Do you feel uncomfortable saying the word clitoris? Have you faked an orgasm recently? Are you a feminist? These may not seem related, but two recent academic studies linking societal attitudes to faking it suggest they are.
My life in sex: the partner of a man with erectile dysfunction
The first showed that women who felt uncomfortable saying the word clitoris were more likely to fake orgasms. The second showed that heterosexual women in relationships who held hostile views about feminism were more likely to fake it.
But does faking an orgasm really make you anti-feminist? And does being intimidated about accurately naming one’s sex organ have anything to do with what goes on between the sheets? We spoke to five women about whether they fake it to find out more about why.
Shelby, 28, South Carolina: ‘I faked it because I thought that’s how sex ends’
Do you call yourself a feminist? Hell yeah!
Do you feel uncomfortable saying the word clitoris? No.
Have you ever faked it? I can’t think of a specific time, but I know I have.
Why? Mostly it’s an ending mechanism. I haven’t done it for a long time now, but when I did, it was because I just wasn’t going to get there and it was easier to end it that way.
Why did you stop faking it? Because I started having a more adventurous sex life with men and women, and I largely stopped having sex with cisgendered men. I used to think the goal of sex was to have an orgasm. Now I just think it’s to have fun. So there is way less pressure on me to fake it because it doesn’t matter if I don’t have one.
Is faking it a feminist issue? I have faked orgasms with men and women. I have a theory that you’re less likely to fake it if you can accept yourself, and you can communicate yourself to others. That is tied to feminism because women have a hard time doing that. We are taught not to accept ourselves.
Maddie, 49, New York: ‘I fake it because I am cheating on my husband’
Would you call yourself a feminist? No. I am glad women are more empowered these days, but feminists make a bigger deal out of it than they need to. I think feminists think women are better than men. I don’t think you qualify for certain things just because you’re a woman, and I don’t put myself above a man.
Do you feel squeamish saying the word clitoris? No. I have no problem talking about sex in any way.
Do you fake orgasms? Yes. There are lots of reasons. Sometimes the guy seems so fragile, he’s just asking how you’re feeling constantly and you can tell he’s not going to stop until you finish. I think they wouldn’t be able to take the truth, so I fake it.
Any other reasons? I am married, but I go outside the marriage because I’m not happy. He doesn’t know I’ve slept with anyone else. In fact, he believes we’re each other’s first. I can’t get myself to orgasm with him any more because I don’t feel that way any more.
I have faked it and I would never tell him that, because it will really hurt him, and it will open up a whole can of worms. I’m not looking to hurt him like that.
Last time you faked it? About three weeks ago.
Anita, 51, UK: ‘Faking it empowers me’
Are you a feminist? Um, no. I see feminism as believing that women are entitled to more than men, and I believe men and women are equal.
Have you ever faked an orgasm? Yes. I was in a relationship for a long time that wasn’t sexually satisfying and the guy was controlling. I found it easier to fake it. But that was the only time I’ve done it.
Is faking it a feminist issue? I think it is, but in the opposite way to what [the study] suggests. I think faking it can make you feel empowered – because you are in charge of your body and you’re deciding to do it. I used to fake orgasms because it made me feel desirable.
Didn’t you say you did it because you thought it was what the guy wanted, though? Yes. Well, I suppose that is a bit hypocritical. You know what, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I am a feminist.
Last time you faked it? About 18 years ago. I make much better choices now!
Adaire, 26, Boston: ‘It made me feel safer to fake it’
Do you call yourself a feminist? I do.
Have you faked an orgasm before? Yes. A lot, when I was in my early 20s.
Why? Back then I felt like it was easier to pretend. I didn’t want to make the guy feel bad, so I faked it. Sometimes it’s less work to just fake it and get them out. Some men get defensive and angry, like it’s their job to make it happen. I don’t like that, I find it forceful. Sometimes I feel safer faking it because it’s on my own terms.
Do you fake it anymore? No, and I link that to my own feminist education. Feminists have better sex because it’s less about performing and more enjoying it, and just everyone having a good time. Faking it now, I feel like I’m objectifying myself. It’s so performative and that makes me feel gross. When I faked it I was feeling self conscious because I was wondering if I looked good. I would be trying to pout, and arch my back and flip my hair at the same time – that’s just not real.
Anything else? Here’s a tip for heterosexual men for the future: if your partner looks good while they’re doing it, she’s faking.
Lucy, 31, Canada: ‘I faked it because I thought I was supposed to’
Do you call yourself a feminist? 100%
Does saying clitoris make you feel uncomfortable? No! I love the word.
Have you ever faked an orgasm? Yes. To begin with, I started doing it because I found it really difficult to orgasm and it seemed like my friends were having a great time – maybe they were lying – but I felt like I was failing by not being able to be. It really mattered to me that I was seen as sexy and desirable. I felt like not being able to orgasm made me prudish.
What made it worse was one relationship where I cared enough to tell him the truth. He then made it his sole mission to make it happen for me, which was very intense. I felt he was taking it personally. It was all about his ego, not me, and that led to me faking it again.
Do you think faking it a feminist issue? Absolutely. Women fake it because of the societal pressure to be desirable and not to upset others. But I don’t think it’s anti-feminist to fake it, because we have to accept that in the society we live in, women feel pressured to behave that way.
Interviews have been lightly edited and some names have been changed
Have you ever faked an orgasm? We’d like you to share your story and reasons for doing so. It can be as anonymous as you like, all you need to do is answer the following questions: