Disclaimer: This article primarily focuses on women who have sex with men. I don’t yet have the data to discuss women faking it with other women, although I’m interested to learn more and compare survey answers.
As a single woman in her twenties, I dedicate a lot of time to hearing the details of my girlfriends’ sex lives. ‘It was great!’ ‘It was bumpy!’ ‘It lasted too long!’ ‘His man area looked a little like George Bush.’ For me, the most intriguing sex tales include the sneaky and bizarre fake orgasm. Stories of fauxgasms are usually sandwiched between excuses and apologies. No one’s ever proud they faked it, but most women have at one time or another – myself included.
How did fake orgasms become such a common trend among women? Who was the first woman to fake it in bed? Did Eve, tired of getting jackhammered by Adam against a tree every night, use her sexiest biblical talk to cut it short and save herself the head wounds? Did it start as a prostitute trick only to trickle down to the general masses of unsatisfied women? (To be fair, I know men fake it, too, but that’s a whole article – stay tuned!)
To get a better sense of women’s fauxgasm habits, I conducted an informal, unscientific survey, using a small sample of twenty-five women. The results were surprising. 88% of the women I polled reported having faked an orgasm at least once, 12% of whom reported faking it more than twenty-five times. That’s over twenty-five Meg Ryan inspired orgasms! That’s exhausting!
Admittedly, this percentage of women who have faked orgasms is higher than other survey results I’ve seen, although statistics vary depending on the time and location of the poll. Whatever the current statistic is, a fuckton of women out there deserve Oscar awards for their bedroom performances.
The question I was most curious about in my survey was why? Why do we need to pretend sex is better than it is?
Overwhelmingly, 84% of women said they faked it in bed because of guilt. They felt bad they weren’t orgasming, and didn’t want their partners to feel inadequate. Oh, we women. Isn’t that just like us? Speaking as someone who wears Jewish guilt like an unnecessary tattoo, I can say with confidence that no other group of people apologize for themselves as often as women.
Sheryl Sandberg portrays this behavior in her TED Talk, with an anecdote about a final exam that she, her roommate and her brother took together in college. Her brother, who never went to class, walked out of the exam proud and confident, while she and her roommate, who were excellent students, instinctually doubted their performances on the test. As Sandberg puts it, this is because women systematically underestimate themselves.
Part of growing up for too many girls is being taught to curb their confidence. They’re discouraged from expressing anger or assertiveness, encouraged to downplay their intelligence, and instructed to wait for boys to make the first move. It’s no wonder we grow up with a complicated relationship to ego. Where were all our lessons in pride and self-assurance?
Like Sandberg and her roommate, many women find trusting in their capabilities nearly impossible. This is why women are less likely than men to ask for raises at work. Despite our accomplishments, we doubt ourselves. And, with this doubt comes a hesitation to assert what we want, whether at work, in our personal relationships, or in bed.
While climaxing may not be in the cards for every sexcapade, no one ever sleeps with someone in the hopes of not orgasming. I mean, an orgasm couldn’t hurt the situation. For men, orgasm odds are generally in their favor. Let’s face it, when it comes to cumming, men take the cake on ease and efficiency. A guy could stick it in a toaster oven and find a way to cum. Women, on the other hand, usually require more effort. But, since every heterosexual sex scene in movies teaches us that sex is over when the guy finishes, we feel awkward and embarrassed telling our partners what works for us.
Now, I’m not suggesting that guilt is the only reason for faking it. As one woman I surveyed put it, “I knew I wasn’t going to orgasm, and I just wanted to move on with my life.” No hard feelings. She just wanted out. However, even to the women who fake it with no sense of guilt, I ask, what’s the harm in telling him it’s just not working?
One likely answer is that no one wants to hurt someone’s feelings, especially when that person is trying his damnedest to succeed. In these instances, women tend to jump into caretaker mode. ‘Yes!’ ‘You can do it!’ ‘That thing you’re trying is a real winner!’ ‘Keep it up, slugger!’
Based on personal experiences, as well as conversations I’ve had with my heterosexual guy friends, I’d like to argue that men appreciate a little direction in bed. The vagina is a complicated piece of equipment that requires at least some training, and no one trains in the subject better than women. What’s more, not every vagina works the same! What a guy does to one woman may not work for the next. How is any guy supposed to know what to do?
My theory – and hear me out on this one – is that if the guy you’re having sex with actively cares about your pleasure, he’ll be happy to do what it takes. If, however, he doesn’t care that much, and he’s not willing to put in the time (even it means enduring a few practice sessions before he gets it right), get out of bed and go find someone else.
I know what some of you are thinking – easier said than done, Eva! Totally valid, and I get it. Change comes from within, and no one ever follows advice they haven’t internalized. I’m lucky enough to have dated someone who consistently encouraged open communication about sex, and forever changed the way I feel about faking it. However, I recognize that this type of honesty is uncommon between sexual partners, regardless of the relationship, and people are hesitant to broach the subject.
In light of this, I’d like to offer an experiment. The next time you hookup with someone you think you might fake it with, ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst thing that will happen if I’m honest about how it’s going?’
If the worst case scenario is that his ego is bruised, follow up with, ‘What would happen next?’ In your imagination, would the sex stop if he got offended? Or, would he listen to you, and ultimately compensate for the hurt feelings with the pride of knowing he made you feel good?
Again, this experiment requires no action or change in behavior. For emotional and legal purposes, those steps should probably involve your therapist. Simply take note of your thoughts, and let them marinate for a while. If you happen to decide that honesty and guidance are the way to go, I hope you feel empowered! And, I definitely hope you reach out and let me know how it went.