Men's and women's reports of pretending orgasm.The idea that women "fake" orgasms is familiar, but the idea that men "fake" orgasms is not. Many people regard such pretending by men as almost impossible. For example, Braun, Gavey, and McPhillips (2003) wrote that "the almost complete linking of orgasm and ejaculation for men almost exclusively precludes men faking orgasm" (p. 257). There is evidence, however, that some men do pretend orgasm. For example, describing his clinical observations, Zilbergeld (1999) wrote,
Although it surprises many people when I say this, more than a few men I've talked to have faked orgasm. They felt bad about doing this, but they didn't want their partners to know they didn't come. Besides, they had no idea of how to stop the activity without an orgasm. (p. 32)
Research on pretending orgasm can provide insights into sexual scripts and the functions and meanings of orgasms within these scripts. If an individual pretends orgasm, this suggests a discrepancy between what is actually happening and what that individual thinks should be happening that is, a discrepancy between what is happening and the individual's sexual script allowing researchers to make inferences about the individual's sexual script. If an individual pretends orgasm to achieve a desired outcome, this suggests that one function of orgasm is to produce that outcome.
Research on pretending orgasm has been minimal, and almost all available studies are about women's pretending (even an article we found on "false orgasms" by brown trout was about false orgasms by female brown trout; Petersson & Jarvi, 2001). We found only one study--an unpublished dissertation that included men's pretending orgasm (Steiner, 1981). The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore both women's and men's reports of pretending orgasm, with the goal of better understanding their sexual scripts and the functions of orgasm in those scripts.
Research on Women's Pretending Orgasm
The Prevalence of Women's Pretending
Studies using varied methods have found that between one-half and two-thirds of the women studied have pretended orgasm. For example, in interviews of 30 White, middle-class, married women, ages 25 to 40, Schaefer (1973) asked women if they "ever felt it was necessary to 'pretend' or 'fake' orgasm" (p. 248); 57% reported having pretended (p. 148). In Hite's (1976) study, 3,019 women returned questionnaires distributed via mail and popular magazines; almost all had experienced intercourse. In response to the question, "Do you ever fake orgasms?," 53% reported having pretended (Hite, 1976, p. 154). Darling and Davidson (1986) mailed questionnaires to female nurses from 15 states; of the 745 who had had sexual intercourse, 58% reported pretending orgasm during intercourse.
In a study of 161 college women who had experienced sexual intercourse, Wiederman (1997) found that 56% answered "true" to the statement, "I have, at one time or another, pretended to have an orgasm during sexual intercourse" (p. 134). In two other studies of college women, pretending was defined more broadly to include not only acting as if an orgasm was occurring but also saying or giving the impression that an orgasm had occurred when it had not. In a sample of 361 college women who had engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI), Thompson and Muehlenhard (2003) found that 64% reported having pretended orgasm during PVI. In a sample of 366 college women who had experienced genital petting, oral sex, or PVI, Bryan (2001) found that 65% reported having pretended orgasm.
The prevalence estimates in all these studies were fairly consistent, ranging from 53% to 65%. These studies used a variety of methods and samples, although all were done in the United States, and all but one (Hite, 1976) included only married women or women who had had partnered sex, usually sexual intercourse.
Women's Reasons for Pretending
Women's reasons for pretending showed common themes across studies. One frequently mentioned reason was to avoid hurting their partner's feelings or to build their partner's ego (Bryan, 2001; Hire, 1976; Schaefer, 1973; Thompson & Muehlenhard, 2003). Several researchers concurred with Schaefer's observation that "many men appear to feel that it is a reflection on their adequacy if the female partner does not come to orgasm" (Schaefer, 1973, p. 149).
Another frequently mentioned reason was women's desire not to appear abnormal or inadequate (Bryan, 2001; Darling & Davidson, 1986; Hite, 1976; Schaefer, 1973; Thompson & Muehlenhard, 2003; Wiederman, 1997). Relatedly, women's pretending sometimes seemed aimed at meeting their partner's expectations (Shope, 1968; Thompson & Muehlenhard, 2003).
Women also reported other reasons, including wanting to appear sexy (Hite, 1976), reinforcing their partner for a behavior that they liked (Bryan, 2001; Hite, 1976), enhancing sexual excitement for themselves or their partner (Bryan, 2001; Hite, 1976; Wiederman, 1997), wanting sex to end (Bryan, 2001; Hite, 1976; Schaefer, 1973), avoiding a conflict or explanation (Bryan, 2001; Darling & Davidson, 1986; Hite, 1976), and wanting to keep their partner from leaving or straying (Bryan, 2001; Hite, 1976).
Do Men Pretend Orgasm?
As previously noted, in a book based on his clinical experience, Zilbergeld (1999) wrote that some men reported having pretended orgasm because they did not want their partners to know that they had not orgasmed, and they did not know how else to end sexual activity. Zilbergeld attributed this phenomenon to a common "fantasy model of sex" in which "a man is always interested in and always ready for sex" (p. 23) and in which sex is equated with intercourse and orgasm (pp. 29 & 31). Zilbergeld concluded that the emphasis on men's erections and ability to give their partners "earthshaking" (p. 30) orgasms sometimes leads both women and men to pretend orgasm to meet these expectations (also see Kaplan, 1974, p. 320).
Steiner (1981) conducted the only study we could find on men's and women's pretending orgasm. Steiner gave questionnaires to 361 university and junior college students. She excluded 81 respondents--most of whom had not engaged in sexual intercourse--because they completed less than two-thirds of the questionnaire. Her final sample (N = 280) included 185 women and 94 men (and one whose gender was not reported). Based on a series of multiple-choice and open-ended questions about "pretending orgasms" (which was not defined on the questionnaire), Steiner found that 60% of the women and 36% of the men reported having pretended orgasm. She classified 46% of the women and 31% of the men as current pretenders and 14% of the women and 5% of the men as past pretenders. When asked during what behaviors they usually pretended, most of the male and female current pretenders checked sexual intercourse (73%); however, some checked oral sex (14%), manual genital stimulation (10%), and manual genital stimulation by their partner during sexual intercourse (3%).
In open-ended responses, women and men reported many similar motivations for pretending including avoiding being interrogated by their partner; avoiding having their partner think that there was something wrong with them; and protecting their partner from feeling inadequate, hurt, or unattractive (Steiner, 1981). Only men reported "simulating second and third orgasms" (p. 63). Some men reported pretending orgasm to cover for premature ejaculation. More of the current pretenders (21%) than past pretenders (10%) or nonpretenders (6%) reported frequently or always feeling pressure to orgasm.
If men do pretend orgasm, how do they do it? As noted earlier, many people believe that it would be almost impossible for men to pretend orgasm. We found no studies on how men pretend orgasm.
In this study, we investigated whether, how, and why men and women pretend orgasm. We addressed the following research questions:
RQ1: Had the men in our sample ever pretended orgasm? If so, how many of them had pretended, how did they pretend, and what were their reasons for pretending'?
RQ2: How did the sexual histories of pretenders and nonpretenders compare?
RQ3: How did men's pretending orgasm compare with women's pretending orgasm? That is, what were the similarities and differences in men's and women's accounts of pretending?
RQ4: What did participants' accounts of pretending orgasm reveal about their sexual scripts and the functions and meanings of orgasms within these scripts'?
The participants were 180 male and 101 female introductory psychology students from the University of Kansas. They participated as one way to fulfill a course requirement. They signed up on a course Web site that mentioned the times and locations of data-collection sessions they could sign up for, but not the topics of the studies. We sampled more men than women to obtain a sample of male pretenders large enough to analyze.
The mean age of the participants was 19.27 years (SD = 1.46; range = 18-29); for men, M = 19.44 (SD=1.57), and for women, M=18.95 (SD = 1.18). An analysis of variance revealed a significant gender difference in their ages, F(1, 276) = 7.50, p = .007. Data on their race or ethnicity and sexual orientation are presented in Table 1. Most participants identified as European American or White and as heterosexual.
Table 1 also summarizes participants" sexual history data. Most 85% of the men and 68% of the women--reported having experienced PVI. Almost all 97% of the men and 94% of the women reported having experienced GSP (defined as PVI, oral sex, or other forms of genital stimulation by a partner).
Participants completed a five-part questionnaire. Section 1 asked about "pretending orgasm," defined as, "'Acting like you were having an orgasm when you actually weren't having one, or saying that you had an orgasm when you really didn't." Participants were asked to check which of three response options applied to them: (a) "I have pretended to have an orgasm," (b) "I have never pretended to have an orgasm, but I have done something similar," or (c) "! have never pretended to have an orgasm, or anything close to that."
Participants who checked (a) having pretended orgasm were instructed to answer the questions in Section 1 "thinking about this experience, choosing the time that stands out most in your mind." Those who checked (b) never having pretended orgasm hut having done something similar were instructed to answer thinking about that experience; our rationale was to identify "false negatives" participants who had pretended orgasm (based on our definition) but who did not think of their experience as "'pretending." Participants who checked (c) never having pretended orgasm or anything similar were instructed to answer "the way someone might if they had had the experience"; our rationale was to protect participants' privacy by asking everyone to write answers. We did not analyze these hypothetical answers.
After a general question asking respondents to describe the situation, there were more specific open-ended questions about their relationship with the other person, the sexual activities involved, whether they could have had an orgasm, their reasons for pretending, what might have happened had they not pretended, how they pretended, how they felt after pretending, when they knew that they were going to pretend, who initiated the sexual activity, and whether there was anything else that would help us understand the situation. These questions asked about "pretending orgasm (or something similar)" to accommodate participants who were writing about something similar to pretending.
Section 2 asked whether participants had ever acted more aroused or more enthusiastic about sex than they really were, and Section 3 asked whether they had ever had a partner who had pretended orgasm or arousal. Those who had had such experiences were asked to describe them; those who had not were asked to respond hypothetically. Section 4 included general questions about pretending orgasm (e.g., participants' opinions about men and women who pretend, why someone might pretend, and the role of alcohol and drugs in pretending). Section 5 included demographic questions. It also presented a list of sexual activities (see Table 1) and asked participants to check "yes" or "no" indicating whether they had engaged in each.
Participants completed the questionnaire anonymously in small single-sex groups. We took several precautions to protect participants' rights and privacy. They were seated with one or more empty desks between them. They read a consent form explaining the purpose of the study and their rights as participants, including their right to skip questions and to withdraw from the study without penalty. One woman chose to discontinue participation; she received credit toward the course research requirement. The questionnaire was structured so that everyone could answer all the questions, regardless of sexual experience. When finished, participants turned in their completed questionnaires in identical manila envelopes. They were given a debriefing sheet that further explained the study and that provided contact information for the researchers, the institutional review board, and local crisis and counseling centers in case the study raised issues that they wished to discuss. This study was approved by the university's institutional review board.
In the first set of analyses, we compared men's and women's prevalence rates of pretending orgasm (a) in the entire sample, (b) among participants who had experienced GSP, as well as those who had not, and (c) among GSP-experienced participants who had experienced PVI, as well as those who had not. We also compared the sexual histories of those who had pretended orgasm and those who had not. Most of these comparisons were done using chi-square analyses. In some cases, however, chi-square might not have been valid because 25% or more of the cells had expected values less than five. in these cases, p was derived from an exact contingency table test (for 2 x 2 tables, we used Fisher's exact test; for larger tables, we used contingency tables found at http://www.physics.csbsju.edu/stats/ exact_NROW_NCOLUMN_form.html). We also used logistic regression to identify which sexual history variables best predicted whether a participant had pretended.
Next, we analyzed participants' descriptions of (a) the sexual situations in which they had pretended orgasm, (b) how they had pretended, and (c) why they had pretended. For these analyses, we used data only from participants who had pretended orgasm. When coding the data, we used the constant comparison method (suggested by Glaser & Strauss, 1967, pp. 101-115; also see Dye, Schatz, Rosenberg, & Coleman, 2000; Flick, 2006; Henwood & Pidgeon, 2006; Parry, 2004). The constant comparison method is an iterative process of reading participants' responses, developing tentative categories, and then refining these categories as researchers read more responses and compare them with existing categories. "Each interpretation and finding is compared with existing findings as it emerges from the data analysis .... This ongoing, or constant, comparison continues throughout the analysis of all data until the properties of all categories are clear" (Parry, 2004, p. 180). Using the constant comparison method, the two authors and a group of undergraduate research assistants read participants' responses and developed coding categories, continually modifying these categories to capture important themes in the participants' narratives. Using these categories, we coded the data and used these codes to compare men's and women's responses, again using either chi-square analyses or exact contingency table tests. We also used the narratives to illustrate the findings.
Finally, using the entire sample, we used chi-square analyses to compare the percentages of men and women who had pretended arousal and the percentages who thought that their partner had pretended orgasm or arousal.
The Prevalence of Pretending Orgasm Prevalence in the entire sample. When asked about pretending orgasm, 18% of the men and 48% of the women checked the first response option, indicating that they had pretended orgasm. Another 16% of the men and 23% of the women checked the second response option, indicating that they had not pretended orgasm but had done something similar (see Table 2).
We read their narratives and coded whether their experiences fit our definition of pretending orgasm. We accepted the categories that participants checked unless their written description clearly did not match this category. Two research assistants coded every questionnaire; interrater reliability, calculated by dividing the number of agreements by the number of agreements plus disagreements, was 96%. Disagreements were resolved through discussion.
Our classifications matched what participants had checked in most cases, but not always. Of the 81 participants who checked that they had pretended orgasm, we recoded three--all women--as not meeting our definition of pretending. For example, consider the following narrative (participants' responses are quoted verbatim, except that misspelled words have been corrected):
I had been with my exclusive boyfriend for about 6 months and during the entirety of our relationship I had typically made the sounds of having an orgasm, but after the relationship had ended I really did have an orgasm with someone for the first time. This made me realize that I only thought that I had had an orgasm, but in fact had not. (W-521)
We decided that this narrative did not count as pretending because the participant wrote that, at the time, she "thought that [she] had had an orgasm."
Of the 52 participants who checked that they had not pretended orgasm but had done something similar, we recoded 18 (12 men and 6 women) as meeting our definition of pretending. Examples of "something similar" narratives that we recoded as instances of pretending included the following: One man wrote, "While under the state of large amounts of alcohol I have faked an orgasm but not during sex but rather oral sex" (M-120). Another wrote, "I faked having an orgasm so that I could stop having sex" (M-258). One woman wrote, "I was doing stuff w/ my boyfriend at the time and he was really concerned w/ making me orgasm so I tried to act like I had" (W-528). In our final classification, one-fourth of the men (n = 45; 25%) and one-half of the women (n = 51; 50%) had pretended orgasm, a significant gender difference (see Table 2).
Prevalence of pretending orgasm in subgroups with different levels of sexual experience. Participants differed in their sexual histories. Some had not experienced PVI; a few had not experienced any GSP. Thus, we were able to calculate the prevalence of pretending orgasm among subsamples with various levels of sexual experience (see Table 3).
Among participants who had never experienced GSP (six men and six women), no one had pretended orgasm. Among those who had experienced GSP, 26% of the men and 54% of the women had pretended orgasm.
We further divided the GSP-experienced participants into those who had not experienced PVI and those who had. Among those who had experienced GSP but not PVI, 10% of the men and 19% of the women had pretended orgasm. Among participants who had experienced PVI, 28% of the men and 67% of the women had pretended.
Sexual histories of pretenders and nonpretenders. We compared the sexual histories of participants who had pretended with those who had not. Because no one in the no-GSP group had pretended orgasm, in these analyses we included only participants who had experienced GSP. Women who had pretended were significantly more likely than the nonpretenders to have experienced six of the l0 sexual behaviors we asked about (see Table 4). For men, the differences between pretenders and nonpretenders were always in this direction but were less often significant.
One might wonder if more pretenders than nonpretenders were unable to orgasm, either with a partner or during masturbation. As Table 4 shows, this was not the case: Among GSP-experienced participants, either pretenders were significantly more likely than nonpretenders to have orgasmed, or the difference was nonsignificant but in this direction. Therefore, pretending cannot be explained by the pretenders' inability to reach orgasm or by their inability to reach orgasm with a partner.
Next, using logistic regression, we assessed which sexual history variables best predicted whether a participant had pretended. We included only participants who had experienced GSP. As predictor variables, we entered performing oral sex, receiving oral sex, intercourse, anal sex, and masturbation. For women, the only significant predictor was intercourse (odds ratio = 6.46; 95% Wald confidence interval = 1.91 21.85; Wald [chi square] = 9.00, p = .003).
For men, models that included receiving oral sex or masturbating did not converge (almost all the men had had these experiences). We removed these variables and tested a model that included only intercourse, anal sex, and performing oral sex as predictors. The only sexual history variable that significantly predicted men's pretending orgasm was anal sex (odds ratio = 3.81; 95% Wald confidence interval = 1.76-8.27; Wald [chi square] = 11.46, p < .001)--even though none of the men reported pretending during anal sex.
Descriptions of the Sexual Experiences during Which Pretending Orgasm Occurred
The analyses in this section are based on the 96 participants who had pretended orgasm. Both authors coded the participants' responses. Interrater agreement for the categories ranged from 80% to 100%, with a mean of 97%: disagreements were resolved through discussion. Because we used the constant comparison method, some of the categories were created alter interrater reliability was calculated. Both authors coded these new categories: disagreements were resolved through discussion.
Sexual activity during which pretending occurred. The modal sexual activity during which participants had pretended was PVI (see Table 5). Oral sex was a distant second. A few participants reported pretending during other sexual activities, such as manual sex, "dry humping," or phone sex. Some narratives were vague (e.g., "We were having sex[;] nothing else was involved," M-136), and some mentioned a series of sexual activities without specifying when the pretending had occurred (e.g., "Oral sex and penetration," M-154). Of those who specified the sexual activity during which they had pretended, 86% of the men and 82% of the women described pretending during intercourse.
One man described how he was able to pretend during manual sex:
My girlfriend was new to being with a boyfriend and was learning. She was switching off using her hand and mouth on nay penis and alter 15 minutes 1 decided this wasn't going to work cause she really didn't know what she was doing. So when she went back to using her hand, I put my hand over my penis, pretended to have an orgasm and then stood up, with my hand in a fist pretending I had "caught" it and went to the bathroom to run some water. (M-161)
Who initiated the sexual activity. The modal response for both men and women was that their partnet had initiated the sexual activity; of those who could recall who initiated, these percentages were 49% of the men and 63% of the women (see Table 5). This sometimes contributed to their pretending because they were not in the mood (e.g., "I wasn't in the mood and my girlfriend was, so I went through the motions and got it over with," M-276), or because they did not want to have sex with that partner (e.g., a "co-worker... called me to come over [to] her apartment and initiated it after we watched a movie.... I wasn't really attracted to her," M-264). Some participants, however, reported initiating the sexual activity but becoming tired or dissatisfied during the sexual activity, leading them to pretend.
Relatedly, 18% of the men and 29% of the women wrote that they had not wanted to have sex. A few reported not wanting sex in general: For example, one woman wrote, "I don't feel like I love sex. I can do without it and not feeling as if [I] am missing anything. I am just influenced by the crowd": she reported pretending during phone sex "just to try [to] please my boyfriend" (W-548). Most, however, described situational factors such as being tired or not being in the mood (e.g., "I was tired and just couldn't go any longer and I was getting limp so I stop[ped]. I think she thought I orgasmed," M-198).
Levels of alcohol consumption. More men than women reported having been intoxicated when they pretended (see Table 5). Many described intoxication as influencing their pretending orgasm, usually because alcohol inhibited their ability to orgasm (e.g., "I was drunk and couldn't make it happen," M-256). Sometimes alcohol affected their judgment about partners:
One night after a couple hours of heavy drinking I was talking to this girl on my floor and apparently I was hitting on her. One thing led to another and I started sobering up during sex so I faked to make her go away.... She is unattractive/annoying [and I] wanted to get her off me ... when my senses came about and I took nay drunk goggles off. (M-182)
Relationship between the partners. Most men (53%) and women (78%) described their partner as a girlfriend or boyfriend (see Table 5). More men than women described their partner as someone they had just met (e.g., "One night stand," M-116) or as someone they were dating but didn't know well (e.g., "The love of my life but this happened when we first started dating," M-198).
Of the one lesbian and five bisexual participants in the study, only one described pretending with a same-sex partner:
My girlfriend and I were having sex and, as l enjoy giving more than receiving, faked an orgasm so I could pleasure her.... About 1/2 way into the oral sex ... I realized I wanted to pleasure her instead of the other way around. (W-567)
How Participants Pretended Orgasm
Acting out an orgasm. Most participants who had pretended (78% of the men and 90% of the women) described acting out an orgasm. We classified the methods they described as (a) bodily acting (using bodily movements), (b) vocal acting (using sounds other than words), (c) verbal acting (using words), and (d) vague descriptions of acting as if they were experiencing orgasm (see Table 6).
The specific methods that men reported most often were moaning or making other sounds, saying that they were orgasming, moving or thrusting faster or harder, freezing or clenching their muscles, and acting spent or exhausted. Many men reported multiple methods of pretending (e.g., "I made moaning noises and was saying things like 'oh ... I'm coming baby, I'm coming!!!'" M-123). The methods that women reported most often were moaning, vocalizing louder, breathing faster or harder, and freezing or clenching their muscles; many women also reported multiple methods. In addition, many respondents wrote vague descriptions of how they pretended (e.g., "We'd had sex before and I orgasmed, so I just acted the same way," M-104). There were only a few significant gender differences.
Of the four broad categories (bodily acting, vocal acting, verbal acting, and vague descriptions), only vocal acting showed a significant gender difference, reported by more women (61%) than men (36%). Considering specific techniques, men were more likely than women to report moving or thrusting faster or harder, and men were less likely than women to report moaning, moaning louder, and breathing faster or harder.
Methods other than acting out an orgasm. Some participants described other methods of pretending (see Table 7). Over one-fourth of the men and one-fifth of the women reported telling their partners after the supposed orgasm (e.g., "I was getting tired and she wasn't that cute so my dick couldn't stay hard so I just told [her] I came and I got up and left," M-122). Some reported answering yes when their partners asked (e.g., "She was kind of like ... well did you get off, and I was like yes," M-131). Some reported pretending orgasm by saying something positive about the experience (e.g., "I just made some extra noises and told her how good it felt," M-215) or about their partner (e.g., "I acted as though I had an orgasm and I said lots of compliments," M-195).
Pretending by removing, discarding, or hiding condoms was reported by seven men. For example, one man wrote, "I acted like I did, threw away the condom, and acted regular" (M-221). Several mentioned hiding or getting rid of the condom (e.g., "I grunted and then acted kind of spent. Then I disposed of the jimmy-hat before she could get a good look at it," M-271).
Interestingly, several men (18%), but no women, mentioned that they had pretended by stopping having sex. One man, who checked that he had pretended, mentioned no method of pretending other than stopping: "I just stopped" (M-199). Others reported stopping in conjunction with another method of pretending, but their narratives suggested that they considered stopping to be salient. One wrote that he pretended by "[saying] That felt good and stopping" (M-158). Another wrote, "I just stopped and told her I was done and left" (M-136).
Participants' Reasons for Pretending Orgasm
Men's most frequently mentioned reasons for pretending orgasm were (a) that orgasm was unlikely or was taking too long and (b) that they wanted sex to end; each was reported by over four-fifths of the men, as well as by over one-half of the women (see Table 8). Women's most frequently mentioned reason was avoiding negative consequences (usually hurting their partner's feelings); avoiding negative consequences was reported by almost four-fifths of the women, as well as by over one-half the men.
Orgasm was unlikely or taking too long. There were several gender differences within this category. More men than women reported pretending because they were intoxicated and because they had already had one or more orgasms that day. Of the men who had already orgasmed, one wrote that he "had masturbated earlier that day" (M-250), but most wrote about having already orgasmed with their partner. For example, one man wrote,
My 1st girlfriend in high school and I lost our virginity to each other. She wanted to have sex ALL the time, even at times I wasn't--Approx. 5-7x daily--able to. I would motivate myself, we'd have sex, and she wouldn't stop till we both orgasmed. I'd fake it to get it over with. (After the 3rd orgasm, it's REALLY hard to go again.). (M-135)
More women than men reported difficulty orgasming because their partner was unskilled (25% vs. 7%, respectively). For example, one woman wrote, "He was taking too long so I just gave up. Basically, he sucked in bed so it was an easy way out. [Could you have had an orgasm?] No, he lacks the skills" (W-508). A few men, however, did describe pretending because of their partner's lack of skill. One man wrote, "She wasn't very good in bed. I wasn't interested any more" (M-104). Another wrote, "I probably could have [orgasmed] if she twirked it better" (M-198).
Seven women but no men reported that they seldom or never orgasmed from the sexual act involved usually sexual intercourse. The seven women varied in whether they could have orgasmed from a different sexual act: Some indicated that they could not have (e.g., "Didn't know what an orgasm was so I said I did," W-595; or "I didn't really know 'what to do', so after 10 minutes or so I said I orgasmed. Pretty sure he knew I was lying though," W-588). Others, however, could have orgasmed from another sexual act (e.g., "I have never had an orgasm w/ just sex alone," W-538) or from another position (e.g., "Sometimes I can't [orgasm] but most of the time I can, it just takes a certain position that I feel is not as stimulating for him," W-534).
Wanting sex to end. Wanting sex to end was mentioned as a reason for pretending by 82% of the men and 61% of the women, a significant gender difference. Men most often wanted sex to end because they were tired or wanted to sleep. For example, one man wrote, "After a while my body was getting tired and worn out so I decided to act like I came so she would get off of me" (M-123). Women most often wanted sex to end because they were bored, not in the mood, or tired and wanting to sleep. For example, one woman wrote,
I didn't want my boyfriend to think I wasn't enjoying having sex with him. Also having sex for a long time and not having an orgasm started making me real bored & it began to hurt & therefore I wanted to stop. If I had or faked an orgasm we would stop having sex. (W-501)
Several men wrote that they pretended because they wanted sex to end and did not know how else to stop. Some accounts were humorous: In response to our question about what would have happened had he not pretended, one man wrote, "I would probably still be going to this day!! lol" (M-123). Other accounts were poignant:
I was having sex with a girl I recently had gotten involved with after breaking up with another I had previously been dating for about 2 years. I could not focus on sex therefore I pretended to have an orgasm so that the sex could end instead of me just rolling off her in despair. (M-154)
Women also mentioned pretending orgasm because they wanted sex to end, but their accounts differed from men's. For men, pretending orgasm represented the end of sex. For women, another step was involved; women pretended so that their partner would orgasm, and their partner's orgasm represented the end of sex. For example, one woman wrote, "During sex I pretended to have an orgasm so that my partner would cum. He couldn't cum until I orgasmed" (W-512).
One man described using this sequence in which the women orgasms, and then the man orgasms, and sex is over--to infer that his partner wanted sex to end:
I was having sex for my first time.... I didn't know her name, and it was in a shower in a youth hostel.... I had only a vague idea of how to get this girl going. So ... some time into that she probably faked, then I felt it necessary to fake because ... I figured she wanted to go back to her room. (M-131)
Their partner was about to orgasm. Ten women and only one man used their partner's imminent orgasm as a cue to act out their own orgasm. For example, one woman wrote, "I knew he was almost done so I needed to act like I was" (W-536). In response to the question, "Could you have had an orgasm?," another woman wrote, "I could have, but it would have been after him" (W-566), so she pretended. Only one man described pretending because his partner was about to orgasm: "I was with a girl and we were having sex and she was getting off and was asking me if I was and I said 'yes' so then I faked it.... She was so I felt like I also needed to" (M-236).
To avoid the negative consequences of not orgasming. More women (78%) than men (58%) reported pretending orgasm to avoid negative consequences from not orgasming. The most frequently anticipated negative consequence for both men and women was hurting their partner's feelings. For example, one woman reported pretending "always to keep my partner from feeling insecure sexually because we are in a close relationship" (W-583); another wrote, "I didn't want to hurt his feelings or his ego" (W-597). One man wrote, "I didn't want to make her feel bad" (M-104); another wrote, "She had been feeling down about herself, I had been working hard, she wanted to have sex, I didn't, and I couldn't let her think it had anything to do with her because it did not" (M-276).
Pretending in order to protect their partner's feelings was most likely to occur during sexual intercourse. This reason was mentioned by 75% of the women who pretended during intercourse but by only 29%, of the women who pretended during other sexual activities (a significant difference; Fisher's exact test, p = .03; phi = .391).
Three men and 10 women reported pretending in order to avoid their partner's bad mood, such as becoming upset, frustrated, offended, or depressed. In response to the question about what would have happened had they not pretended, one woman wrote, "My boyfriend would have probably gotten upset that he didn't satisfy me" (W-531). Another wrote, "He would have been depressed about it for like 5 minutes" (W-546).
Several participants mentioned wanting to avoid an "awkward" situation. One man wrote, "It would have been awkward to just stop" (M-154); another wrote that if he had not pretended, the "girl would probably have just said something like 'well this is awkward' and then left" (M-131).
A few participants mentioned wanting to avoid having to explain or discuss the situation. One man wrote that not pretending would have resulted in "Discussion/Overemphasis on occurrence; Awkwardness" (M-113). One woman wrote, "He gets disappointed in himself, which I care [about,] but he proceeds to talk about it and apologize which then I get annoyed" (W-535); another wrote, "He might have started asking questions" (W-507).
Interestingly, only one participant--a man--wrote about pretending orgasm to avoid appearing inadequate. He wrote that if he had not pretended, "She would have been offended and possibly would have labeled me as an impotent putz" (M-271). One woman wrote that afterward, she "felt like there was something wrong with me and wondered why I couldn't" (W-539); however, she described feeling this about herself, not worrying about appearing this way to her partner. In fact, her boyfriend's adequacy--not hers--seemed to be the issue: "My boyfriend couldn't give me [an orgasm] and thought it was because he was doing something wrong.... I haven't ever had an orgasm from intercourse & my boyfriend thinks it's because of him.... I told my boyfriend I did even though I didn't to make him feel better" (W-539).
To get the positive consequences of orgasming. More women (47%) than men (13%) reported pretending in order to get a positive consequence most often pleasing their partner or making their partner feel good about himself or herself. For example, one woman wrote, "I felt fine because I boosted his self-confidence" (W-517); another wrote, "I wanted to please my partner/ make him feel he pleasured me" (W-575). A man wrote that he pretended "so that she would be happy and feel better about satisfying me" (M-144).
Relatedly, six women but only one man wrote about their orgasm being their partner's job--an accomplishment if it happened and a failure if it didn't. For example, one woman wrote, "There are sometimes I feel like I'm getting pleased but I should be 'louder' so the guy feels he is doing a good job. Haha. So I fake one" (W-536). Another wrote, "I didn't want him to think his effort was worthless" (W-571). When asked what might have happened had they not pretended, one woman wrote, "My boyfriend might have felt like he failed or that he wasn't good in bed" (W-501); another wrote, "The guy feels like he has not accomplished his goal to make you reach an orgasm" (W-592). One man mentioned that he pretended because his girlfriend "feels like she has failed if I do not go all the way" (M-265). Generally, though, causing their partner to orgasm was construed as the man's job, not the woman's.
To avoid orgasming. Two men reported pretending because they did not want to orgasm. One described pretending "because it felt like the condom broke" (M-117). The other wrote:
We were having sex and all I could think about was if she were to get pregnant so I pulled out and turned around so she couldn't see me. Then I told her that l came so we wouldn't have to continue.... It was my girlfriend who I've been dating for awhile now.... I am very afraid of getting her pregnant even though I always use condoms and she is on birth control.... I like the pleasure of having sex but I hate the worrying of her being pregnant that comes with it. That's why I really enjoy oral sex because I don't have to worry about that. The only reason I have sex with her is so I don't have to worry about her going out and fucking someone else to get pleasure. (M-248)
Additional Questions about Pretending
Pretending arousal or enthusiasm. In Section 2, we asked whether participants had ever pretended to be more aroused or more enthusiastic about sex than they really were. More women (69%) than men (57%) reported having pretended arousal or enthusiasm, [chi square](1, N = 281) = 3.99, p = .046; phi = .119.
Had a partner ever pretended orgasm or arousal?. In Section 3, we asked whether participants had ever had a partner who had pretended orgasm or arousal. More men (43%) than women (13%) reported that a partner had pretended orgasm or arousal, [chi square] (1, N = 281) = 27.42, p < .001; phi = .312.
Men do pretend orgasm--although fewer men than women do so. Participants' open-ended answers illustrated how and why men and women pretend orgasm. Their answers also illustrated their sexual scripts and the functions of orgasms within these scripts.
The Prevalence of Pretending Orgasm
Among the entire sample, 25% of men and 50% of women had pretended orgasm, a prevalence rate at the lower range of prevalence rates found in other studies (Bryan, 2001; Darling & Davidson, 1986; Schaefer, 1973; Steiner, 1981; Thompson & Muehlenhard, 2003; Wiederman, 1997). Among PVI-experienced participants, 28% of men and 67% of women had pretended, a prevalence rate at the higher range of those found in these studies. Several methodological factors are likely to affect the prevalence rates obtained in a study.
The sample. Unlike the studies cited earlier, our sample was unscreened for sexual experience. This allowed us to investigate pretending among participants with various levels of sexual experience. The more sexually experienced participants were, the more likely they were to have pretended orgasm: Among the PVI-experienced subsample, 28% of the men and 67% of the women had pretended. Among the GSP but no PVI subsample, 10% of the men and 19% of the women had pretended orgasm. Among the no-GSP subsample, no one had pretended orgasm. Interestingly, one woman had pretended orgasm during phone sex, which did not involve GSP. She had experienced intercourse, so she was not in the no-GSP group, but it could have been possible for someone in the no-GSP group to have pretended orgasm.
The pretenders were more sexually experienced than the nonpretenders in many ways. These results are consistent with Darling and Davidson's (1986) findings that women who had pretended were more likely than other women to have "explored a variety of ways to achieve orgasm, such as using a vibrator, ... anal penetration, ... and erotic literature" (p. 187). Furthermore, we found that pretenders were either significantly or nonsignificantly more likely than nonpretenders to have experienced orgasm through masturbation and with a partner.
This association between pretending orgasm and sexual experience occurs, in part, because more experienced participants have had more opportunities to pretend. This is probably not the only explanation, however. The only sexual history variable that significantly predicted whether men had pretended was anal sex--even though no men reported pretending during anal sex. Perhaps, like the women in Darling and Davidson's (1986) study, men who had pretended were more sexually explorative than other men. Perhaps anal sex was a proxy for some other characteristic such as being more sexually adventurous, having sex with more partners or with partners they did not know well, or having sex in more novel situations.
The operational definitions of pretending. A second factor affecting prevalence estimates is the operational definition used. Some studies of pretending orgasm asked only about pretending during intercourse (e.g., Wiederman, 1997). In contrast, this study included pretending during any sexual behavior. Participants reported having pretended during oral sex, manual sex, "dry humping," and phone sex.
Furthermore, asking about pretending during sexual intercourse might exclude situations in which participants led their partner to believe that they had orgasmed based on what they said or did afterward. We used a broader definition, similar to Bryan (2001) and Thompson and Muehlenhard (2003): "Acting like you were having an orgasm when you actually weren't having one, or saying that you had an orgasm when you really didn't." Of those in our pretending group, 22% of the men and 10% of the women did not report acting out an orgasm; most of these participants reported telling their partner afterward that they had orgasmed or answering yes when their partner asked.
Finally, different studies have used different terms. Some studies have asked about faking orgasms (e.g., Hite, 1976). We used the term pretend. Different terms might result in different prevalence rates if participants find one term clearer or more acceptable than another.
False positives and false negatives. A third factor affecting prevalence estimates is whether researchers attempt to identify "false positives" and "false negatives." Research on varied topics has shown that sometimes the questionnaire options that research participants check do not match their more in-depth explanations (Ritschel, 2002; Ross & Allgeier, 1996). We addressed this issue by asking participants (a) to check whether they had pretended orgasm, done something similar, or neither of these and (b) to write a description of their experience. By reading participants' descriptions, we eliminated three false positives from our pretending group. By asking about "something similar," we identified 18 false negatives and included them in our pretending group. Of those whom we ultimately classified as having pretended, 27% (12 out of 45) of the men and 12%, (6 out of 51) of the women had checked "something similar"; thus, this procedure especially influenced prevalence estimates for men. This "something similar" technique has been used to identify false negatives in research on other sensitive topics, such as rape (Peterson & Muehlenhard, 2007).
Participants' Sexual Scripts
Participants' responses provided insights into their sexual scripts, as well as insights into how these scripts influenced their pretending orgasm. Men's and women's scripts often seemed complementary (Tolman, Striepe, & Harmon, 2003).
The sequence of events: She orgasms, then he orgasms, and sex is over. Braun et al. (2003) observed that many script theorists have described a heterosexual script from kissing through intercourse but have not mentioned where orgasms fit into this script. In interviews conducted in New Zealand, Braun et al. found evidence for a heterosexual script consisting of "a range of sexual activities leading to female orgasm first (through cunnilingus or other stimulation by the male), followed by coitus and male orgasm" (p. 242), with male orgasm as the endpoint. Jackson and Scott (2001) also described "the accepted sequence ... which ends with (his) orgasm" (p. 105).
Similarly, we found evidence of adherence to a script in which the woman's orgasm occurs before--or at the same time as--the man's orgasm. Adhering to this script sometimes required pretending. Of those who had pretended orgasm, more women (20%) than men (2%) reported doing so because their partner's orgasm seemed imminent; they pretended to get their orgasm in before their partner finished orgasming. Some of the women wrote that they actually could have orgasmed, but they chose a pretend orgasm in the right sequence--before or during the man's orgasm--rather than an actual orgasm in the wrong sequence--after his orgasm.
Of those who had pretended orgasm, more women (16%) than men (2%) mentioned that their partner would not orgasm until they had orgasmed. Their partners seemed to be following the her-orgasm-then-his-orgasm script; this script put pressure on the woman to orgasm--or to pretend to orgasm.
Braun et al. (2003) wrote about the discourse of reciprocity in which both partners deserve satisfaction in the form of orgasm. The her-orgasm-then-his-orgasm script is consistent with this reciprocity discourse. The expectation of reciprocity can be experienced as fair and equal, but it can be oppressive if partners feel obligated to orgasm: "A discourse of reciprocity can work to produce certain obligations during sex.... women are not only entitled to have an orgasm, they are expected to have one" (p. 252). In some cases, these expectations can lead to pretending.
There was also evidence that participants equated the man's orgasm with the end of sex. Several men--but no women mentioned stopping sex as a component of pretending. Several men but no women--mentioned pretending because they did not know how else to end sex.
Sex = intercourse, and orgasm should occur during intercourse. As mentioned, Braun et al. (2003) described a sexual script in which various sexual activities occur, during which the woman orgasms, and then sexual intercourse occurs, during which the man orgasms. In the script they described, men orgasm during intercourse, but women can orgasm during a wider range of activities.
In contrast, we found evidence that many men and women felt pressure to orgasm during intercourse. Intercourse was the modal sexual behavior during which both men and women had pretended (reported by 86% of the men and 82% of the women who specified the sexual activity during which they had pretended). Consistent with the women-should-orgasm-during-intercourse script, pretending in order to protect their partner's feelings was mentioned by 75% of the women who pretended during intercourse but by only 29% of the women who pretended during other sexual activities. Apparently, the women were concerned that their partner's feelings would be hurt if they did not orgasm during intercourse, but they did not have this concern about other sexual activities.
For women, the best predictor of having pretended orgasm was having engaged in sexual intercourse. Evidence suggests that most women do not experience orgasm from intercourse (Bryan, 2001; Hite, 1976, pp. 134-135 & 423); if a woman does not orgasm from intercourse but feels pressure to do so, she might pretend. Seven (14%) women--but no men--wrote that they seldom or never orgasmed from the sexual activity during which they pretended; of these seven, three clearly specified the sexual activity; for all three, that activity was intercourse.
There are at least two possible explanations for the apparent discrepancy between the script identified by Braun et al. (2003) and the script that seemed prevalent in our study. One explanation could be that the individuals in our sample (undergraduates in Kansas) accepted different sexual scripts than did the individuals in Braun et al.'s sample (New Zealanders, ages 18-50, in varied work and relationship situations). Another explanation could be that we analyzed narratives about pretending orgasm, whereas Braun et al. analyzed a broader range of narratives. If women--or their partners--think that women should orgasm during intercourse, pretending is one way for women to deal with this unrealistic expectation. It seems likely that the women-should-orgasm-during-intercourse script would be more salient in pretending situations than in other sexual situations.
It is the man's job to give the woman an orgasm. Roberts, Kippax, Waldby, and Crawford (1995) described an '"orgasm for work' economy of heterosexuality" (p. 528) in which the man's job is to give the woman an orgasm, and her orgasm proves the quality of his work. Because women do not ejaculate, "there is a demand for noisy and exaggerated display" (p. 528).
In this study, significantly more women (12%) than men (2%) wrote that they pretended orgasm to provide evidence that their partner had done his job. If she orgasmed, it reflected his accomplishment, and if she did not, it reflected his failure. The slowness of the woman's orgasm was construed as the man's problem: "He [italics added] was taking too long" (W-508).
Interestingly, in Schaefer's (1973) study, not wanting to appear inadequate was one the two most common reasons women gave for pretending; but, in our study, none of the women mentioned this. We are not convinced that women are no longer concerned about feeling inadequate, but we found it interesting that many women seemed more concerned that not orgasming would reflect badly on their partner rather than on themselves.
Men always want sex, and women should accommodate men's voracious sex drive. It is a common myth that men always want sex and can always "perform"--that is, men can always get an erection and always have an orgasm (Farvid & Brown, 2006; Muehlenhard & Cook, 1988; Plante, 2006; Zilbergeld, 1999). This myth can lead men to pretend: Men who endorse this myth--or who think that their partner endorses it--might engage in sex despite being tired or not in the mood. If they are unable to orgasm, or if they want to stop, they might decide to pretend, especially if orgasming is the only way to end sex. Men's modal description of their pretending situation was that their partner had initiated sex (reported by 49% of those who could recall who initiated); 18% mentioned that they had not wanted to have sex.
The myth that men always want sex can also contribute to women's pretending orgasm. Women's magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, convey the theme that men always want sex, so women should never refuse their partner's sexual advances; if they do, he might cheat or leave (Farvid & Brown, 2006). If women acquiesce to sex even when they are tired or not in the mood, they might pretend orgasm. Similar to male pretenders in this study, of the women who recalled who had initiated, their modal response (63%) was that their partner had initiated the sexual encounter, and 29% wrote that they had not wanted to have sex.
Gender Differences and Gender Similarities
In thinking about gender, tension exists between gender-difference and gender-similarity perspectives (Kimball, 1995; also see Barnett & Rivers, 2004; Hyde, 2005; Muehlenhard, 1998; Tolman et al., 2003). Kimball suggested exploring topics using both perspectives, and this study demonstrated the merit of this suggestion. Consistent with a gender-similarities perspective, we asked both women and men about pretending, rather than assuming that only women pretend. Both women and men reported having pretended, often for similar reasons.
Consistent with a gender-differences perspective, however, we also explored--and found--gender differences and complementarities. Significantly more women than men reported having pretended. Both men's and women's narratives suggested a sexual script in which the woman should orgasm first, and when the man orgasms, sex is over. In this script, both men and women should orgasm during intercourse, but even this ostensible similarity results in a gender difference because intercourse is less conducive to orgasm for women than for men. Thus. both gender-similarity and gender-difference perspectives were useful in understanding this phenomenon.
Limitations and Future Directions
In this study, we explored how and why men and women pretended. This study suggested many further questions: How frequently do men and women pretend? Do they get what they want from pretending? How often do their partners find out, and what happens when they do? How do individuals or couples who pretend differ from those who do not? Do they accept different sexual scripts? What do nonpretenders do when their sexual response does not match their scripts?
Our sample consisted of college students, mostly White, and mostly heterosexual. Research with other populations could provide insight into their sexual behaviors and scripts: For example, how often and why do men and women pretend orgasm in long-term relationships, such as marriages? Many participants were influenced by heterosexual scripts specifying who should orgasm when. Gender-specific scripts would not be directly relevant to pretending in same-sex encounters. What scripts might affect pretending in same-sex encounters?
Loe (2004) documented ways in which Viagra" has influenced men's and women's sexual behavior (also see Plante, 2006). Other drugs (e.g., some antidepressants and anxiolytics) are associated with delayed or inhibited orgasm in both women and men (Clayton, 2002: Rothschild, 2000: Seidman, 2006; Shen & Sata, 1990). It could be fruitful to explore whether and how these drugs affect men's and women's pretending orgasm.
It could be useful to explore sexual pretending other than pretending orgasm. Steiner (1981, p. 63) found that 16% of the men and 7% of the women in her sample reported pretending not to have an orgasm when they were in fact having one: one of Schaefer's (1973) female respondents also reported this. We found that most of the men (57%) and women (69%) reported having pretended sexual arousal or enthusiasm. Plante (2006, p. 278) contended that many men pretend that sex is more important than sleep and that their partner's pleasure is more important than their own. It seems that much of people's sexual behavior is guided by their or their partner's scripts and expectations even if this requires pretending.
Both men and women reported pretending orgasms. Their reasons suggested adherence to a script in which the woman orgasms, ideally during intercourse, and then the man orgasms and sex is over. Further research investigating pretending could reveal more about individuals' sexual scripts and the functions of orgasms within these scripts.
Barnett, R., & Rivers. C. (2004). Same difference: How gender myths are hurting our relationships, our children, and our jobs. New York: Basic Books.
Braun. V., Gavey, N., & McPhillips, K. (2003). The "fair deal"? Unpacking accounts of reciprocity in heterosex. Sexualities, 6, 237-261.
Bryan, T. S. (2001). Pretending to experience orgasm as a communicative act: How, when, and why some sexually experienced college women pretend to experience orgasm during Various sexual behaviors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Kansas. Lawrence.
Clayton, A. H. (2002). Female sexual dysfunction related to depression and antidepressant medications. Current Women's Health Reports, 2, 182-187.
Darling, C. A., & Davidson, J. K. (1986). Enhancing relationships: Understanding the feminine mystique of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 12, 182-196.
Dye, J. F.. Schatz. I. M.. Rosenberg, B. A., & Coleman. S. T. (2000). Constant comparison method: A kaleidoscope of data. The Qualitative Report, 4(1/2). Retrieved February 22, 2008. from http: www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR4-1/dye.html
Farvid, P., & Brown, V. (2006). "Most of us guys are raring to go anytime, anyplace, anywhere": Male and female sexuality in Cleo and Cosmo. Sex Roles, 55, 295-310.
Flick. U. (2006). Constant comparative method. In V. Jupp (Ed.), The Sage dictionary of social research methods (pp. 37-38). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory; Strategies for qualitative research. New York: de Gruyter.
Henwood, K., & Pidgeon, N. (2006). Grounded theory. In G. M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Schaw, & J. A. Smith (Eds.), Research methods hi psychology (3rd ed., pp. 342-364). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hite, S. (1976). The Hite report. New York: Macmillan.
Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581-592.
Jackson, S.. & Scott, S. (2001). Embodying orgasm: Gendered power relations and sexual pleasure. Women & Therapy. 24. 99-110.
Kaplan, H. S. (1974). The new sex therapy: Active treatment of sexual dysfunctions. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Kimball, M. M. (1995). Feminist visions of gender similarities and differences. New York: Harrington Park Press.
Loe, M. (2004). The rise of Viagra: How the little blue pill changed sex in America. New York: New York University Press.
Muehlenhard, C. L. (1998). The importance and danger of studying sexually aggressive women. In P. B. Anderson & C. Struckman-Johnson (Eds.), Sexually aggressive women: Current perspectives and controversies (pp. 19-48). New York: Guilford.
Muehlenhard, C. L., & Cook, S. W. (1988). Men's self-reports of unwanted sexual activity. Journal of Sex Research, 24, 58-72.
Parry, K. W. (2004). Constant comparison. In M. S. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Futing Liao (Eds.), The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods (pp. 180-181). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Peterson, Z. D., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2007). Conceptualizing the "wantedness" of women's consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences: Implications for how women label their experiences with rape. Journal of Sex Research, 44, 72-88.
Petersson, E., & Jarvi, T. (2001). "False orgasm" in female brown trout: Trick or treat? Animal Behaviour, 61, 497-501.
Plante, R. F. (2006). Sexualities in context: A social perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Ritschel, L. A. (2002). A qualitative and quantitative investigation of the Dissociative Experiences Scale. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Roberts, C., Kippax, S., Waldby, C., & Crawford, J. (1995). Faking it: The story of "Ohh!". Women's Studies International Forum, 18, 523-532.
Ross, R. R., & Allgeier, E. R. (1996). Behind the pencil/paper measurement of sexual coercion: Interview-based clarification of men's interpretations of Sexual Experiences Survey items. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 1587-1616.
Rothschild, A. J. (2000). Sexual side effects of antidepressants. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 61(Suppl. 11), 28-36.
Schaefer, L. C. (1973). Women and sex. Sexual experiences and reactions of a group of thirty women as told to a female psychotherapist. New York: Pantheon.
Seidman, S. (2006). Ejaculatory dysfunction and depression: Pharmacological and psychobiological interactions. International Journal of Impotence Research, 18, S33-S38.
Shen, W. W., & Sara, L. S. (1990). Inhibited female orgasm resulting from psychotropic drugs. A five-year, updated, clinical review. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 35, 11-14.
Shope, D. F. (1968). The orgastic responsiveness of selected college females. Journal of Sex Research, 4, 206-219.
Steiner, A. E. (1981). Pretending orgasm by men and women. An aspect of communication in relationships. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley/ Alameda.
Thompson, L. Y., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2003, April 27). Factors affecting women's decisions to pretend to experience orgasms. Paper presented at the Eastern Region--Midcontinent Region conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Baltimore, MD.
Tolman, D. L., Striepe, M. I., & Harmon, T. (2003). Gender matters: Constructing a model of adolescent sexual health. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 4-12.
Wiederman, M. W. (1997). Pretending orgasm during sexual intercourse: Correlates in a sample of young adult women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 23, 131-135.
Zilbergeld, B. (1999). The new male sexuality (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam.
Charlene L. Muehlenhard and Sheena K. Shippee
Department of Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, University of Kansas
This article is based on Sheena K. Shippee's Senior Honors Thesis, done under the supervision of Charlene L. Muehlenhard.
Correspondence should be addressed to Charlene L. Muehlenhard, Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045-7556. E-mail: email@example.com
Table l. Sample Characteristics Men Women Characteristic n % n % Race or ethnicity (a) African-American/Black 3 2 4 4 Asian American 4 2 4 4 European American/ White 152 85 90 89 Hispanic-American/Latino 9 5 0 0 Biracial/multiracial 6 3 3 3 International student 1 1 0 0 Other 3 2 0 0 No answer 2 l 0 0 Sexual orientation Heterosexual 177 98 97 96 Homosexual 0 0 1 1 Bisexual 2 1 3 3 No answer 1 1 0 0 Sexual history (b) Kissing 177 99 100 99 Having someone stimulate 168 94 91 90 your genitals Stimulating someone's genitals 153 85 90 89 Performing oral sex 145 81 81 80 Receiving oral sex 162 90 78 77 Penile-vaginal intercourse 153 85 69 68 Penile-vaginal intercourse with additional 119 66 48 48 clitoral stimulation for the female (with hand, vibrator, etc.) Anal sex 43 24 18 18 Having an orgasm with another person 155 87 64 63 Masturbation 170 95 60 59 Having an orgasm by yourself 163 91 45 45 through masturbation Composite: GSP (c) 174 97 95 94 Now. Table entries are the its and percentages of participants giving each response. These data are based on the entire sample; unless specified otherwise, n = 180 men and n = 101 women. Percentages were calculated separately for men and for women. PVI = penile-vaginal intercourse; GSP = genital stimulation by a partner. (a) No one checked Native American or American Indian. (b) n = 179 men and 101 women; one man did not answer this section. The wording used here is the wording used on the questionnaire. (c) We considered participants to have received genital stimulation from a partner (GSP) if they checked yes to penile-vaginal intercourse, receiving oral sex, or having someone stimulate Your genitals. Table 2. Prevalence of Pretending Orgasm in the Entire Sample: Men's and Women's Initial Reports and Our Classifications Participants' Initial Reports (a) Pretended Orgasm Something Similar Neither Gender n % n % n % Men 33 18 29 16 118 66 Women 48 48 23 23 30 30 Our Classifications (b) Pretended Orgasm Did Not Pretend Gender n % n % Men 45 25 135 75 Women 51 50 50 50 Note. n = 180 men and n = 101 women. Percentages for women's initial reports do not add to 100% because of rounding. (a) Numbers and percentages of participants' initial reports based on which response option they checked, [chi square] (2, N = 281) = 36.47, p < .001. (b) Our classifications based on their narratives; we reclassified 12 men and 6 women from something similar to pretended and 3 women from pretended to did not pretend. The gender difference in prevalence of pretending was significant, [chi square] (1, N = 281) = 18.70, p < .001; phi = -.26. Table 3. The Prevalence of Pretending Orgasm as a Function of Level of Sexual Experience Men Women Level of Sexual Experience n % n % Entire sample, unscreened 45/180 25 51/101 50 for sexual experience (a) No experience with any GSP (b) 0/6 0 0/6 0 Experience with GSP (c) 45/174 26 51/95 54 Experience with GSP but not PVI (d) 2/21 10 5/26 19 Experience with PVI (e) 43/153 28 46/69 67 Note. Table entries are the numbers and percentages of men and women who had pretended orgasm. GSP = genital stimulation by a partner (PVI, oral sex, or other GSP). PVI = penile-vaginal inter- course. (a) Percentages are based on the entire sample of 180 men and 101 women. (b) Percentages are based on the six men and six women who reported no history of GSP. (c) Percentages are based on the 174 men and 95 women who reported PVI, oral sex, or other GSP, [chi square](1, N = 269) = 20.72, p < .001 ; phi = -.28. (d) Percentages are based on the 21 men and 26 women who reported having experienced oral sex or other GSP but not PVI, [chi square](1, N = 47) = 0.86, p = .44 (from Fisher's exact test); phi = -.14. (e) Percentages are based on the 153 men and 69 women who reported having experienced PVI, [chi square](1, N = 222) = 29.44, p < .001; phi = -.36. Table 4. Sexual Experiences of the Pretenders and Nonpretenders, among Those Who Had Experienced Genital Stimulation from a Partner Men Pretenders Nonpretenders (a) (b) Sexual Activity n % n % Someone stimulating their genitals 45 100 123 95 (e) Stimulating someone's genitals 42 93 111 86 Receiving oral sex 45 100 117 91 * (e) Performing oral sex 40 89 105 81 PVI 43 96 110 85 PVI and additional clitoral stimulation 37 82 82 64 * Anal sex 21 47 22 17 *** Orgasming with another person 43 96 112 87 (e) Masturbation 45 100 121 94 (e) Orgasming through masturbation 44 98 117 91 (e) Women Pretenders Nonpretenders (c) (d) Sexual Activity n % n % Someone stimulating their genitals 48 94 43 98 (e) Stimulating someone's genitals 49 96 41 93 (e) Receiving oral sex 47 92 31 70 ** Performing oral sex 48 94 33 75 ** PVI 46 90 23 52 *** PVI and additional clitoral stimulation 31 61 17 39 * Anal sex 11 22 6 14 Orgasming with another person 36 71 28 64 Masturbation 38 75 20 45 ** Orgasming through masturbation 29 57 14 32 * Note. Table entries are numbers and percentages of pretenders and nonpretenders reporting various sexual experiences, by gender, among participants who had experienced genital stimulation by a partner (PVI, receiving oral sex, or receiving other genital stimulation by a partner). One man's sexual history data were missing. Asterisks indicate significant differences in sexual history between the pretenders and nonpretenders of the same gender, based on chi-square analyses or Fisher's exact test. PVI = penile-vaginal intercourse. (a) n = 45. (b) n = 129. (c) n = 51. (d) n = 44. (e) Because chi-square may not have been valid, p was derived from Fisher's exact test. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. Table 5. Descriptions of the Sexual Experiences during Which Pretending Orgasm Occurred Men Women Characteristic n % (a) n % (b) p Sexual activity (c) Penile-vaginal intercourse 36 80 28 55 .885 Oral sex 5 11 4 8 Manual stimulation 1 2 2 4 Other (d) 1 2 1 2 Unclear or multiple activities (d) 2 4 16 31 Who initiated (c) Participant 6 13 3 6 .284 Partner 19 42 29 57 Mutually 14 31 14 27 Other or do not recall (d) 6 13 5 10 They had not wanted to have sex 8 18 15 29 .183 Level of alcohol use or intoxication (c) No alcohol use 29 64 47 92 .003 Alcohol use but no intoxication 5 11 1 2 Heavy alcohol use or intoxication 11 24 3 6 Relationship (c) Just met 3 7 0 0 .008 Friend or acquaintance 4 9 5 10 Dating 7 16 1 2 Girlfriend or boyfriend 24 53 40 78 Other or vague (d) 7 16 5 10 Note. The table entries show, of those who pretended (n = 96). the numbers and percentages of men and women who described their experience in various ways. Percentages sometimes do not add to 100% because of rounding. (a) n = 45. (b) n =51. (c) Because chi-square may not have been valid, p was derived from Fisher's exact test. (d) This category was not included in the statistical analysis. Table 6. How Participants Pretended Orgasm: Methods of Acting Out an Orgasm Men Women Method of Pretending Orgasm n % (a) n % (b) Bodily acting 19 42 28 55 Moved or thrusted faster 4 9 0 0 or harder Breathed faster or harder 3 7 17 33 Clenched muscles, froze, 4 9 6 12 or held breath Facial indications of orgasm 3 7 5 10 Clutched or pulled partner 1 2 5 10 closer Squeezed genital muscles 0 0 2 4 Shook body 0 0 2 4 Arched back 0 0 3 6 Acted spent or exhausted 5 11 1 2 Other bodily acting 10 22 3 6 Vocal acting 16 36 31 61 Moaned 7 16 26 51 Screamed 1 2 4 8 Moaned louder 0 0 7 14 Other or vague description 8 18 5 10 of sounds Verbal acting 6 13 9 18 Said they were orgasming 5 11 5 10 Other exclamations 2 4 4 8 Vague description of acting 13 29 10 20 Any method of acting 35 78 46 90 out orgasm Method of Pretending Orgasm Phi [chi square] Bodily acting -.13 1.54 Moved or thrusted faster .22 4.73 * or harder Breathed faster or harder -.33 10.31 ** Clenched muscles, froze, -.05 0.21 (c) or held breath Facial indications of orgasm -.06 0.31 (c) Clutched or pulled partner -.16 2.35 (c) closer Squeezed genital muscles -.14 1.80 (c) Shook body -.14 1.80 (c) Arched back -.l7 2.73 (c) Acted spent or exhausted .19 3.42 (c) Other bodily acting .24 5.45 * Vocal acting -.25 6.09 * Moaned -.37 13.30 *** Screamed -.13 1.53 (c) Moaned louder -.26 6.66 * Other or vague description .12 1.30 of sounds Verbal acting -.06 0.34 Said they were orgasming .02 0.04 Other exclamations -.07 0.47 (c) Vague description of acting .11 1.13 Any method of acting -.17 2.80 out orgasm Note. The table shows, of those who pretended, the numbers and percentages of men and women who reported having pretended in various ways. For all comparisons, n = 96 and df = 1. Percentages do not add to 100% because most participants reported more than one of these methods of acting out an orgasm, and some reported pre tending using methods other than acting out an orgasm (see Table 7). (a) n = 45. (b) n = 51. (c) Because chi-square may not have been valid, p was derived from Fisher's exact test. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. Table 7. How Participants Pretended Orgasm: Other Methods Men Women Method of Pretending Orgasm n % (a) n % (b) Told partner they had orgasmed 12 27 11 22 or answered yes when partner asked Praised partner or experience 5 11 2 4 Did not correct partner's assumption 1 2 1 2 Removed, discarded, or hid condom 7 16 0 0 Stopped having sex 8 18 0 0 Method of Pretending Orgasm Phi [chi square] Told partner they had orgasmed .06 0.34 or answered yes when partner asked Praised partner or experience .14 1.83 (c) Did not correct partner's assumption .01 0.01 (c) Removed, discarded, or hid condom .30 8.56 ** (c) Stopped having sex .32 9.89 ** (c) Note. The table shows, of those who pretended. the numbers and percentages of men and women who reported having pretended in various ways. For all comparisons, n = 96 and df = 1. Percentages do not add to 100% because some participants reported having pretended in more than one of these ways, and some reported having pretended in other ways. (a) n = 45. (b) n = 51. (c) Because chi-square may not have been valid, p was derived from Fisher's exact test. ** p < .01. Table 8. Reasons for Pretending Orgasm Men Women Reason for Pretending Orgasm n % (a) n % (b) Orgasm was unlikely or taking too long 38 84 36 71 Too intoxicated 13 29 2 4 Had already orgasmed that day 5 11 0 0 Taking too long to orgasm 17 38 13 25 Partner was unattractive 3 7 1 2 Partner was unskilled 3 7 13 25 Partner was inexperienced 3 7 1 2 Participant was inexperienced 3 7 2 4 Uncomfortable with partner 2 4 1 2 Seldom or never orgasmed from that act 0 0 7 14 Other or vague 13 29 11 22 They wanted the sex to end 37 82 31 61 Felt tired or wanted to sleep 21 47 8 16 Not in the mood 7 16 9 18 Felt bored or lost interest 4 9 11 22 Pain or soreness for themselves or 7 16 3 6 partner Regretted choice of partner 4 9 0 0 Location was problematic 1 2 2 4 Losing erection 4 9 0 0 Partner would not stop until they 1 2 8 16 orgasmed Other or vague 5 11 8 16 Partner's orgasm seemed imminent 1 2 10 20 To avoid a negative consequence 26 58 40 78 To avoid hurting partner's feelings 21 47 35 69 To avoid partner's getting upset 3 7 10 20 To avoid an awkward situation 6 13 2 4 To avoid arguing or having to discuss it 2 4 3 6 To avoid appearing abnormal or 1 2 0 0 inadequate Other 3 7 8 16 To get a positive consequence 6 13 24 47 To please the partner 3 7 18 35 So partner thinks he or she did his or 1 2 6 12 her job Other 2 4 6 12 They did not want to orgasm 2 4 0 0 Reason for Pretending Orgasm Phi [chi square] Orgasm was unlikely or taking too long .16 2.60 Too intoxicated .34 11.30 *** Had already orgasmed that day .25 5.98 * Taking too long to orgasm .13 1.68 Partner was unattractive .12 1.33 (c) Partner was unskilled -.25 6.10 * Partner was inexperienced .12 1.33 (c) Participant was inexperienced .06 0.37 (c) Uncomfortable with partner .07 0.49 (c) Seldom or never orgasmed from that act -.26 6.66 * Other or vague .08 0.68 They wanted the sex to end .24 5.32 * Felt tired or wanted to sleep .34 10.88 ** Not in the mood -.03 0.08 Felt bored or lost interest -.17 2.92 Pain or soreness for themselves or .16 2.40 (c) partner Regretted choice of partner .22 4.73 * Location was problematic -.05 0.23 (c) Losing erection .22 4.73 * Partner would not stop until they -.23 5.10 * orgasmed Other or vague -.07 0.43 Partner's orgasm seemed imminent -.27 7.12 ** To avoid a negative consequence -.22 4.75 * To avoid hurting partner's feelings -.22 4.74 * To avoid partner's getting upset -.19 3.42 To avoid an awkward situation .17 2.77 (c) To avoid arguing or having to discuss it -.03 0.10 (c) To avoid appearing abnormal or .11 1.15 (c) inadequate Other -.14 1.92 To get a positive consequence -.36 12.66 *** To please the partner -.35 11.46 *** So partner thinks he or she did his or -.18 3.22 (c) her job Other -.13 1.68 They did not want to orgasm .l6 2.31 (c) Note. This table shows, of those who pretended, the numbers and percentages of men and women who reported having pretended for various reasons. For all comparisons, n = 96 and df = 1. (a) n = 45. (b) n = 51. (c) Because chi-square may not have been valid, p was derived from Fisher's exact test. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.