November 18th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

The Sexpert: Memo to women: Please stop faking!

As a sex therapist, my profession often makes for interesting, and sometimes awkward, dinner conversation. Not too long ago I was at a cocktail party, when a woman in her mid-30s descended upon me. “Quick” she said in hushed tones, “My husband’s getting me a drink. We only have a few seconds. How do I get him to read your book, ‘She Comes First,’ without hurting his feelings?”

But before I could respond, or even think about my response, her husband sauntered over, draped his arm around her shoulder and chimed in, “Hey, you’re the guy who writes those sex books, right? I have just one question for you: why didn’t you pick me to be your co-author? I could have given you some secrets – right honey?” We all laughed, and as I made awkward eye contact with the wife, it was clear that she was the one with the real secret and it was going to stay that way.  And she’s not alone.

According to the recently published National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior 85 percent of men said that their partner had experienced an orgasm during their most recent sexual event, while only 64 percent of women reported actually having had an orgasm. The implication: Lots of women are faking it—and getting away with it.  And as we know from the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in "When Harry Met Sally," men are easily hoodwinked.

But yet for all our “orgasmic naiveté,” men are often the first to be blamed as the source of such female fraudulence. On a recent episode of “The Joy Behar Show” titled, “Is There an Orgasm Gap?” the general consensus among the all-female panel was that men need to be better educated about female sexuality, and that faking is a necessary byproduct of the male ego and protecting a guy’s self-esteem.

Personally, I don’t buy it. If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a woman fakes it and her partner thinks she is actually enjoying the sex, is her dissatisfaction really heard?

Don’t get me wrong: As a sex and relationships counselor I’m all for education. I do believe that men get too many of their ideas about female sexuality from porn. There’s no shortage of legitimate reasons why a woman might not experience an orgasm during sex. “Find me a women’s magazine whose cover doesn’t include screaming headlines about the 764 varieties of orgasm every woman is supposed to be having each time she has sex,” writes my colleague Emily Nagoski in the Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms. “In reality, life gets in the way—stress, depression, anxiety, body image, performance anxiety (women get it too), sleep deprivation, feeling rushed (women average roughly 10-30 minutes to orgasm), all interfere with orgasm. So sometimes women fake it.”

But is Emily justified in justifying the occasional “fake-out”?

According to her, faking isn’t evil; it’s often a well-intentioned safeguard for her partner’s ego. “A woman is less likely to have orgasms early in a relationship—her body needs time to learn to trust a new partner and to relax into the knowledge that he accepts and appreciates her body,” she writes. “At the same time, if a woman likes her partner, she wants him to feel good about the relationship. If orgasm is a way she can show him she’s enjoying it, but orgasm just isn’t there for her yet, faking it is a completely viable option—as long as it doesn’t become a habit.”

I have always tended to agree with Emily (and scores of other professionals) on the legitimacy of the occasional fake-out, but with this latest study it seems that faking has become the little white lie that’s amounted to a culturally accepted form of deception.

So I’m reversing my opinion: Faking every now and then is not OK. Sure, talking about sex can be difficult; sure it’s easier to spare one’s feelings; and sure there are men who will respond defensively—but none of that actually justifies lying. Every time a woman fakes it for a legitimate reason, she undermines that legitimacy and loses an opportunity to communicate with her partner and deepen his understanding of their relationship.

And remember, ladies, what goes around comes around. As I wrote last week for this blog, more and more men are faking it too. So instead of faking it, let’s talk about sex. It isn’t always easy, but, in the end, not talking about sex is even harder. And for all the moaning and groaning, faking the big O is just a big conversation-stopper.

Ian Kerner is a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author. Read more from him at his website,GoodInBed.

soundoff (1,054 Responses)
  1. Andy

    It's their job to fake it. I have feelings too you know.

    November 18, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mike

    Funny, how I never have a problem "getting there"

    November 18, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ConnecticutGuy

    I'm a guy and I have definitely faked it quite a few times. Main reason usually is when I'm not in the mood and suddenly she think I don't find her attractive.......I guess it goes both ways as far as hurting each others ego is concerned LOL

    November 18, 2010 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. GiGi

    I have to say that I totally agree with the author. Why would you fake it and reinforce bad behavior? I think that women need to be more assertive in bed, learn how to guide their partner during the encounter, and then speak up later if there was a miscommunication. If you are in a sexual relationship, there has to be a certain level of trust, and if you can be that intimate with your bodies, you should at least be able to be that intimate with your mind. When did people become so painfully sensitive that they would allow their sexual life to falter for the sake of an ego? Be proud of your sexuality, and revel in your partner's!

    November 18, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. David

    Gabor47, jeez throw in a few jokes next time. Still, well written and informative to those who haven't been to college.

    November 18, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dave R.

    Let's start with the woman telling the man what she really wants and likes. I think there a good number of women that think their man is the "Great Carnak". WRONG, we are not mind readers! The guy trying to guess might just might result in the need to fake it.

    November 18, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Aaron

    Do men really need to be lied to? Faking something in order to "save your partner's feelings" sounds exactly like what cheaters do after having an affair. Maybe women's unique constitutions require that they be habitually deceived too?

    November 18, 2010 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike

    ladies, the times you were drunk out of your mind and hooking up with random guys should not factor here.

    November 18, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. pdxmilf

    64% huh? Okay and out of that 64%, how many of them achieved an orgasm during sex WITHOUT using some sort of toy or without self-stimulation?
    I've encountered many a male who claimed they felt threatened by my toys. Women, on the other hand, love integrating them into our play.

    November 18, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. lance corporal

    wow these boards enlighten me about how many people are still stuck in old attitudes, OK school circle, take a knee and listen up; 1st: nothing is true of all or even most men or women, stop making assumptions based on gender 2nd it takes 2 to tango, it is not all the mans fault, a woman is not a mountain a man needs to climb/conquer/make cum, if your not contributing and your missing out.... your fault 3rd physiologically women will only rarely orgasm thru intercourse alone, RARELY, if your a man and you didn't know that say it over and over like a mantra until you reprogram your brain 4th neanderthals aside men DO CARE and it's not about pride, many many many men get their largest enjoyment from the womans pleasure, remember men are more visual, seeing an excited woman is a massive turn on 5th and most important it's about more than the genitals (and yes even for the men) if your not communicating you are missing out big time, TELL YOUR MAN (or woman) what you want.... surprise.... he/she is not offended but excited and motivated and can not wait until they are given the chance to explore the parts of you that you are willing to open up to them 6th get over it!!! there is no perfect time, no perfect situation, learn to relax, let go of any resentments, realize that your partner travels thru life with you, the journey should be fun, s e x is natural and healthy, it's good for you and your relationship..... f-ck your brains out kids!!!!!

    November 18, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sailor

      Hooyah shipmate.

      November 18, 2010 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • CPTWants Agoodman

      I am a female who just turned 41 years old, and although I'm happy to say I've never faked an orgasm, I can also say that probably 98% of the time I have been the one who has "taken matters into my own hands." Men rarely know what pleases a women it's true, and many are set in their ways. When a woman indicates what she desires or manually shows a man what she would like through show and tell, that often wears away quickly, as men's egos tend to bruise rather quickly it seems. I personally think that the problem is that in the US, we have a phobia about female genitalia, showing nude bodies, or talking about sex openly with children. Many still find the subject very taboo still, and therefore the information that is learned is often learned incorrectly by viewing degrading material that is mass produced for the visual excitement alone (i.e. porn), and not necessarily for the actual enjoyment of the two people involved or even to indicate a healthy, loving relationship; or just healthy sex – which in itself is also very natural and normal. If I had a penny for every man who thought he knew how to please a woman (but couldn't be farther from the truth), I would be rich! It's about intellect, romance, and talking the pants off of her! Men, learn how to talk to your woman and share being open with her – have fun with the situation, and she will open up to you and feel more comfortable in letting go.

      November 18, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
    • Brad Pitt


      What good would extra education or pictures do ? If you are demonstrating or showing a man how – and he still doesn't do it correctly, I doubt a better sex ed could change anything.

      November 18, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • EasyStreet

      CPTWants Agoodman–I don't disagree with much of what you're saying, but it is a sad assessment if a man has to spend time "talking the pants off of her!" every time he wants to please her sexually. I find this to be a big problem with American women in the last generation or two, and why many American men have sought out European and Asian women as mates.

      As a general rule, foreign women tend to be just as intelligent and beautiful (if not more so), but have fewer hangups with their own sexuality. This goes all the way back to the dating scene. I have met Asian women who are very demanding about the type of man they want, but who have no childish expectations that a man has to be super funny and make her laugh for half an hour just in hopes that she might want to go on a date. In fact, some foreign women are disdainful of superfluous talking and are more interested in emotional and sexual satisfaction akin to the man.

      I've seen my expat friends bring their foreign wives back to the states for years, and while there's often a stigma associated with this, most of them would never thing twice about it. Their wives aren't the subservient "kitchen slaves" as so many American critics would suggest. These men have simply found more sensible mates on all levels–parenting, gender roles, and sexual compatibility.

      In my own experience, a woman who understands her own sexuality, who knows what is necessary for her to achieve an orgasm and can communicate it effectively–keeping in mind that we are all responsible for our own orgasms–that woman is a superior being. Unfortunately, I've met too many who couldn't answer those simple questions and invariably are frustrated sexually AND emotionally.

      November 19, 2010 at 00:18 | Report abuse |
  11. RetiredProf

    So, the bottom line is this: What man really cares if his wife, GF, or pick-up gets off? All the men I know could care less and aren't willing to spend 30 minutes trying to figure it out. Ladies, just do your own thing.

    November 18, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aaron

      You need some new male friends. Or birds of a feather?

      November 18, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
  12. maryanne

    Everyone is responsible for their own O.

    November 18, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Master Debater

    Honey, What are you doing? The term Blow Job is just an expression…..Ugh!

    November 18, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Master Debater

    Oral sex doesn’t cum easily! 😉

    November 18, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Master Debater

    I wanna thank all of you for coming; and if you didn't better luck next time 😉

    November 18, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Master Debater

    There's a party in your mouth and everybody's coming 😉

    November 18, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Robert

    Once again, life is Seinfeld: "Do you ever fake it? Sure, you know, if it's enough already and I just want to get some sleep."

    November 18, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Christine O'Donnell

    You people are all sick and depraved.. Masturbation is a SIN!
    When me and Sara win in 2012 all this be OUTLAWED...
    Enjoy your sick sick lives for now you bunch of perverts......
    CNN shame on you for having an X-rated site!

    November 18, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Selfish Lover

    Q: How do you know when a woman has an orgasm ?

    A: Who cares..

    November 18, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Brian

    At first when I read it, I thought it said 'Memo to women: please stop talking!' Imagine my disappointment....

    November 18, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Master Debater

      ROFLMAO that was too damn funny!

      November 18, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • phillth

      Ahhh, Brian i have to agree with the Master

      November 18, 2010 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
  21. maryanne

    I meant mentally. The brain is the where it all starts.

    November 18, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • phillth

      i agree, Herbie has a mind of his own.

      November 18, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
  22. E

    memo to men – stop being a whiny baby if a woman doesn't get off the second you touch her, sometimes it just isn't going to happen, other times it isn't going to happen because YOU are not making i happen. Try listening to what she says and does and acting accordingly. If she says OUCH, stop doing what you are doing, if she says more, do more of that.

    November 18, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Master Debater

    Yesterday a Viagra got stuck in my throat; I had a stiff neck for six hours! 😉

    November 18, 2010 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Rupert

    Hmmm. Why fake it? Sex should only be after marriage (not old fashioned – just wise) and at that point, COMMUNICATE and resolve the issue. Learn what you both like, and COMMUNICATE if it is working for both of you or not. If not, change it up a little – which takes... you guessed it – COMMUNICATION.

    November 18, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Master Debater

    Let’s not forget when a woman starts having sex too early in life and with multiple partners, at some point there’s nothing humanly possible that a man can do to get her off; Outside of 2.5 hours of four play….When the clitoris starts to resembles a small penis, there’s nothing you can do to excite that thing 😉

    November 18, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jill

      Does your Mom know you are playing on the computer?

      November 18, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse |
    • Master Debater

      Jill, let me guess you fall into that category 😉

      November 18, 2010 at 19:30 | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Ha Ha Ha! That is the first of your posts that I found to be funny!

      November 18, 2010 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
    • Master Debater

      @Jill, You're so hard to please,but since I like you I'm going to keep trying! 😉

      November 19, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
  26. LB

    CNN, please start weeding out the trolls. Early on this was a really interesting discussion, but then it devolved when the jerks showed up to derail things.

    November 18, 2010 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. El viejo

    By 15 posts, I says to me, bookmark, yes. And not political? Who'd a thunk it? All that honest appraisal of truly serious subject matter. Nothing beats discourse of inter-personal subject matter. Though lots of strong petting, I didn't DO IT until i was 17. She eventually said, "well." Hmm, I guess I better. The piston steam engine thing of course. Then, one time many months later, she stiffened up and grabbed me hard. I knew something happened but not what, when, or how. Then just bumped along waiting, getting faked, years and years. My second ex-wife, ( as i told my students, uh the boys, you think you're hot to trot, but, no, you can't and won't WANT to do it all day long. There are other things in life needing attention) a highly motivated and narcissistic erotic machine, more forthright than anyone I've ever known, about that. Let me know by the second time, i was not warming her up enough or inspiringly so, and said stop, and/or let's begin again. Adept and imaginative at conjuring up fantasy. I got it. And so, EVERY night, she couldn't go to sleep unless so. I like to please, but I have dropped like a hot rock someone who does the Porno moan in 5 minutes. But, as i said, sex isn't everything, that's why she is an ex. I've never read so many posts where BOTH sides have a valid point. Right, correct? I guess it's just personal choice.

    November 18, 2010 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. DougDW

    All I know if my 53 year old girlfriend has no difficultly whatsoever in achieving orgasm after orgasm. Trust me, our bedsheets tell the complete story. So ... I feel sorry for all those women who have to fake it. She plans on keeping me around.

    November 18, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Slow N Gentle4U

    Ladies would not have to fake orgasms if men did not fake foreplay.

    November 18, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. yeahright

    Looks like we aren't all going to agree on "faking or not". Do what works for you and your partner.

    November 19, 2010 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Master Debater

    We all know what a 69 is, Right Jill?!? Okay, so do you know what a 68 is?....... You do me and I'll owe you one! 😉

    November 19, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Master Debater

    The moment that we remove the fun, the unity, the enjoyment, the pleasure and the mental stimulation from sex, THE IS GAME OVER! It’s not rocket science ya’ll, consider this; I want to please my woman because it makes me feel good when she feels good, even more so when I’m doing something that she enjoys during sex….We’re making this more complicated then it needs to be. Believe it or not (understand) there will be those times when either one of us will be off our game (that’s okay)….
    I would say 30% of sex is physical while the remaining 70% is mental….Call it whatever you want Love, Lust, or just being horny, it all starts in our minds….Sex starts well before the clothes come off, sometimes days or even hours! Psychosomatic comes well before the Physical, stimulate his / her mind and the rest will soon follow.....;)

    November 19, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. shelby

    Sex if you’re faking it or having a full orgasm, should be talked about just like anything else. Yes, it might be awkward; however, if you’re in a relationship, shouldn’t you be able to discuss anything with your partner? Two individuals are doing one of the most intimate (if you consider this intimate) things two people can do, you’re already seeing and feeling everything the other person has, so discuss. When both parties know and understand what the other likes and don’t likes it makes it better for both. Sometimes it’s just letting your partner know what does and doesn’t work for you that can change your sex life. If two can talk about television or movie, then two can talk about their sexual preferences. If a man or a woman can’t handle this conversation, then they probably shouldn’t be having sex anyways. People forget that there are other responsibilities of a healthy sex life other then practicing safe sex, which is the conversation that comes with sex as well.

    November 19, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mars

    That story leading up to the rest of the entry sounds horribly fake.

    November 19, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Terry from West Texas

    I think any gentleman would ring the doorbell a few times before he goes in. It's the polite thing to do.

    December 6, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Alex

    If somebody fakes orgasm for me then I 75% do not care and 25 % like it. At least I have 0% support for the hysterical headline of this article. If you want to fake, keep faking.

    December 7, 2010 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. PheonixRising0402

    I faked an orgasm twice while reading this article and the subsequent responses. TMI, I guess...

    Advice: Foreplay – find the man in the boat and rock it in the same motion as the volume and power knobs...satisfaction guaranteed. 🙂 And a whole lotta fun later ! 😀 Aim for a 20 to 1 ratio and use protection! – Jack (and yes phoenix is spelled wrong on purpose! jeez...)

    December 9, 2010 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lori

    When I drink, I can't get off and I told my boyfriend this when I met him but it doesn't stop us from trying. Sometimes my boyfriend just wants to "bang one off" so I let him. Any other time, if I am having trouble I just use my imagination and/or finger rub and it works every time. If a woman is not getting off then its her fault. I want to get off and will do whatever it takes and my boyfriend loves that.


    December 23, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    this blog needs Dr. Ruth... vee putz dee feenger in zee hiney hole.. zen vee lickey zee fraulien

    December 23, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
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