Though it’s commonly believed that women fake orgasms to make their partners feel better about their sexual prowess, a new study presented at the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Women annual conference reveals otherwise.
Researchers Emily Thomas, Monika Stelzl, and Michelle Lafrance gathered 15 women (whose ages ranged from 19 to 28 years old) together to talk about faking orgasms. These volunteers each had been sexually active for at least one year at the time they were interviewed. During these interviews, the women were asked to talk about consensual sex – yet all 15 women ended up mentioning unenjoyable sexual experiences.
“While some women spoke about faking orgasm in positive ways, for instance, as a pleasurable experience that heightened their own arousal, many talked about feigning pleasure in the context of unwanted and unpleasurable sexual experiences,” Thomas revealed. “Within these accounts, we were struck by the degree to which women were connecting the practice of faking orgasm to accounts of unwanted sex.”
In other words: Some women are faking their orgasms so their partner will orgasm faster and so sex will be over sooner.
To further analyze this unfortunate trend, researchers observed how these women discuss such sexual experiences when it comes to faking their orgasms. What the study’s authors found was that – though these incidents could be seen as rape or coercion – these women never referred to them as such. In fact, they were much more casual and ended up simply referring to their experiences as “bad.”
This means that many women feel the need to fake an orgasm so they can have some control over ending sex that is not wanted or pleasurable.
“It appears that faking orgasm is both problematic and helpful at the same time,” Thomas explained. “On one level, faking an orgasm may be a useful strategy as it affords some control over ending a sexual encounter. We are not criticizing faking practice on an individual level. We want to focus on the problems with our current lack of available language to describe women’s experiences that acknowledges, names and confronts the issues women spoke of in our interviews.”
Although we feel uncomfortable using the term “rape” when these female volunteers didn’t use that precise language, we are very concerned about what this study says about women and their sex lives. It’s disturbing to see that women (at least the ones who participated in this study) feel the need to have sex solely to benefit their partner, and that perhaps they are pressured to do so (although it is not specifically stated). As a result, we’re left with many questions about this study’s unclear details: Why are these specific experiences being “categorized” as “rape” by the authors? Why do the women themselves not “categorize” their own experiences as such?
Additionally, though this study has provided us with meaningful information, it would be interesting to see what would happen if a larger group of women were interviewed. It would also help if this group of women included same-sex couples, to see if their sexual experiences are viewed in the same manner.
With this information in mind, it’s important that we take a moment to advocate for consensual sex, which Black Hills State University defines as:
The bottom line is that it’s important to remember that you should never feel pressured to have sex. All involved parties must feel comfortable and must consent to being part of such an experience.
For sexual assault support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) or the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child). To find a safe space near you, you can utilize the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network’s directory of service providers. If you’re looking for additional resources, there’s the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: an organization possessing an extensive legal and educational library.