All too often does the media portray the female orgasm¹ as an instantaneous and infallible occurrence. A thrust here, a flick there, a couple of “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s,” and you’re off. However, as most women can attest, that method comes with a trialed and failed track record that leaves little to be desired.
A study in the Journal of Sex Research showed that the majority (up to 70%) of women do not reach orgasm during intercourse² (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014), while another study showed that between 53-65% of women “fake it” during sex (Kershnar, 2012) – often employing the method described above. In addition, the inundation of false advertising in entertainment media and pornographic presentations lead us to believe that intercourse is an absolute means for accomplishing orgasm.
While I would argue the most common cause of this occurrence is lack of anatomical education on the male’s part, the reasons for faking it are vast, differed, and are normally due to a lack of assertion from the female to articulate what she desires.
However, there is hope for us yet. While failure to orgasm is a common occurrence, other studies have suggested that in some cases, “faking it” and the linguistic practices, in the form of “dirty talk,”employed during creation of climax, can lead to more stimulating and successful arousal (Cooper, Fenigstein & Fauber, 2013, Bland & Barrett, 2009).
In the Media
While I’m sure practiced by our predecessors, the act of “faking it” was brought to our attention – and surely widened the eyes of men everywhere – when Sally Albright (played by actress Meg Ryan), proving a point to her male counterpart, Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal), “got off” all on her own at Katz’s Delicatessen, in the 1989 film, “When Harry Met Sally.”
The subject was then mentioned again, in the popular HBO series “Sex and the City,” when Miranda Hobbs (M) and Charlotte York (C) debated over the concept³, arguing how important a “real” orgasm is in a relationship:
-Carrie: Who’s that?
-M: An ophthalmologist I once faked orgasms with….I only slept with him twice. The first time I faked it because it was never gonna happen. The second time I had to fake it because I did the first time….I didn’t wanna fake it again, so I just forgot to return his last call.
-C: You broke up with an ophthalmologist over that?
-M: Orgasm, major thing in a relationship?
-C: But not the only thing. Orgasms don’t send you Valentine’s cards and don’t hold your hand in a sad movie.
-M: You’re seriously advocating faking?
-C: No, but if you really like the guy, what’s one little moment of ooh, ahh, versus spending the whole night in bed alone?
With these and the numerous other portrayals of orgasm in media today, the topic of faking it is gaining more and more attention. However, even still the myths to attain an orgasm greatly outweigh the more accurate suggestions.
Men (and most women), have been conditioned to believe that there is a formula for reaching climax. While it is true that certain sexual positions or components of foreplay⁴ can increase stimulation, every woman is different and there is no exact science. In addition there is the overwhelming fact that an estimated 10-15% percent of women have never experienced an orgasm at all (Dr. Phil, n.d.), and might not be able to.
This issue is only heightened by the lack of knowledge of both parties (women knowing what they want, and men knowing how to give it to them) during intercourse. An article on Cosmopolitan.com stated “until the conversation about sex shifts from what men like to what women like, a lot of women aren’t going to know how to ask for — and get — what they want in bed” (Breslaw, 2013).
A 2013 research study reported the six main reasons women are likely to fake an orgasm are: “(1) Altruistic Deceit – concern for a partner’s feelings; (2) Fear and Insecurity – to avoid negative emotions associated with the sexual experience; (3) Elevated Arousal – to increase her own arousal through faking orgasm; (4) Sexual Adjournment – to end sex; (5) Insecure Avoidance – to avoid feelings of insecurity and; (6) Fear of Dysfunction – to cope with concerns of being abnormal,” all of which are equally employed (Cooper, Fenigstein & Fauber, 2013). Number (3), “Elevated Arousal,” carries along with it the linguistic aspects of how we verbally articulate climax and how by doing so we could potentially increase stimulation.
Talk Dirty to Me
According to a study published in the International Journal of Applied Philosophy, vocal and verbal acknowledgement make up for 79% of how fictitious “orgasming” is communicated⁵. Vocal indications involve moaning, screaming, and other sounds of pleasure, while verbal communication includes explicitly saying the orgasm is happening (Kershnar, 2012). With this idea one could argue that the linguistic practices during intercourse are equal to or even surpass the importance of the act itself.
However, what does this say about the female role in heterosexual intercourse? Firstly, it implies the “passive” or “submissive” role women play during sex, demonstrating how the genitalia used for intercourse equates to their dictionary definitions. In most dictionary entries⁶ the ‘vagina’ or ‘clitoris’ are defined by their location where as the male equivalent ‘penis’ is defined by its function (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001) – thus insinuating women are merely the places men play on. In this vain, that same passive attitude is expressed when women don’t actively assert what it is they want the man to do during intercourse, consequently making the experience about fulfilling the males needs and desires.
In an article that analyzes five books on sex, titled “Teaching Women to Talk Dirty,” the authors, Isa Bland and Rusty Barrett, assert that some of the authors of the books consider “dirty talk” a “means of arousal” (Bland & Barrett, 2009). This is to say that by “talking dirty” a woman can heighten her level of pleasure. Likewise, in the act of faking orgasms, sometimes women are turned on by the thought of the reality they are expressing and therefore stimulate themselves to climax.
Secondly, it encourages women to perform a task equivalent to a sex phone operator, whose sole purpose is to “ooh” and “ahh” for male satisfaction (Hall, 1995). This demotion of women – from human to Bop It! (“twist it,” “pull it,” “spin it,” “bop it”), an object whose success depends on quick and abrupt manipulations – allows men to think of women as toys to play with, who need nothing in return.
Tell It Like It Is
Although “faking it ‘till you make it” or “talking to turn you on” are two individual options women have to achieve climax, another way successful satisfaction can be met is through articulating ones desires (a la Mila Kunis in Friends With Benefits) – this of course comes with the additional complication of having the male counterpart a) listen and b) know how (and want) to follow the directions. If this method of communication is employed, the awkward but all too familiar scenarios of:
Male: Did you come?
Female: Yeah… *sigh*
Male: Oh my god, that was amazing!⁷
Male: I want you to come!
Female (in head): Yeah…I’d like that also
Female (in reality) …5 seconds later: Ahh, I’m coming! I’m coming!
are luckily and likely to be avoided.
In conclusion, the practice of “faking it” is more common than not among women who engage in sexual intercourse. The many reasons, which range from fear of disappointing your partner to the fear of feeling abnormal are generously utilized in intimate settings. Acquiring an orgasm has become an expected result for both men and women during intercourse, so when it doesn’t happen we have been conditioned to believe there is something wrong with us.
However, because accomplishing climax is an intricate task, and all too easy to impersonate, it is often overlooked and under-discussed. Furthermore, education on arousal will not become any more informative if the media continues to leave men – and women – with the impression that kiss-kiss-bang-bang is all a woman needs to climax.
Perhaps more technical conversations of where and what a woman wants, between her and her partner could lead to more successful satisfaction. Likewise, maybe including verbal cues, suggestions, and “dirty talk,” could lead her to her tipping point. However, if all else fails, as it turns out, faking it might be just what you need to actually make it happen.
¹ the ”female orgasm” described is one attained from heterosexual, penetrative intercourse
² “intercourse” defined as penile-vaginal penetration
³ “Sex and The City” Season 2, Episode 4: They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?”
⁴ common suggested examples include the woman getting on top or engaging in oral sex prior to penetration
⁵ simultaneously 55% of fake orgasm are articulated through body expression, i.e.: breathing faster or harder, clenching or pausing breath, facial indications, and pulling partner closer (Kershnar, 2012)
⁶ in English Language Dictionaries (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001)
⁷or any variation of male success, including but not limited to screaming, cheering, thrusting a fist up in the air, or feeling the need to announce to you that he just “rocked your world”
Bland, I., & Barrett, R. (2009). “Stick your (adj.) (noun) in my (adj.) (noun)!”: Teaching women to “talk dirty.”
Braun, V., & Kitzinger, C. (2001). Telling it straight? Dictionary definitions of women’s genitals. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 5/2, 214-232.
Breslaw, A. (2013, November). 7 Sad But True Reasons Women Fake Orgasms. Cosmopolitan. Retrieved from www.cosmopolitan.com.
Cooper, E. B., Fenigstein, A., & Fauber, R. L. (2013). The Faking Orgasm Scale for Women: Psychometric Properties. Arch Sex Behav (2014) 43:423–435.
Hall, K. (1995). Lip Service in the Fantasy Lines. Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self. New York. Routledge. 183-216.
Kershnar, S. (2012). The Morality of Faking Orgasms: Deception in a Dishonest World. International Journal of Applied Philosophy. 26:1. 85-104.
Salisbury, C. M. A., & Fisher, W. A. (2014). ‘‘Did You Come?’’ A Qualitative Exploration of Gender Differences in Beliefs, Experiences, and Concerns Regarding Female Orgasm Occurrence During Heterosexual Sexual Interactions. Journal of Sex Research. 51(6), 616-631.
Star, D. (1999). They Shoot Single People, Don’t They [Television series episode]. In Sex and the City.HBO.
Health. The Female Orgasm. Dr. Phil. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/371.
When Harry Met Sally [Motion picture]. (1989). USA: Warner Bros.