One of the things you learn very early on when you study psychological research is that what people say they do and what they actually do don’t always line up. In fact, they quite frequently differ. So as a researcher (who also happens to be a woman), it’s not surprising to me that it’s not all that uncommon for women to fake orgasms at least once in their life.
Interestingly, it’s difficult to get at the heart of exactly what percentage of women fake orgasms. But the body of research suggests that the majority of women have done it at least once.
According to one study, 80% of the women involved had faked orgasms during sex and 20% of participants reported that they fake orgasms 90% of the time.
According to another study, 68% of women reported that they had faked orgasms.
A third study found that 54% of women said they’d faked orgasms with 26% saying that they fake orgasms every single time they have sex.
A Lack of Female Orgasm Is Often Perceived As a Sign of Partner Failure (Particularly in Heterosexual Sex)
Why would women want to fake orgasms? Research has found that there are some definite cultural pressures for women to perform sexually in this manner, particularly in heterosexual pairings†. Here is a link to a study with a great literature review that hits a lot of the high points. Briefly:
- In heterosexual sex, female orgasms carry a high level of importance to their male sexual partners.
- Men not only enjoy their female partners having orgasms, they also seem to feel a responsibility to bring their partners to orgasm.
- When a woman does not orgasm, men are predisposed to take it as a sign of their own sexual failure.
- Both male and female participants in studies have commonly reported concern that a lack of female orgasm in a sexual encounter will have a negative impact on the male partner’s view of their sexual abilities.
The Role of Attachment in Faked Orgasms
Another particularly interesting study found a link between attachment insecurity and a predisposition to fake orgasms.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all in child development is that the first year of so of our life is a radically important time for us emotionally. While we continue to learn about trust and social relationships over the course of our life (and experience another notable period of turbulence at puberty), the bulk of how we learn to be in relationships takes root when we’re infants. The way we come to feel supported or unsupported by our caregivers profoundly shapes the way we feel in all kinds of relationships, whether they’re friendships, romantic, or something in between. This baseline unconscious expectation we develop is called our attachment type.
One study found that individuals with both avoidant and anxious attachment reported that they faked orgasms — but for different reasons.
Avoidant women tended to fake orgasms to end sexual intercourse sooner, where anxious women tended to fake orgasms in order to give boost their partners’ egos and try not to disappoint them.
In both cases, the researchers noted, avoidant and anxious women were more likely to fake orgasms than their securely attached counterparts as a strategy for avoiding negative emotions or negative emotional states.
†Seriously, a lot of the orgasm-faking literature is very straight sex-focused. My apologies to queer readers for not being directly addressed — or perhaps my congratulations for not being dragged into this hot mess?
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.
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Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).