How Many Men Fake Orgasms?

Research suggests that men fake orgasms in one out of four sexual encounters.

Posted Sep 04, 2020

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Women can, and do, fake orgasms. Recall Meg Ryan's brilliant performance in When Harry Met Sally. While having lunch at Katz's Deli in Manhattan, Harry and Sally are having an argument about whether men can tell if a woman fakes an orgasm. Sally puts on a vivid performance as she fakes an orgasm in front of the restaurant's patrons to demonstrate how realistic a fake orgasm can be. The scene ends with Sally continuing her meal as if nothing happened and a nearby patron saying, "I'll have what she's having" as she places her order.

Sally was fully dressed in a Manhattan Deli while faking her orgasm. But even in more intimate settings, women's orgasms are not typically associated with external signs that cannot be feigned. While some women ejaculate during orgasms, most don't. The internal signs of female orgasm are largely controllable too. Women can control the muscles in their vagina and, to some extent, their rectum as well. This enables them to simulate an orgasm internally as well as externally.

Why would women do this? The reasons are many and varied. While some physically hyper-sensitive women can achieve orgasm after very light stimulation or excitement, others have a much harder time climaxing. Some nonetheless want to give off the impression that their partner was able to please them. Others just want to get it over with.

That women can feign their orgasms is, to some extent, common knowledge. Less known is the fact that men fake it too. Men's orgasms are typically very visible. A very common sign of a male orgasm is the ejaculation. Ejaculations cannot be faked.

Research on men feigning orgasm is sparse. Only a couple of studies have looked specifically at this question. In a 2010 study, psychologists Charlene L. Muehlenhard and Sheena K. Shippee asked 180 male and 101 female college students to complete an anonymous questionnaire asking them how often they faked their orgasms, if at all. Among the participants who had had sex, nearly 30 percent of the male participants reported faking orgasms, compared to 67 percent of the female participants. While most reported faking it during penile-vaginal intercourse, some reported faking it during oral sex, manual stimulation, or Zoom sex.

The participants in the study were also asked why they faked it. A common answer among both men and women alike was that they faked it because they wanted it to be over with, didn't want to hurt their lover's feelings, or wanted to create the impression that their partner was able to please them.

The researchers speculate that heterosexual individuals feign orgasms because they follow a hetero-normative sexual script: Boy meets girl, boy and girl agree to sleep with each other, the boy makes the girl come, then the boy comes. Faking an orgasm, they speculate, is a way for heterosexuals to meet the expectations elicited by this script. It remains unclear whether homosexuals and queer individuals who fake orgasms do so because they follow a similar script.

A 2016 study, conducted by psychologists Léa J. Séguin and Robin R. Milhausen, also examined the question of the extent to which men fake orgasms. They enrolled 230 men between the ages of 18 and 29, who reported having pretended orgasm with their current sexual partner at least once, as participants. The researchers then asked them to fill out a questionnaire about their feigned orgasms. Here, the participants reported faking it in about one out of four of their sexual encounters with their current partner—mostly during penile-vaginal or penile-rectal intercourse.

Neither study offers insight into how men are able to fake orgasms. But presumably, it comes down to the fact that the amount of semen during ejaculation varies tremendously across individuals and the time of the sexual encounter.

Factors that may affect the quantity of semen include the male's physical make-up, the time of the day, the partner he is with, how much alcohol he has been drinking, and whether he recently ejaculated. Since the amount of semen expressed during a "real" male orgasm can be minuscule, it is possible that a sexual partner isn't always able to tell if ejaculation has occurred during penile-vaginal or penile-rectal intercourse. However, it is somewhat more of a mystery how ejaculation could be convincingly simulated during oral sex or manual stimulation.

Regardless of how men get away with pretending to have an orgasm, the truth is that they do. It's regrettable that so many men and women apparently feel pressured into putting on these kinds of theatrical acts during what should be some of the most intimate and pleasurable experiences of their lives. Hopefully, bringing awareness to the fact that guys fake it too can help both men and women be more real and honest about their sexual preferences and capabilities, leading to more pleasurable sexual experiences for all parties involved.

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Muehlenhard, C. L. & Shippee, S. K. (2010). "Men's and Women's Reports of Pretending Orgasm," Journal of Sex Research 46, 1–16.

Séguin, L. J. & Milhausen, R. R. (2016). "Not all fakes are created equal: examining the relationships between men's motives for pretending orgasm and levels of sexual desire, and relationship and sexual satisfaction," Sexual and Relationship Therapy 31, 2: 159-175.