It sounds like a philosophical question — "What's the difference between a real and a fake orgasm?"
The question is usually attributed to women — i.e. "Do women fake orgasms?" "How do I know if she's faking it?"
While orgasms might be more obvious if you have a penis (though even then, people can get creative if they want or need to fake it), there is a lot of confusion over what constitutes a “real”, so-called "female orgasm” and why someone would fake one.
We go more in-depth on what a real orgasm is and feels like in another article (which you can read here). But for this guide, we’ll talk about what a fake orgasm can be, why people do it, if it’s wrong, and what to do if your partner (or you) are faking it and want to change that.
What is a fake orgasm?
Pretending to climax when you didn’t actually experience one. Simple as that.
Some people associate climax with being loud and vocal, or by moving, thrashing, or thrusting a certain way, or by simply squeezing (vaginally or anally) very tight.
But remember the classic moment on When Harry Meets Sally? It's pretty easy to fake these things… and some people do just that.
That's not to say that these behaviors mean that you're faking an orgasm, but they wouldn’t be the primary indicators of a "real orgasm".
As with everything, everyone is different, and everyone experiences pleasure differently. There are a couple of common telltale indicators of an orgasm, one that you might be able to notice is the involuntary, rhythmic pattern of the pelvic floor — sometimes described as “quivering”. You can sometimes feel it through vaginal or anal penetration. Below is an animation of what that might look like:
There are several different types of patterns of orgasm (muscle movements/motions) — you can see a few examples here.
Why fake an orgasm?
Faking an orgasm is not necessarily because the sex is bad or you (as a partner) are bad at what you do. That’s not to say it could be either of those things, but everyone’s circumstances are different that it’s not helpful to jump to conclusions. There are plenty of reasons why someone may fake an orgasm — below are 6 possible reasons:
1. Difficulty reaching orgasm and/or anorgasmia
2. Their partner won’t stop until they think they’ve orgasmed
A lot of people think that the end of sex is the orgasm, so they’ll keep going and going until they think their partner has had an orgasm (we disagree with this, but we’ll get into that in a moment). If you know you’re probably not going to have an orgasm, you might just pretend so the sex can end.
Similar to the above, sometimes you’re just not interested. Your partner won’t stop until they think you’ve come, or you don’t want to make them feel bad, so you’ll fake it.
4. Being polite
Sometimes being polite can avoid avoiding awkward, tense moments and hurt feelings, so it might be easier to be nice and end the session and move on.
5. Wanting sex to be good for their partner
Perhaps early on in dating and getting to know each other, you might be tempted to make sex seem really exciting, pleasurable, and wild for your partner as a way to bond and feel close. Whether or not the experience was actually pleasurable for either party may be another matter.
Sometimes exaggerating your “oohs” and “ahhhs” and groans is for stroking your partner’s ego. Sometimes there’s even a whole feedback loop where stroking your partner’s ego makes them more excited and aroused, which makes you more excited and aroused, and… you know the rest. But sometimes it’s just to make them feel good and maybe to end things early so you can get back to your Netflix binge.
Is it wrong to pretend?
Some people say that faking an orgasm is not only dishonest, but a betrayal to all women, because you may be setting an example of what feels good that may actually not feel good at all.
Is that true? Knowing that there are a lot of reasons why someone may pretend, the answer is not a simple yes or no.
Starting with the obvious: chronic pretending is not good for anybody. You don’t get the pleasure you want, you’re faking it with your partner. While your partner might be getting their jollies in the short run, if they ever find out that you’ve been faking it, you may have to face some tough conversations later on. There will also be a lot of unlearning of what they thought felt good to you but actually isn’t.
Even worse is if you’re experiencing painful sex but you’re pretending that it’s pleasurable — you’re teaching your partner to do things that hurt you, and you’re experiencing pain in moments when you should be experiencing pleasure.
Other cases may not be so obvious — if it’s a hook up and your partner just isn’t doing it for you, is it worth having the conversation or faking it to end things and move on? Although it may be helpful to let them know what feels good or not, especially if you are interested in hooking up again in the future, depending on the partner and how receptive they are, and you and how interested you are, it may or may not be worth it.
The truth is out — what do you do about fake orgasms?
Assuming you’re the one who’s faking it and wants to change that, or your partner tells you they’ve been faking it and wants to change.
The helpfulness of these suggestions may vary depending on the circumstances, but here are 7 suggestions to change your sex life for the better:
1. Don’t be a jerk if your partner confides that they're faking it
As mentioned, there are a lot of reasons why someone may be faking their orgasms. It could be the source of a lot of stress and shame — and even the topic of sex sometimes just makes things difficult to talk about. If they bring it up, it might have been really difficult for them to talk about. Be open-minded, listen, and figure out together what to do so intimacy can be more enjoyable for the both of you. Things might feel uneasy now, but it’s possible to get better.
2. Don’t feel guilty if you are faking it
The past has passed, but you have the ability to change your future experiences. If you want to start focusing on your pleasure more, admission is the first step to making sex more pleasurable. Another positive outcome may be that you and your partner will become closer by communicating what feels good more and you’ll be better at communicating what you want.
3. Be open minded about how to have sex
There isn’t one specific way to have sex. Do what feels good for you and your partner, not what felt good with/for past partners, and not what you think should feel good because you saw it somewhere or you think everyone does it.
We get a lot of false information on what feels good from pornography… but pornography is fantasy, not reality. Even people who work in pornography talk about how their sex lives are different than what's on the set. Don’t give a rip what you think should feel good or should be sexy. Experiment and reflect on what you enjoy.
4. There’s so much more to sex than the orgasm
Sometimes the orgasm is just the beginning of sex. After all, novelty is the spice of life.
For hetero sex, don’t just focus on vaginal stimulation. The clitoris (likely) needs love, too. Explore what feels good, whatever that may be. A few places to start: touching, clitoral stimulation, sensation play, oral sex, anal, cuddling, nipple play, sensation play, kinks and fetishes, a new toy.
There’s so much out there that just focusing on the orgasm can get… well, boring. Try out new, interesting, titillating fantasies together. Whether the orgasm comes or not is besides the point — the goal is to experiment and enjoy each other.
If you haven’t already, talk to your partner about what you’ve been experiencing, ideally at a time separate from when you are engaging in sexual activity. There’s a chance they might feel mad or betrayed, especially if you have been lying for a while. Some hurt feelings are justifiable, but if they care about you and your pleasure, they will listen and be willing to work towards something that's more pleasurable for both of you.
6. Practice what feels good
I.e. Masturbate. Yes, even if you're in a relationship. If you’ve been faking it because you’re not quite sure what would feel good during partnered sex, take some time to self-explore and discover what you like. You can take your time without the pressure of pleasing someone else. Practice makes perfect in other skills and activities, and the same goes for sexual pleasure.
7. Most of all: be patient
It’s hard to change behaviors overnight, especially if they’re so ingrained. Don’t pressure an orgasm to just happen. It takes time and practice. There will very likely be some flops and clumsiness along the way. Take them as bonding experiences, and don’t let these moments take away from the intimacy and vulnerability you’re sharing with your partner. Over time, you can hopefully build a trusting, fun, and pleasurable bond. And great sex, too.
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