Sex Ed

Do Women Fake Orgasms To Keep Their Partners From Cheating?

January 9, 2012 by Justin Lehmiller

Research indicates that most women have faked an orgasm at least once in their lives [1]. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of you, given how frequently the false finish makes an appearance in pop culture. But what’s the motivation behind all of that panting and moaning and screaming? Is it just for fun, or is there something else to it? The answer to this question is somewhat complex because women report lots of reasons for faking it, including everything from heightening their own pleasure to boosting their partner’s excitement [2]. However, recent research has uncovered another possible motive: preventing one’s partner from cheating or ending the relationship [3].

In this study, 453 female college students were asked several questions about their current romantic relationship, including whether they have ever faked an orgasm with their partner. More than half of the women (54%) had pretended to climax at least once, which is consistent with the numbers obtained in past research. However, the interesting thing about this study was that the women most likely to fake orgasms were the most likely to think their partners might be sexually unfaithful. Moreover, those women who faked orgasms tended to engage in the most “mate retention” behaviors, such as calling their partner to see who they are hanging out with and confronting other women who try to flirt with their man.

These findings suggest that for some women, faking orgasms might be part of a broader strategy aimed at preventing their partner from straying. However, we cannot definitively say that this is the case because there could be other explanations regarding why women who think their partners are susceptible to cheating tend to fake it (e.g., perhaps these women are simply too anxious or worried about their relationship to reach a natural climax). Also, this research does not tell us whether such a strategy would even help a woman keep her partner around. It seems theoretically plausible that it might, given that men tend to find all of that moaning and groaning sexually exciting [4]. Any way you look at it, whether it is fake or the real deal, the female orgasm is a fascinating topic that merits further exploration.

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[1] Wiederman, M. W. (1997). Pretending orgasm during sexual intercourse: Correlates in a sample of young adult women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 23, 131–135.

[2] Muehlenhard, C. L., & Shippee, S. K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 552-567.

[3] Kaighobadi, F., Shackelford, T. K., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A. (in press). Do women pretend orgasm to retain a mate? Archives of Sexual Behavior.

[4] Levin, R. J., (2006). Vocalised sounds and human sex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21, 99-107.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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