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How Orgasms Work

        Health | Sexuality

Faking It
Women -- and men -- fake orgasms.
Women -- and men -- fake orgasms.
John Rensten/Getty Images

In 1989, Nora Ephron publicized on the big screen what had already been confirmed in a series of studies. In one of the most iconic scenes in contemporary film history, Ephron's leading lady Sally Albright fakes an orgasm for leading man Harry Burns during the lunch rush at Katz's Deli in New York. And Meg Ryan's finicky character in "When Harry Met Sally" wasn't among the statistical minority, either. Since the early 1970s, research has concluded repeatedly that between 53 percent and 65 percent of heterosexual women have pulled a counterfeit climax during vaginal intercourse [source: Muehlenhard].

Temple University psychologist Erin Cooper wanted to better understand women's motivations for faking orgasms. Sure, it's a begrudgingly accepted part of sexual culture -- though only 20 percent of heterosexual men could imagine their partner pulling such a prank -- but what's the use [source: Dingfelder]?

In 2010 interviews conducted with more than 300 female college students, a sliver of the population sample told Cooper that their theatrics actually enhanced the experience and heightened their arousal -- but that was the exception to the fake-it-for-his-sake rule [source: Welsh]. For 67 percent who had done it, altruism was a major driver behind the bedroom kabuki [source: Welsh]. In particular, women feared emasculating male partners by betraying their inability to work the female body into a full-blown frenzy.

But the real bombshell landed in November 2010, with the revelation that a decent proportion of men fake orgasms as well, flying in the face of some sexologists who so closely associated vaginal intercourse with male orgasm, they deemed it a moot point [source: Muehlenhard]. University of Kansas psychology professor Charlene Muehlenhard surveyed about 350 male and female college students about orgasm deception, and 24 percent of the guys copped to it [source: Muehlenhard]. Men employed fake-out tactics similar to those of their female counterparts, such as aping sexual excitement. And in addition to condoms protecting against sexually transmitted diseases, they can also offer men an added bonus of hiding a lack of ejaculatory evidence [source: Sohn]. Unlike women, however, their main motivation for the mimicry was getting intercourse over with [source: Muehlenhard].

This relatively high proportion of the sexually active population that acts out bogus big bangs may also be attributed to the rarely discussed, but not-so-rare issue of orgasmic dysfunction.


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