally wrong, but because they had a string of female partners who faked it. As the expression goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know, because you don’t know it.”
The first time I actually HAD an orgasm, my partner asked if I had faked it because I wasn’t as loud or enthusiastic as I usually was. Then he asked me why I seemed so tired afterward, since all the “other” orgasms I had had before that (and the orgasms all the other women had) followed with me getting out of bed to do some rigorous activity like take a shower, eat an entire gallon of ice cream, or repaving the driveway. Here I was celebrating in my mind, “IT FINALLY HAPPENED!” but I couldn’t share that with my partner. In fact, I had to hide it. AND since I had trumped up in his mind what a female orgasm felt like and sounded like, one that was genuine didn’t appear real to him. I couldn’t coach him or give him feedback on how to repeat it because that would have revealed my ruse. It was too late to backpedal and come clean about my past. I had missed an opportunity to communicate what got me off for real. Worst of all, faking it robbed us both of a chance at exploring what I liked, what I was indifferent about, and what I genuinely disliked. As a result, I left the bedroom having dealt with a lot of cheesy dialogue, a lot of painful cervical jabs, and a partner that thought everything they were doing turned me on. Sex started to become a chore, because it became just for him. He never fully caught on, but when the relationship disintegrated, he had no idea why.
After that serious relationship ended, I made a choice that I was going to stop being walked on and neglecting my feelings for the sake of others. Along with this resolution, I committed to myself that I wouldn’t fake another orgasm. It didn’t happen right away, but eventually I found someone I cared about and respected. Interestingly, he meant enough to me that–if I hadn’t made this conscious decision–I would have faked a million orgasms just to spare his feelings and express to him in my own way that he was perfect in my eyes, whether or not he could make me cum. While I made a mistake in not being upfront beforehand and telling him that it was nearly impossible for me to have an orgasm in the presence of another person, the first time we had sexual contact, I didn’t fake it with him. He did what most caring people would do in his situation: He asked what he had done wrong, and didn’t believe me when I said “nothing,” even though that was the absolute truth. Then he dropped a bomb on me.
“Well, what do you like?” he asked.
I felt my cheeks get flushed. How unromantic, how unspontaneous, how crass… to ask me what I wanted in the moment! You know, right in the middle of things?! How dare he! In all the hot sex scenes of all the dumb movies I’d ever watched, in all the porn I had ever seen, nobody ever started a scene with, “What do you like?” They just KNEW, and a few minutes later there was a lot of loud screeching and gasping. Not only was this verbal gesture of genuinely caring about satisfying me, completely awkward… it was something nobody had ever done before. I’m guessing its probably for the same reason it made me blush (which is nearly impossible)–everything we learn about sexuality from society says that women are supposed to easily orgasm, and any partner they have is supposed to “just know” how to get them off. At that moment, I realized that I was not as sexually evolved as I thought I was. In my mind, women embarrassed by talking about sex were uptight and conservative. But like a lot of people, I had learned about orgasms from carefully-choreographed, well-lit sex scenes, and nearly all of THOSE orgasms were fake. In reality, I had no idea what another person could do to get me off because I was afraid to tell them, and they were afraid to ask.
I pushed away my knee-jerk reaction, knowing that refusal to answer left me in the same predicament I had been in every time before–this time, I had someone who actually cared, and put themselves out there to ask what nobody ever had. It didn’t happen right away, but the end result was getting over the hump (no pun intended… ok, I totally did that on purpose) of awkwardness and embracing that it’s ok to ask, ok to tell, ok to try and ok to fail–even if its a dozen times or more. It’s ok to be a woman who is tough to please, and it’s ok to be her partner and keep trying without beating yourself up and without giving up even when sometimes it seems impossible. It’s ok to have no-pressure nights where the end goal isn’t getting off but just relaxing, feeling good and having no expectations beyond that (you’d be shocked to find how sexually responsive a woman can get once she realizes she’s not under any perceived obligation to climax). It’s ok if one part of your body doesn’t get her off and it’s ok to try another one. It’s ok to try toys. It’s ok to read books, ask a salesperson at an adult toy store, and educate yourself and your partner. And even with all of this, sometimes it’s ok to hear or say that–for whatever reason–it’s just not going to happen this time, and it’s nobody’s fault.
It’s NOT ok to lie. It’s not ok to blame. It’s not ok to internalize and hope that one day, someone can read your mind. It’s not ok to cross your fingers and hope that, one day, the thing you’ve been doing exactly the same way over and over will somehow end in a different result because you fear looking vulnerable or inexperienced. Sex is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to make you feel good. It’s supposed to help you learn more about yourself and someone else. It’s supposed to be open and honest and close. It’s supposed to be the one safe haven from shame. And if it falls short of these things–whether anyone knows it or not–you’re merely masturbating with someone else’s body, or allowing them to masturbate with yours. If you are really attracted to someone, it’s worth finding out if you’re sexually compatible.
Naomi Hedonia is a writer, freelance make-up artist, and photo assistant. Her interests include travel, domesticity, and excessive manicures, and she hates overuse of the word “random.” She is a mother of three and lives in the Minneapolis Arts District.