By Rachel Zar, LMFT
“Most women at one time or another have faked it,” says Meg Ryan as Sally in must-see 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally.” It may have been 30 years since she enacted a very impressive orgasm in the middle of Katz’s Deli, but a recent study shows that her words continue to hold true. Indeed, 58.8% of 1,008 women (between ages 18 and 94) reported having ever faked an orgasm.
As reasons for the deceit, women in the study listed wanting their partner to feel successful, not wanting their partner to feel bad, and just wanting sex to be over and knowing that faking it was the best way to get there. Though faking that climax may successfully send the intended messages (and allow you to just get to bed when you’re tired), this is problematic for several reasons. First of all, lying to your partner isn’t a great way to feel connected to them – plus it limits their chances of actually being successful in the future. How will they learn what actually works for you if your acting chops steer them in the wrong direction? This also reinforces the idea that successful sex must include orgasms for both parties or else it’s a failure, when in reality, loads of people can have pleasurable, satisfying sexual experiences without having an orgasm.
But, a silver lining: This new study also shows that the majority (67.3%) of those who have ever faked an orgasm in the past say that they no longer do. These women who no longer fake orgasms reported feeling more comfortable with sex whether or not an orgasm occurred, feeling more confident with themselves as a woman, and feeling more accepted by their partners. This means that the news that faking it has a negative impact on our sexual satisfaction must be getting out there. So let’s keep this trend going!
What if we freed ourselves from the expectation that sex must include both parties having a perfectly timed orgasm? What if we shifted our focus to pleasure instead of performance? What if we actually communicated with our partners during sex?
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Of course, this is easier said than done. Due to a combination of gender norms, pressure to perform, and poor sex education, many don’t feel equipped to have a conversation with their partners about what they want or need – or even understand it themselves. And those who do are often too embarrassed to talk about sex, too uncomfortable in the moment, or too worried about hurting their partner’s feelings to speak up. If this is you, reach out. If you’re willing to take the risk in being honest with your therapist, we can help you get there (for real!) with a partner.