Some research has shown that many people—men included—fake orgasms because they want to make their partners feel good about their performances in bed. But a small new study has uncovered another, far more alarming motivation for faking it: Wanting to end bad, and even unwanted sex—even though the women involved in the study didn’t call it rape.
Two Canadian researchers recruited and analyzed 15 women between the ages of 19 to 28, and said that despite agreeing to be part of a study on consensual sex, all of the participants spoke explicitly about problematic sexual experiences in which they feigned pleasure.
“While some women spoke about faking orgasm in positive ways, for instance, as a pleasurable experience that heightened their own arousal, many talked about feigning pleasure in the context of unwanted and unpleasurable sexual experiences,” said Emily Thomas, a researcher at Ryerson University who presented the study’s findings at a psychology conference in the UK. “Within these accounts, we were struck by the degree to which women were connecting with the practice of faking orgasm to accounts of unwanted sex.”
The women didn’t use the words “rape” or “coercion” to describe their experiences, even though the researchers said their accounts could have been categorized that way. Instead, the participants said they faked orgasm as a solution for ending sex that they described as “bad,” “awful,” or even “horrible” due to an array of factors, ranging from a partner’s poor performance and preexisting health issues to—most disturbingly—being pressured by male partners, who ranged from husbands and boyfriends to one-night stands.
In an interview with Mic, Thomas elaborated: “Some women said ‘[The sex] was consensual but I didn’t want to do it,’ ‘He kind of forced me,’ things like that. One woman said [the partner] would ask and beg repeatedly.” The common sentiment throughout all of the narratives, said Thomas, is that it’s easier to fake an orgasm than to outright say no or refuse sex. She added that women may not want to label these events because of legal implications or because they don’t feel that labels fit their experiences.
Sure, not being in the mood and going through the motions in bed with your partner is a thing lots of us probably do every so often—hopefully to be a good partner, and to get more into it along the way. (Some experts do say that sometimes the best way to amp up your libido is to have sex, which makes you want to have more sex.) But what these 15 women describes doesn’t sound like that—it sounds like they’re putting their partners’ needs above their own, at the risk of their well-being and satisfaction, among other things.
If this experience sounds familiar, remember that if you really don’t want to have sex, telling a husband, boyfriend, or one-night stand no is always a better option than faking pleasure when you’re not enjoying yourself at all. And if your partner doesn’t get it, or care about finding a way to help you enjoy sex, then you might not want to be sleeping with this person, anyway.