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You know the look she gives when the office pushed her buttons and her limits, and she storms through the front door, eying you for a bear hug? You also know the first signals that her hanger is kicking in, when your usually laid-back, sweet-natured girlfriend suddenly becomes ravenous for anything, and gladly takes out her hunger pains on you? And when she’s in the mood to tango with you under the sheets? It’s a certain way she locks eyes with you and smiles, signaling her cravings for your kiss, touch and weight on her body.
But what about her orgasms? As well as you know the leading lady in your life, it’s common for many men to misunderstand the sexual responses their partners are giving them, often mistaking orgasms for other reactions. And, worst of all, you might believe you’re bringing home the big-O’s for her regularly, but what if she’s faking them?
Many sexual experts have noted that dissatisfaction in the bedroom can lead to troubles far beyond locked doors, tempting partners to stray or to end relationships. That’s why making sure she’s pleased is essential to a happy, long-lasting twosome. To clear up any confusion, we spoke to some accredited sex experts, who shared their best advice on how to decipher a phony orgasm — and more importantly, what to do about it:
1. How To Know If It’s Fake
While pornographic videos or films might make an orgasm look like a theatrical performance, sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter explains that, often times, a real orgasm incites key physical reactions that vary depending on the person.
These might include involuntary muscle contractions — like curling toes, hands and fingers, arching her back or clenching her jaw— and also a rise in her blood pressure and heart rate, causing her to breathe heavier and turn red.
Another signal can be visual, as Geter notes the labia (the lips of the external genitals that many call the vagina) can become darker mid-orgasm and her clitoris could swell as the body becomes aroused.
To fake it? Geter says women would have to recreate many of these signs — complete with moaning sounds — to pull off the charade. But one surefire clue that should make you raise your eyebrow? Psychologist and sex, dating and relationship expert, and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life, Antonia Hall shares one word to look out for: “Faster.” While, sure, some women prefer a faster tempo, when she wants you to finish ASAP, it’s probably because she’s tired, not feeling it, or knows she won’t reach orgasm with what you’re doing.
“Most women are pretty adept at faking it, and their partner was none the wiser. She'll use moaning, tightening of muscles, heavier breathing. If she's really not enjoying herself, she'll usually encourage him to speed things along by saying things like, ‘Faster, more, come with me,’’ Hall explains. “When a woman is truly enjoying themselves, she's not going to encourage things to move along faster.”
In the end, Hall says, certain reactions simply can’t be faked: “When a woman orgasms, her pupils dilate, her cheeks and chest flush a pinker tone from the rush of blood flow, and the muscles in her pelvis contract faster than she could replicate,” she explains.
2. How Common Are Fake Orgasms?
Before you stand proudly on your high horse, brushing your shoulder at the sexual expert you are, remember it’s estimated by a recent study that around 80% of women have faked an orgasm, accounting for far more than the majority. Hall says this statistic is saddening, as many females aren’t sure what to do about their struggles, or their partners won’t invest the time to make it a more enjoyable experience for the relationship.
Another bummer? Women might be more likely to fake orgasms as relationships continue for years, even when they are generally satisfied with their bedroom experience because of the laundry list of outside stressors that can clog their minds and make them race to the finish line of sex, checking off another to-do item instead of truly investing in the moment and the feelings.
“Unfortunately, the faking of orgasms is incredibly common and most women have at some point in their lives faked an orgasm. Around three-quarters of women cannot orgasm from penetrative sex alone, and depend upon clitoral stimulation to climax. Women also need far more time to orgasm than men,” Hall explains.
3. Why Do Women Fake Orgasms?
If so many women aren’t enjoying their sex lives to the fullest, why don’t they speak up and change the routine? For many, pressures, self-confidence and worries over their partner’s self-esteem come into play, making it a touchy subject to say the least.
Kelsey Martin, 27, from New York says that, for her, faking an orgasm is something she feels like she has to do to keep her relationship thriving, as she doesn’t want to rock the boat or make her long-term boyfriend feel incompetent.
Geter says Martin is a common case, explaining, “Many grow up with messages that 'strong men' pleasure women and orgasm becomes of the goal for sex. If a woman can't orgasm, then the man isn't performing to standard. Therefore, women may fake an orgasm for her partner's pride and ego more than her own pleasure or need,” she shares.
Another reason a woman might fake it, even if she never makes it? Because she worries something is wrong with her. In fact, this could stem from previous relationships where she did voice feedback, only to get shunned by her then-partner. “Some men and women also label women as ‘abnormal’ or ‘something is wrong with her’ if she reports never experiencing a vaginal orgasm. Therefore, a woman may also fake a vaginal orgasm to feel and appear ‘normal’ to her partner or society's standards,” Geter explains.
Navigating the topic can be stress-inducing, but Hall says a healthy, happy relationship welcomes the discussion so both partners will feel fulfilled and loved within their intimate relations. “All women are different, so while there's a fear that speaking up and offering him guidance is going to injure his ego, it's a disservice not to offer some feedback,” she says.
“Men can create the space for this by asking her if what he's doing is working or if there are things he could be doing differently. Communication is invaluable in the bedroom, and it doesn't take much conversation to get on the same page.
4. Do Men Fake Orgasms?
...or can they? You might wonder how it’s physically possible, considering there is usually, ahem, a show at the end of your sexual performance — and yet some men do fake orgasms. But the more important discussion is around what a male orgasm looks like.
Geter explains that, much like women, men have physical responses leading up to and during an orgasm, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, heavy breathing, reddening and erection of the penis, and muscle contractions. Where it gets a tad confusing is with ejaculation and how that dictates pleasure.
“Orgasm and ejaculation are two separate responses, though they happen to occur at the same time. Some men can experience orgasm without ejaculating and can experience orgasm or ejaculation without an erect penis,” Geter says.
“The majority of people think orgasm and ejaculation are one and the same and it's very unlikely a man can fake ejaculation. If the cum is not present after orgasm, then partners are convinced the man did not actually orgasm. In my work with men, I've never had one report faking an orgasm, though avoiding sexual interaction due to fear and anxiety of not being able to perform — whether it's obtaining an erection or being able to ‘finish’ — is common.”
Hall says men fake orgasms far less often and usually for specific reasons, explaining, “Yes, men fake less frequently than women, but many guys have faked at least once in their lives. This can be because they were just tired, know it isn't going to happen, or they're not enjoying the experience as much as they'd like and want to get it over with.”
5. What To Do If You Think She’s Faking
So what do you do if all the signs are pointing to dissatisfaction and less-than-stellar orgasms — if any at all?
Geter says to avoid talking about your concerns in the heat of the moment, but rather, find a safe place where you can talk about your sex life — say, on the couch at home or in a lounge where you can have privacy to talk over cocktails.
“This is a good time to share what you both enjoy about sex — whether with each other, with solo sex, or in prior sexual relationships — to learn how to make your experience together more enjoyable for you both,” she suggests.
“This is also a good time to talk about the role orgasms play in your sexual expectations and what you both hope to experience during sexual play. If you learn that orgasms are not as important as other experiences, this is a great time to find out how to add more of what your partner needs and wants instead of focusing on what you or society say she needs or wants.”
Most importantly, Hall says, ensure she feels you’re coming from a place of love, not competition or ego, and making the focus all about her. “When a woman feels loved, supported, and that she can trust you, she'll open up both verbally and physically. This will help you learn what she needs, and strengthen your relationship,” she explains.
6. Products to Get Her There
Sometimes the assistance of toys can do wonders for women, making them more comfortable exploring their own bodies so they can explain what works to their partners. This also makes them more verbal about their sexuality and able to dictate what matters most to them between the sheets.