Ask Alison: When (Not) to Fake an Orgasm

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating

Môsieur J./Flickr

I got into a little bit of an argument with a friend of mine—is it okay for women to fake their orgasms? She says no, it's never appropriate and that it's no different than telling a lie to a person's face. I feel that it's more of a "Hey that was a good try." What about you?

I want to start by saying that I'm tired of articles that talk about orgasms like they're adorable. Like, "Okay ladies, we're going to talk about the O, That's right ... the BIG one." Sex and coming shouldn't need a winking emoticon. It's important; it's like, one of the most important things.

That being said, no, women shouldn't "fake it," if for no other reason than they're giving their partner an undeserved sense of accomplishment. More importantly, it feeds into this mentality that women have to apologize for their bodies or their sexuality. Some studies say that up to 80 percent of women admit to having pulled an Elaine (the references are going to get more and more obscure, I'm sorry but if I have to write "faking it" over and over I'll claw my eyes out). Fifty years after the women's lib movement of the 1960s and we as a sex still aren't quite able to say, "You're like two inches off from where you need to be."

I've done it. Mostly when I was in high school and sex felt like when a small bird gets trapped indoors; all frantic and confused. Abstinence-only education nonsense aside, maybe there is something to warning teenagers how bad those early sexual encounters are going to be. At the time, I just wanted it to go in the normal progression and I didn't want to fail at base physiology. So the first six months of my young sexual life were filled with some amazing theatrics and then eventually, a very awkward conversation with a boyfriend who thought he was a seventeen year-old sex god. There I think is where the real cruelty lies; the confidence blow to the other participant.

An important starting point is knowing what an orgasm is. Studies have shown a range of anywhere from ten to thirty percent have never experienced an orgasm. So before you expect someone else to make you come, you had better be able to do it for yourself. If you're faking orgasms because you've never had one, then I'm very anti that. Quit it. You need to learn what you want and what you like, I recommend masturbating whenever you're free. If you are a lady who has never had an orgasm and you don't work on it every day please stop being afraid. Go masturbate right now. Go do it, I'll wait.

If that's not your issue, there are still times when it's just not going to happen, whatever the reason. What I think causes those three out of four women to Meg Ryan (yes she's a verb in this context) if the fear of either of these things happening:

One. Having a long talk about what went "wrong." I'm all for open conversations about sex logistics, especially with a new partner, but feel like these talks always happen at three in the morning. I've also gotten, "We're not stopping until you get off." which sounds more like a threat than anything else. Your orgasm shouldn't be some sort of trophy for the other person.

Two. They roll over and fall asleep, not a care or concern in the world while you are left there to hate them a little bit.

Part of the problem is that sex, to a significant portion of the population, is graded pass/fail instead of considering the entire experience. You just got to be naked with someone who you hopefully find attractive. Congratulations, on getting laid! It's fun and sometimes we put too much pressure and importance on the whole thing. If everything else was good but you didn't quite get there, you should still consider it a success.

This isn't to say that you should be content with a partner who does sub-par work with no interest in improving. But sometimes, man, you just want to go to bed, or you've made a horrible mistake and you just want it to be over, or you have other stuff to do and you want it to be over. Faking an orgasm to me now, as a lady in her late twenties, is much more about moving things along. Which is a horrible thing to write, but I've come to terms with the fact that this column will the death of my sex life, which was weakened and sickly to begin with.

So that's where I stand. Let's go with one free pass a year to do a full Barbarella (I'm really proud of this one) and it expires if it goes unused. This goes for guys too, because they totally do it ... or maybe it's just the ones that I've slept with. Yes, it's a lie, but just a little one and as long as it's not giving the impression that you like something that you don't. Mostly I just want all of us to get a good night's sleep.


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If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to Ask Alison [at] The Atlantic (.com).