I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and — hard as it may be to accept — one of your sexual partners has almost definitely done it. We’ve added some theatrics to how we respond in the bedroom. In other words, we’ve faked or exaggerated orgasms. And, though men often dramatize too, the amplified moans and false words of gratitude most frequently come from the voices of women. Since there are fewer physical indicators when a woman has finished, it makes sense that we’re the ones who do this more often. We can get away with it — but should we? And why do we feel the need to do this?

I spoke to three women who let me in on their thoughts.

“I definitely cared about making sure that [the men] felt prideful, or not prideful, but like they were doing a good job.” Sarah* (C ‘19) told me as we sat on second floor of The Arch, scents from Frontera wafting up the stairs. “They take it so personally sometimes, and it’s like, that’s just my body,” She shrugged. “Sometimes I think I understand why people do it, it’s just like avoiding an awkward moment.”

Isabelle* (C ‘20) also echoed these sentiments. “My sexual partner lacked confidence, so I wanted to increase his confidence, in hopes that he would improve his skills,” she told me. “I did do it here, at Penn actually, because my partner significantly lacked the abilities in his sexual skills, and I just wanted the experience to be over and done with, so I completely faked it, and then proceeded to say thank you."

Ana* (C’17) has faked orgasms with both male and female sexual partners. “I faked it early, so that I could stop... it was because it felt like it was [taking] too long, and I felt weird for it being too long.”

Maybe we don’t want our partner to feel poorly about their performance. Maybe we want to avoid the awkwardness of trying to actually reach orgasm, and of having to talk about it. We’d rather just “finish” the awkward or poor sexual encounter. Or, maybe it’s just not happening for us that day. 

“I think a lot of people I know have faked orgasms, just because they feel bad,” said Ana. “I think there’s this weird sexist thing going on, where girls are said to not always finish, but guys are always gonna finish, right? So we feel like we have to say that we finish, so that we’re equal… we were actually talking about it in the house the other day, because it’s this weird kind of thing where the male is always supposed to finish after sex and the girl, maybe [finishes], who knows."

I sat down with Dave* (C'20) to get a guy's perspective on the issue. "I would say [sex] is pretty equal," He told me on the second floor of Van Pelt, "I think I know when girls come." I doubted this, so I asked him to guess at the frequency with which girls fake orgasm.

"Fuck, I have no idea," he laughed, "That's gotta depend on the girl obviously... maybe like 20 percent of the time? I have no idea, no idea. I've like never talked about that [with a partner]." He continued, "I'm sure most guys know that girls fake it, [but] I doubt anyone's thinking that they have [with them]." 

But Dave still thought he could tell when his partners' orgasms were genuine. "I think it's not hard to tell, especially if you know the person well enough... unless they've always, constantly been faking it, which would be, like, a horror story." 

But the horror stories are common. Say you're having full–on intercourse with a guy, and he's reaching climax. You decide to match his excitement with your act. You add a little sigh and moan, a grateful kiss, and when your partner asks “Are you good?” you smile and nod. When it’s all over you lay next to him quietly. Quick and simple, no harm done, right? 

This is hugely problematic, because without meaning to, you allow the male orgasm to be more important and more frequent than the female orgasm. When we do this, we validate this inequality within ourselves. Moreover, the vast majority of women can’t finish from penetration alone, so making it seem like we can affects all of the women that he may go on to have intercourse with. You create a false sense that penetration is all that most of us need—and you put a man’s pride before your own pleasure.

Or, if your partner is performing oral sex and it doesn’t actually feel good, you allow them to go back out into the world thinking their tongue moves are bomb, when in reality they were way off. Help out and tell your partner what to do—not just for yourself, but for the next girl, who deserves to come just as much as you do.

“Now, in retrospect, I probably just should’ve been like, stop, and left, instead of having to lie and then leave,” says Isabelle, nodding, “I do think our pleasure should be prioritized just as highly as [the guy’s pleasure] is… it’s kind of the standard that you don’t stop having sex until your male partner finishes, however, very frequently we just stop whenever they do. And it’s kind of like oh, okay, but I’m not done yet, but they don’t really care about that, and they don’t prioritize our pleasure as much as they prioritize their own. I think that’s a significant problem.”

Ladies, it's time that we start reforming how we discuss sex, and being okay with our pillow talk having purpose. Start with a, “Listen, can you try this maybe?” and see how it goes from there. That first acknowledgment is the hardest part; every sentence afterwards is much easier, and discovering what works for you together can become one of the hottest and most fulfilling parts of sex.

"Just be open," Dave concluded. "You don't need to fake it. Guys are stupid."

*Names have been changed for anonymity. 

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons