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Fake orgasms

Who does it, and why?

The subject of many on-screen situations, both comedic and dramatic, the notion of faking an orgasm is often portrayed in popular culture. Though often seen in mediated formats, what exactly does research say about this process?

To better understand fake orgasms, Muehlenhard and Shippee studied 280 young adults (average age of about 19 years old). They found that 50% of the women they studied, and 25% of the men, previously faked an orgasm.

The authors examined a number of factors that helped described how/why individuals pretended to orgasm (Readers are invited to read their study for a full summary of results). Interestingly, those who faked an orgasm typically were reporting on a boyfriend/girlfriend and reported that their sexual partners initiated sexual activity. Another contributing situational factor that participants reported was alcohol consumption, with those who faked an orgasm reporting they were drinking before sex.

An important question to consider is why someone would fake an orgasm. The researchers found the following reasons: Orgasm was unlikely or taking too long, They wanted the sex to end, Partner’s orgasm seemed imminent, To avoid a negative consequence, To get a positive consequence, or They did not want to orgasm (p. 561).

This descriptive study provides an initial understanding of this topic. Interestingly motives share some overlap with my own work on deceptive affection – situations where individuals express affection they do not feel (summarized here:…).

As I often say, dating and mating are complicated. Understanding of our own and our partner’s communication can enhance relational functioning. I encourage readers to reflect on these processes as they continue to navigate the relational marketplace.

Dr. Sean M. Horan is a Communication professor. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealDrSean. His expertise is communication across relationships, with topics including deception, affection, workplace romance, sexual risk/safety, attraction, deceptive affection, and initial impressions. His work/commentary has appeared on CNN, ABC, Fox, The Wall Street Journal, and more.


Muehlenhard, C. L., & Shippee, S. K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending to orgasm. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 552–567. doi:10.1080/00224490903171794