Sex Advice

Hot Take: Fake Orgasms *Do* Have Their Place in the Bedroom

Gabrielle Kassel

Photo: Getty Images/ Kritsada Seekham / EyeEm
There's a commonly held (and widely reported here, here, and here) belief that faking an orgasm is bad news for your relationship with both your bedmate and yourself. As someone who is in the company of the 60 percent to 87 percent of folks who identify as women and who have reported faking it at some point in their life, I don't think think it's a bad thing. And as it turns out, other sex educators and sexuality experts agree with me that there are very valid reasons to fake an orgasm.

To be clear, I certainly do understand that faking orgasms may set a precedent that leads to unfulfilling pleasure sessions with the same partner. “Fake orgasming can give your partner the wrong idea about what you like in bed, which has the potential to detract from future sexual experiences,” says Justin Lehmiller, PhD, social psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, author of Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Let's say, for example, a certain move your partner loves to perform doesn't really do it for you. But, because you’ve faked an orgasm immediately following said move, they've grown conditioned to believe that it brings you pleasure.

More importantly, faking orgasms can rob you of the opportunity to actually experience the pleasurable release of climax. According to Dr. Lehmiller, many folks believe sex is complete once orgasm has been achieved, and if you're faking it, you may signal to your partner that the show is over, so to speak.

So, why then, you may be wondering, am I a fan of the fake O? Read on to better understand the reasons to fake an orgasm, plus what we can all do to experience more pleasurable sex.

3 reasons to fake an orgasm that make total sense

1. For personal pleasure

“Some people report faking orgasms because they get personal enjoyment or pleasure from it,” says Dr. Lehmiller. And that's certainly the case for me. I have a hypertonic pelvic floor, which is a condition marked by tense pelvic floor muscles, and because of it, I have a hard time reaching orgasm. Climax just isn't always in the cards for me, but that doesn't mean I can't still experience pleasure—and faking it is one way I do so. The aural stimulation of hearing my own moans, combined with the act of writhing around on the bed, brings me far more pleasure than telling my partner that I don't think I'm going to orgasm.

2. For a partner's pleasure

Faking it can also boost a partner’s pleasure experience. “By enhancing their partner’s pleasure they’re actually able to create a more positive sexual experience for both of them which, paradoxically, brings the partners closer together,” says Dr. Lehmiller.

3. To save themselves the energy of having to console a partner

Some folks may fake orgasm to shield themselves from having to console a partner who would otherwise worry that their sexual skills weren’t adequate. “We live in a world where there are all kinds of values that people place on orgasm, '' says Dr. Lehmiller. As such, telling a partner you’re not going to orgasm can lead to you shell out a ton of energy to up-talk an ego-driven partner about their sexual skills. In short: Telling your partner you’re not going to orgasm can sometimes turn into heavy emotional labor for you to console them.

Of course, communication is key for improving all aspects of a relationship, but if this is a one-off fling or a relationship that's on the outs, it's a totally understandable reason to fake it. “If you want to fake orgasms to save your energy, go ahead and fake away,” says sex educator Caitlin V., MPH, clinical sexologist for condom and lubricant company Royal.

Reminder: Pleasure—not orgasm—is the point of sex

Dr. Lehmiller says the reason many folks fake an orgasm it because of something researchers call the orgasm imperative. This is a goal-focused approach to sex that says the event isn’t over until everyone involved has climaxed, and that anything less is a failure.

This imperative puts undue pressure on all parties—women and vulva-owners, in particular—to climax, and on their partners to help facilitate this. “It injects a sort of ‘fast food’ mindset into our bedrooms and causes us to be so focused on the goal [orgasm] that we forget about actually enjoying the journey of sex,” says V. And, adds Dr. Lehmiller, shame, emotional detachment, and performance anxiety can also accompany a must-orgasm mindset.

"It is entirely possible for someone to experience a great amount of pleasure without orgasm." —Caitlin V, MPH, sexologist

For people who fake orgasm, as well those who do not, remembering that pleasure is top goal of sex—not orgasm—can help everyone have better sex, without ego, expectation, shame, or disappointment getting in the way. "It is entirely possible for someone to experience a great amount of pleasure without orgasm," says V. "The ultimate point of their sexual encounter should be pleasure, and not orgasm.”

What to do if you’ve been faking it, but want to stop

Maybe you’ve been faking it to save your partner’s feelings, but now want to stop. Maybe you want to transition your sex life from performance-rich to pleasure-rich. Maybe you’re interested in experiencing a real O for the first time and acknowledge that faking it isn’t doing yourself any favors. Whatever the reason, if you want to quit faking it, you can.

To do so, consider having an open and honest conversation with your bedmate. “In this case, since you have been dishonest, definitely consider apologizing earnestly, prepare to hold space for your partner's reaction, and be compassionate towards yourself and them,” says V. Once they have time to process, you can outline action-oriented steps that might improve the sexual experience for you both of your experience, such as online courses, sex therapy, couples therapy, or sex coaching, she adds.

Another option (and one that's decidedly more passive) is to, simply put, stop faking it. Instead, start communicating either what you need in order to actually achieve orgasm, or to simply share that you won’t be orgasming. And if you're interested in the first option, but aren't sure what you need to get off? Three tips: masturbate, masturbate, and masturbate some more.

Ultimately, while doing so may provide negative reinforcement and block you from actual climax, there are plenty of valid reasons to fake an orgasm, whether to increase their own pleasure, increase a partner's pleasure, or to protect their emotional energy. So, rather than condemn those who choose to do so, perhaps we should all focus heeding V.'s point that pleasure—not orgasm—is the goal of sex. And if faking it is what helps you access and preserve a sense of pleasure that works for you? Well, enjoy.

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