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Is It Ever OK To Fake An Orgasm?

The answer may surprise you.

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Flavia Salvadori
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When Harry Met Sally is an iconic movie, and chances are if you’re over 40 you’ve seen it once or twice.   

Yes, it is romantic and funny and relatable. Yes, it stars two of the great actors of all time (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan). But, let’s face it — when we hear the title When Harry Met Sally, we immediately think of the scene. The one where Meg Ryan’s fake-orgasm performance is so Oscar-worthy that it is slightly uncomfortable to watch. She nailed it. The scene made history and quickly became a universal reference/joke that still pops up today — nearly 32 years after the film’s release in July 1989. When asked about the epic scene, director Rob Reiner told the Los Angeles Times, “The idea was we had to tell something that women know but men don’t know.”   

Women fake orgasms and men are kind-of-clueless, aren’t they? While this may be great for comedy, it isn’t great for us women. All these years after the movie’s debut I can’t help but wonder: Has anything changed? Are we still largely faking orgasms? I reached out to sex and love coach Suzannah Weiss to discuss all things fake orgasms, and here is what I learned.   

Who’s doing it?   

I admit it — I’ve done it. I can’t exactly remember the first time I faked an orgasm or how I came up with the idea to pull a fast one on my poor, unsuspecting partner. Did I plan ahead or decide in the heat (or lack thereof) of the moment? I am not quite sure. What I do know, however, is that after I did it once, it became the norm. It was just too easy. Short of watching Meg Ryan’s public demonstration, I was never taught how to fake one. I never discussed it with friends. It just kind of happened, and then kept happening. It looks like I am in the majority, too. According to a study led by Gayle Brewer of the University of Central Lancashire and Colin A. Hendrie of the University of Leeds, a whopping 80 percent of women admitted to faking it. That is just too many, ladies; but at least we are in this together. Weiss says, “If you’re a woman who has been faking orgasms, know it’s OK and common to struggle to orgasm.”   

And why? 

“No woman goes into sex hoping she will fake an orgasm,” says Weiss. It usually isn’t premeditated or anticipated, but still, we fake it. The reasons are both obvious and not. “One study found that women were faking orgasms largely to put an end to a sexual experience. Another one found that the most common reason women faked orgasms was to please their partners.” No big surprises there, right? Women’s orgasms are considered an achievement for their partners, which creates some pressure for us — largely because we want our partners to feel good about themselves. But the root cause lies a little deeper, and Weiss lays it all on the line: “The biggest root cause of women faking orgasms is that they’re not having real ones.” Mic drop.    

What’s the harm?   

So really, is it that bad to be a faker? If you’re an experienced and frequent faker, chances are you already know. “Faking orgasms can become a self-perpetuating cycle. When you fake an orgasm, your partner gets false positive reinforcement. In other words, if they think what they’re doing is working, they’ll keep doing it, even if it’s really not.” When we fake orgasms, we are cheating ourselves out of the pleasure of a real one — or even the potential to have a real one. It is also an act of dishonesty, which takes away from the intimacy you should be creating with your partner through sex. Life is too short for fake orgasms. It’s important to know that you are worthy of the real thing. It may take some work to get there, but it’ll be worth it. (As a reformed-faker, I speak from experience.) 

What now?   

If you are ready to put an end to faking it once and for all, do not fear — it can and should be done. “I recommend that women be honest about their orgasms and what they need for one to happen,” Weiss says, adding she advises that “people come clean about the fact that they’ve been faking orgasms.” That sounds scary, doesn’t it? It requires vulnerability, honesty and courage, but it will foster a new intimacy and address that core cause of not having an orgasm. If you aren’t ready to take that leap of brutal honesty, Weiss suggests you start by offering more feedback about what works and what doesn’t for you. Just remember, this is something you and your partner should work on together. “Putting an end to this pattern is not just the responsibility of women who are doing it, but of their partners as well,” says Weiss.

It can be fun to explore new things, communicate in a new way during sex, and educate yourself and your partner. Weiss points out that “it’s important to acknowledge that most women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm and will not orgasm through vaginal penetration alone.” If this is true for you, then tell your partner. “Don’t be shy — your partner probably wants to please you, so you’re helping them out by teaching them how.” I guess the moral of the story is — don’t be like Sally. Sally is great for the entertainment factor, but you, my girlfriends, deserve the real thing.