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When an Orgasm Is Not an Orgasm

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

This topic comes up more often with girlfriends than with patients. But it comes up often enough with girlfriends that I know it’s on my patients’ minds, too! The question is whether it’s sometimes okay to fake an orgasm.

I think it depends on how you define “sometimes” — and what your reasons are for faking. Let’s start by acknowledging that, by some estimates, as many as one in ten of us has never achieved an orgasm. Among those of us who orgasm, we might do so in only about half of our sexual encounters. And, just to dispel one widespread myth, only about a third of us achieve orgasms with heterosexual intercourse alone.

All that said, I think you get to decide when you signal your partner that you’ve achieved orgasm when you haven’t. Maybe you’re getting tired but you don’t want to break the intimate mood. Maybe you want to satisfy or boost your partner’s confidence. Studies show that nearly 80 percent of women will fake orgasm at some point.

But making a habit of it isn’t fair to you or to your partner, even though, with our busy, fast-paced lives, it can be an easy pattern to fall into. It’s worth it to spend some time—alone and with your partner—learning more about your body and its paths to orgasm. Even if you’ve had a lot of experience, changes in hormone levels, circulation, and tissue health can mean your needs have changed.

If you’re faking more than once in a great while, there may be something else going on that needs attention. Do you feel like it takes too long to reach orgasm? Does your partner know exactly what to do to help you achieve an orgasm? Is there something on your mind that’s making it hard to relax when you’re having sex? There are lots of ways to increase your mindfulness, sensation, and response.

We like sex for lots of reasons, and orgasm doesn’t have to be one of them. If you’ve never learned to have an orgasm, or if you don’t have them regularly, don’t consider yourself a sexual failure! But if you’re finding yourself pretending more than you used to, it’s never too late to learn or relearn our bodies.


  • Anne,

    Well, not surprisingly, this is a topic of debate. In 2004 an article was written by RJ Levin entitled “An orgasm is….who defines what an orgasm is?” Of course the science community has defined ‘specific objective indicators of the female orgasm’; it includes 1 prospective indicator, 4 current indicators and 3 retrospective indicators. While this may seem somewhat straightforward, it’s not, most include a blood test measuring a circulating hormone at that moment and/or a probe in a somewhat distracting location.

    The question of vaginal and clitoral orgasms continues to be discussed. The most common theory is that the perceived event, or orgasm, is a combination of stimulation (intercourse with vaginal stimulation, direct clitoral stimulation), it’s location and intensity of the stimulation, and importantly the mental and emotional imput.

    An orgasm can be triggered from stimulation of other sites as well like the area around the urethra, the mons, the breasts/nipples, and some women can have an orgasm from imagery or fantasy.

    Unfortunately there isn’t a way to know what will induce an orgasm in each person. And incorporating a vibrator is a great way to explore what is pleasurable to you. Many women find this is really helpful. Last week I met a woman who had never had an orgasm without the use of a vibrator.

    Maybe now in retrospect you have a better idea as to whether you were ‘faking it’ with your ex-husband or not. Or it was likely just a different set of circumstances resulting in a different perceived event.

    barbdepree on

  • 70% of women experience improved desire, arousal and satisfaction with Zestra. Why not see if the safe, effective, topically-applied blend of botanical oils and extracts works for you? It will be worth it!!!!

    RBScherl on

  • With the idea of ‘faking’ and orgasm in mind, is it possible to have different kinds of orgasmic reactions with hetero intercourse than clitoral stimulation with a vibrator? I never thought I could have orgasms and for years thought I was faking it with my ex-husband. Recently my boyfriend introduced a vibrator and I discovered a whole new experience with sex. But still the experience I have with just the vibrator is different than with him and the vibrator as it’s different with just him. Alone i reach this place where I feel like my insides are melting. I’ve almost got there with him and the vibrator. How do I get there with just him all the time….or at least more frequently? I don’t think I am faking anything intentionally, but I don’t get that melting insides feeling and I want to.

    anne on

  • There is a great book about this topic (and all the related psychology around this topic).

    The book is “Beyond Orgasm” by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

    He talks about honesty, how to get what you really want out of sex and out of a relationship, fears that most people have, how to enjoy your body and enjoy sex more — with or without orgasm. It is truly an amazing book.

    Ruth Lym on

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