Women may fake orgasms if they think their male sexual partner is insecure or feeling fragile about his masculinity, according to a recent report.

While this may not be news, it does give more scientific support to the notion that some women will shift their sexual behaviors to protect their partner’s self-esteem. 

“Women are prioritizing what they think their partners need over their own sexual needs and satisfaction,” says Jessica Jordan, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of South Florida.

Related: Is your libido lower than normal? This may be why

Experts agree that open communication in the bedroom is key—and that women should feel comfortable speaking up and advocating for their own pleasure. But coming clean about whether you've been faking it is a personal choice that may depend on your specific relationship. Here’s how to know when to say something.

Why women fake it—and what it may cost

First, let’s go into the research, which only focused on heterosexual relationships and did not include any same-sex partners. It was published in 2022 in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The team conducted three studies:

  1. Based on data from 283 women, the researchers noted women who thought their male partners were insecure had more anxiety and poorer communication. This resulted in a lower rate of sexual satisfaction (and orgasms). 
  2. Another study of 196 women found that women who believed their male partner thought his manhood was “fragile” were less likely to provide honest sexual communication.
  3. An anonymous survey of 157 women who were in sexual relationships with men found that women who made more money than their partners were twice as likely to fake orgasms compared to those who earned less.

“If a woman is concerned about inadvertently threatening her partner’s manhood, that could lead to a breakdown of communication,” Jordan said in a statement.

Jordan, who could not be reached for comment, previously told Talker that people shouldn’t see men or women as being to blame for how they interpret the decline in sexual satisfaction and communication. “When society creates an impossible standard of masculinity to maintain,” says Jordan, “nobody wins.”

Related: According to data, there’s a sweet spot for when your sex life returns after kids

Perceiving pleasure

Evidence shows that sexual assertiveness (and sexual self-esteem) has an impact on our sexual satisfaction. Previous research showed that, in married couples, relationship satisfaction was positively linked to communication about sex. 

Another survey of just over 1,000 women found that 58.8% had faked an orgasm in the past, but 67.3% of those who had done so no longer did. Women who faked them were more likely to be embarrassed when talking about sex with their partner in explicit ways; they were less likely to be able to chat about ways to make sex more pleasurable for them. 

More than half (55.4%) of women reported they had wanted to communicate with a partner regarding sex but decided not to; 42.4% said that was because they didn’t want to hurt a partner’s feelings, 40.2% didn’t want to get into details, and 37.7% were embarrassed. 

Speaking up

Want to boost the communication in your relationship when it comes to sex and advocate for your own pleasure? More women are doing so, some sources say. But that doesn’t mean that you have to.

“If you’ve been faking orgasm, and want to stop doing so, you will need to decide if you will tell your partner or not,” says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., a psychology professor at University of Florida and author of Becoming Cliterate. (Mintz also has a fascinating TEDx talk about the “orgasm gap”—a phenomenon in which men in heterosexual relationships tend to have more orgasms than women.)

Mintz says talking about it is a personal decision that can depend on your circumstances, including how long you’ve been faking orgasms and whether or not you think your partner may feel betrayed upon hearing so. 

Related: Let’s talk about sex—and what to do when one of you doesn’t want it

“If you choose to reveal, I suggest talking when you and your partner have time to process. Try leading with a statement such as, ‘I have something sensitive to talk to you about, and I’m a bit nervous. I worry you might be upset, but I am talking to you about this because I love you and want our sex life to be as great as possible,’” she tells Motherly via email.

Then, explain you’ve been faking and why—because you love them and wanted them to feel good—but that you’ve realized that this was the wrong thing to do for both of you, she explains.  

Mintz admits that she’s worked with many women who wanted to stop faking but know that revealing the truth will be devastating for their partner. In that case, she recommends not sharing it but instead bringing up new things to try in order to enhance orgasms (that can include adding a vibrator or using manual stimulation).

Related: 11 must-try sex toys for yourself (or with a partner)

“Sex therapists advocate not faking because it teaches your partner to do exactly what doesn’t work for you,” Mintz explains. “While I strongly agree with this, there are some circumstances in which a woman chooses to stay mum.” For example, if your partner is abusive and this would escalate the abuse, you may want to stay quiet—and then get help from a domestic violence professional).

“I’ve also talked to some women who simply say it is too much work to educate their partner or talk to him and they are otherwise happy and content,” Mintz says. “I spoke with a woman who said her husband is wonderful but would be too threatened by a vibrator which is her preferred method, and so she fakes orgasm during intercourse and uses her vibrator after he is asleep.”

Related: 5 massage candles that are sure to up the ante between the sheets

“As a sex therapist, I wish she could have genuine orgasms, but this is her personal choice,” she adds.

Want to talk to your partner but feeling fearful or uncertain? A sex therapist may be able to help as well, Mintz suggests. 

Many women don’t speak up because they feel embarrassed at their lack of orgasm, or they stay quiet because they don’t want to hurt their partner's feelings, notes Isiah McKimmie, MS, a therapist and sexologist from Australia.

“The longer they leave it however, the harder it gets,” she notes. 

“You should definitely speak up if you’re not enjoying yourself or experiencing orgasm. Most men I speak to really want to please their partners in bed and often say they want more direction on what to do,” McKimmie adds.

Featured experts

Isiah McKimmie, MS, is a therapist and sexologist from Australia.
Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at University of Florida and author of Becoming Cliterate.

Sources

Herbenick, D., Eastman-Mueller, H., Fu, Tc. et al. Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, Communication, and Reasons for (No Longer) Faking Orgasm: Findings from a U.S. Probability Sample. Arch Sex Behav. 2018. 48, 2461–2472. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01493-0

Jordan JA, Vandello JA, Heesacker M, Larson-Konar DM. Do Women Withhold Honest Sexual Communication When They Believe Their Partner’s Manhood is Threatened?Social Psychological and Personality Science. January 2022. doi:10.1177/19485506211067884

Leonhardt, N., et al. The Significance of the Female Orgasm: A Nationally Representative, Dyadic Study of Newlyweds' Orgasm Experience. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2018.15(8). doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.05.018

Menard, A. Dana; Alia Offman. The interrelationships between sexual self-esteem, sexual assertiveness and sexual satisfaction. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 2009. 18(1-2).