Me Before We

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The Pros and Cons of Faking Orgasm

At the end of the day, nobody wins if you fake it

In the beginning of a relationship, before a woman feels trusting and open, and both parties are working to deepen the emotional connection, the pressure can make it difficult for a woman to achieve orgasm. But it was shown long ago that one of the most arousing aspects of the heterosexual sexual experience for men is being able to turn on a woman. Many women learn through time that the more sexually expressive they allow themselves to be (or seem), the more their partner enjoys the sex. This means that, especially early in the relationship, women may fear that if they don’t orgasm during sex, they will appear to be unresponsive, deadened, and their partner will lose interest. Their anxiety, even shame at "how long it takes" may end up compelling them to fake orgasm.

Faking it is a slippery slope. If it appears relatively "easy" to make a woman achieve orgasm when it actually isn’t, faking it can set unreal expectations. The man may begin to believe it will happen easily every time. And the woman may feel internal pressure to meet this expectation, making it seem as if orgasm does, in fact, happen quickly and easily every time they engage in sexual activity The result is twofold: this internal pressure may make it even more difficult for her to achieve orgasm, and a man’s expectation that his partner’s orgasm is easily accomplished may make him complacent in the lovemaking strategies he uses to help his partner climax. If you fake it at the beginning, you increase the odds that it will be harder for you to have an authentic orgasm moving forward.

It’s an uncomfortable balancing act: on one hand, you want to encourage the sexual experience to be as breathtaking as it can be even if you don’t feel ready to orgasm; and on the other hand, how can you avoid setting unrealistic expectations that may make orgasm harder to achieve in the long run?

Just a quick note: the porn industry hasn’t helped in this regard. Even before a woman elects to fake an orgasm with her male partner, porn may have contributed to unrealistic expectations about the ease of female orgasm. In porn, it’s all about the orgasm, which is put on a pedestal as the goal of all sex acts. Porn also fuels male sexual insecurity – in the course of a few minutes, every male porn star brings his female partner to orgasm. Now if a man in the real world can’t create the same results in the same timeframe, he may feel like he doesn’t measure up (as it were...).

All these factors added together means that in most situations, the best thing for a woman and ultimately for her partner to do is to be honest. There are two major reasons: first, in real life he would prefer her orgasm to be real; and second, even if it takes "longer," it will be easier to achieve orgasm if she hasn’t set up mental traps and unrealistic expectations along the way. Honesty allows the man to get to know over time what it takes for his partner to achieve orgasm, and in turn takes pressure off the woman because she hasn’t set the precedent for it occurring quickly and easily with techniques that don't work for her.

If you’ve already fallen into the trap of faking it and you don’t know how to get out, it’s okay to continue to have sex but try to stop faking it. Instead, explain that even though you didn’t orgasm this time, it was incredibly enjoyable for you. Focus on setting or resetting expectations, which may include communicating with yourself as much as it includes communicating with your partner. You may have to allow yourself to experience your own, natural physiological response, while working to understand (and helping your partner understand) that sex without orgasm can still be amazing. Sex doesn’t always have to end in orgasm.

Ironically, releasing the internal pressure to orgasm may make it easier and more likely in the long run to experience orgasm during sex.

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Twitter: @DrSuzanneL

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Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist in NYC specializing in psychotherapy.

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