Have you heard of equal pleasure day? That's because we made it up. To highlight just how big the orgasm gap is, we did some math...
- 25th August marks the last day of the year of partnered orgasms for straight women.
- Straight women get 110 days fewer orgasms a year!
- 80% of people with vulvas have faked orgasms.
25th August marks the day when straight women stop orgasming during partnered sex relative to straight men. Dramatic? Yes. But, there is a reason for the drama.
A play on Equal Pay day, Smile Makers uses this calendar date to highlight another gender disparity - the pleasure gap. According to statistics, heterosexual women report orgasming only 65% of the time during sex with a partner, compared to heterosexual men’s 95%. So, we did the math.
If straight men and women were to have partnered sex every day of the year, from Thursday 25th August, the women would no longer climax while the men’s year would have a happy ending, orgasming through til - wait for it - Tuesday 13th December.
Straight women get 110 days fewer orgasms a year! Well, when a penis is involved anyway. Solo, women report reaching climax most of the time. And lesbians report a higher frequency of climax too. Bi-sexual women report a similar gap to straight women, with 66% equating to just four more days of orgasm.
Looking at this orgasm gap through a calendar lens accentuates the huge disparity caused by many reasons, such as society’s obsession with penetrative sex and education lacking in pleasure-positive lessons. Another reason is how often women are doing something else - faking orgasms!
In a recent Smile Makers community survey, 80% of people with vulvas say they have faked orgasms during their sex lives, with half of those that always fake having done so more than 100 times.
- 80% of people with vulvas say they have faked orgasms during their sex life.
- 1 in 10 (13%) people with vulvas have faked orgasms over 100 times.
- Half of the people who always fake orgasms have done so over 100 times.
- 1 in 5 vulva owners faked an orgasm in their most recent partnered sex experience.
- 90% of people who are yet to experience climaxing with a partner have faked orgasms.
So, how is it that people are reaching their fake orgasm centennial without experiencing the real thing or simulating climax to falsely bridge the gap that withholds the right to their pleasure?
Why do people fake orgasms?
From our community survey, 62% of vulva owners said they prioritize their partner’s feelings and pleasure above their own, and 59% fake it to get to the end. More than a third also reported performance anxiety and obligation to orgasm.
- More than half of people with vulvas fake it not to hurt a partner’s ego.
- 36% fake because of performance anxiety or a feeling of obligation to orgasm.
- A third of people fake orgasms to sexually satisfy a partner.
- 59% fake orgasms to mark or hurry the end.
- 1 in 5 think it’s easier to fake an orgasm than to teach a partner what they enjoy.
In the same way that fake orgasms impact the pleasure gap, the pleasure gap influences vulva owners and women faking orgasms.
Our understanding of sex and how we experience pleasure has been conditioned, with our orgasm expectations set by a heteronormative culture previously focused, nay obsessed, with penetration. When it comes to female orgasms, a very limiting social script is holding people with vulvas back. From the type of stimulation to the language used, many social factors uphold this orgasm inequality, prioritizing penis pleasure and having enormous implications for vulva owners' sexual satisfaction. And with that, habitual fake orgasms stand in for real ones.
Here are a few things to remember about the pleasure gap and fake orgasms.
Faking orgasms for a partner.
The Archives of Sexual Behavior* statistics highlight the widest gap is between straight men and women, so when penis-in-vagina sex is societally expected. There is too much focus on penetration, despite the fact women very rarely reach orgasm through penetrative stimulation alone. The focus also implies that women’s pleasure is not a priority, contributing to a lack of entitlement. From a young age, us vulva owners feel less entitled to pleasure than people who identify as men. We even tend to use our partners’ satisfaction as a measure of our own. Author Peggy Orenstein explores this in her Ted Talk about sexual pleasure:‘If a girl goes into an encounter hoping it won’t hurt, wanting to feel close to their partner, and expecting them to have an orgasm - she’ll be satisfied if those criteria are met.’
Faking orgasms to end sex.
Penetration and partner satisfaction also plays into simulating orgasms to end sex. ‘Scholars have implicated our cultural devaluing of women’s sexual pleasure and clitoral stimulation, and parallel overvaluing of men’s sexual pleasure and intercourse to underlie the orgasm gap. This overvaluing of intercourse is reflected in what has been termed our current cultural script for heterosexual sex, which proceeds as follows: foreplay (just to get the woman ready for intercourse),intercourse, male orgasm, and sex over.’’ Orgasm Equality: Scientific Findings This prescriptive way of sex gives the man the happy ending every time, with women’s pleasure a means to an end. Sigh. The lack of attention or education on what is actually orgasmic, such as outercourse (clitoral play is integral to climax for many vulva owners), on top of it feeling like part of a process makes it easy to fake orgasms; be it to then get the partner to come and end, or to mark the end because it’s just not enjoyable.
Faking orgasms because of expectations.
The idea that orgasms mark the end, or help partners reach the end leaves vulva owners feeling obliged to climax; so when it doesn’t come, we fake it instead. When really, orgasms are not the only gauge of sexual satisfaction - pleasure is a measure, and they don’t have to happen! The education and scripts teach us that men should come every time; and, pop culture and porn teach us that the orgasm comes for all partners every time. So, it’s easy to play into that, rather than appreciate pleasure no matter the climax - for men and women.
Of course, there are other reasons to fake orgasms. One community member pointed out that they faked orgasms as a sex worker to satisfy clients but never faked during relationship sex. Also, painful or uncomfortable penetration is something many vulva owners experiences and could cause wanting to end sex.
Statistics show the orgasm gap increases more during hook-up sex, and with that, the frequency of faking it might too - a one-time partner is like a first time over again, bodies and pleasure maps to be learned, but perhaps not so much time or desire to educate them. Likewise, other pleasure sensations happen, but we might not quite get there, and too much time has passed to the point that it’s no longer enjoyable.
Mock orgasms are not something to feel guilty about, and in some circumstances, it might be what we want or that we’re not ready to stop. But, if pretending to feel pleasure is a frequent experience resulting in unenjoyable partnered sex and real orgasms are what we really want, then sharing experiences can help. Coming together to tell our stories can help us …erm… come together with our partners (synced timing not necessary).
Fake orgasm stories.
Introducing pleasure diaries, a series of real-life accounts about sex from members of our Smile Makers community.
Not Feeling Entitled To Pleasure | Boo, Bisexual, 27
For a long time in my youth (13-24) faking orgasms was just another part of "the act"- a term that deeply represents what sex was in my life; a stage where if I performed well, than my relationship and life with my partner would be... easier? I can trace this logic to bad examples from my parents and the media and porn. All these messages about pleasing men and being a "good woman" and what that meant you had to do in the bedroom. Pair all of that with me growing up overweight, and abandoned by my parents, faking became my personal way of not burdening others with my needs, and gave me something to control. I wish love to anyone struggling to be in their truth. It's a journey ❤
Looking After Mental Health | Emily
I was on SSRIs from a young age so I didn’t know the difference it made when I started having sex regularly in my early 20s. I thought that my body just couldn’t orgasm for some reason so I would fake it, willing that someday it would happen. I bought my first vibrator at 24 (from smile makers!) and I was finally able to achieve an orgasm, but not with my partner. It would take too long for me even with the vibrator and my partner. I finally put the pieces together that my medication may have been causing it. I thought for a long time about what I wanted to do and finally came clean to my partner about what I was going through. I really wanted to be able to experience orgasms more frequently and easily. I wanted the intimacy and the release for myself and to share with my partner. I’m still working through the process and figuring out what is best for me, but I know a lot of people take SSRIs and could be experiencing something similar. Just know, there is nothing wrong with you and you are not alone!
The Real One After All The Fake Ones | Dasha, Bisexual, 28
My first orgasm came after several fake ones in a beautiful hotel room with my partner at the time. I actually find it extremely difficult to orgasm with men in general but on this day we were very relaxed after a day of a different type of exploration. After some poor attempts at sex, perhaps because of that perfect combination of sexual frustration and lowered inhibition I looked him in his eyes and said ‘open up, I’m going to ride your face’ and to my surprise he obliged. He quietly opened his mouth and let me get myself where I was going and to be honest he was not bored, it was the hardest he’d been all evening so it worked out well for both of us. I was so shocked at having actually orgasmed that I forgot that I’d faked the organism experience less than an hour before so I said ‘so that’s what cumming is like, I want to do that again’. We had to have an awkward conversation about all the times I’d faked it before. He looked so hurt that I couldn’t bear to tell him that every time before this one had been a lie. To this day he still thinks that he’d made me orgasm before but this time it was just really really intense.
LongTerm Relationship Sex | Susan
I had enjoyed sex with my partner for 30+ years but had never had an orgasm, I faked it and he knew I was, It we just never talked about. I always masturbate to using a sex toy but definitely had a block as I couldn’t even climax when I used the vibrator with him. We haven’t had sex for approx 10 years for various reasons and I only ever masturbate now. I hate to think I will never have partnered sex again, or maybe I will…
Choosing Not To Anymore | Marlee, Straight, 25
The decision to not fake orgasms liberated me, I have a sensitive yet sort of complicated thing going and people usually hurt me when they try to get me to climax. So I started to give a long disclaimer up front, learned some statistics to back me up and it actually had the added benefit of weeding out the red flag shaped men. It could either encourage an open conversation about sex, preferences, limits and expectations, or it could bring out the resistances and insecurities with comments such as “That’s because you’ve never been with a real man before.” or “None of my exes have had a problem with ME.” I just try to see these as bullets I just dodged and move on. There’s nothing wrong with my body and when I found peace with that fact, started to explore pleasure with myself and others by opening communication and bringing toys to the bedroom I was truly freed from all the expectations of how it “should” be. Should is not a term that I intend to welcome in my bedroom anymore.
Teaching A Partner How To Touch | Lala, Straight, 33
With my ex I always faked the orgasm because he didn't understand how to touch me... Once, he did it in the right way and we both understood that that one was a real one... Everything was different, even the after sex was better!
Appreciating Not Orgasming Every Time | Shelley, 23
So my story is actually one about my unavoidable honesty about my orgasms. I very much do believe in sexual authenticity and try to live that with my sexual partner as much as I am capable. That is why I try to communicate and exchange my views with my partner quite openly. One of which is, that to me, sexuality is an experience that is completely unique in each situation and that we both can create such an experience together, without having to reach any goal or performance standard.
When aroused however, I’m not much capable of speaking a single coherent sentence, which is why, as a sensitive squirter, my partner usually determines how many times I have come by looking at the wet spots I’ve made on my sheets. Meaning, that sometimes, when they are dry, it is most likely the case that I have not (yet) orgasmed (because I rarely orgasm without squirting). The beautiful thing about this, though, is that this always is just an opportunity to deepen our bond, because we can both choose how to react to it. Sometimes he asks me, if there is something else on my mind, which allows for beautiful and honest revealings, other times we are invited to explore our different perceptions of our sexual experiences. Then, suddenly, all these questions are being raised. What do we want to take from this experience and which path do we choose to get there? Is a change needed? A bit of this more? A bit of that less? What do you feel when we go down that road, do you feel secure or is there something you would need from me? How can I make sure to
comfort you, when there is something I cannot and don’t want to do that you would need from me? Is there something else that I do feel comfortable with that comes close to nurturing your unfulfilled need?
The quest seems endless and to me it is beautiful in all its vulnerability. As much as fulfilling, healing, inspiring, nurturing and sparkling orgasms can be, I cannot help but deeply appreciate the moments in which I or my partner do not, as this only allows for our bond to deepen even more. Not having an orgasm can be just as empowering and healing as having one, if we create the moment together.
Faking To End After One Real One | Anonymous
My current lover is a giver and loves feedback in the way of noise. He likes to watch me when I am on top. I can often hear him whisper how sexy I am when I sit upright and he can see all of me. He wants to give me an orgasm every time and knows that it will most likely happen when I am in that position. He gives my nipples a lot of stimulation and that usually throws me over the edge. My orgasms are intense and I often will lose a little bit of my hearing for a while. I remember the first time he didn't want to stop or change positions. It became apparent to me that he was wanting to make it a double for me. He was trying so hard and I appreciated the effort and desire for me to feel good. He can go forever! I knew it was probably not going to happen again ( and yes, I realize once I had that thought then yep it wasn't). I decided to fake it a little because he was giving so much to me and I had already had a real one. I wasn't left unfulfilled. I felt I was giving back to him. Mentally it didn't feel 100% ok to do it afterwards. It felt dishonest and I haven't faked it again. I will be honest about the fact that it feels good but I may not orgasm again. Or, will just have him do something different so that I will have another one.
Speeding Up The Process | Anonymous
Sometimes I get into my own head feeling self conscious and under pressure to orgasm during Oral, thus making the real thing difficult to reach, so I fake it so I can get to the sex quicker knowing I’m more likely to reach O.
The Euphoria of The First Real Orgasm | Immy, Straight, 20
“Ear to ear,” she laughed over the phone, “ear to fucking ear.”
When it finally happened for real, I called my best friend. She too, was basking in the afterglow of being pleasured to the point of climax by a lover. She was over-joyous I’d achieved one in partnered sex for the first time. We couldn’t help smiling in the middle of busy streets as we spoke. It felt like everyone knew. I described it to her in detail. I never believed I’d orgasm from G-zone stimulation, but there it was. I moaned loudly and sighed “oh my god." I was so breathless that I couldn’t even form the “oh”, so it just came out “my god”. He eased his fingers out of me slowly, gently, and stroked right up the length of my vulva to my lower abdomen in one smooth motion. Mind-blowing. He kissed me softly, before settling his hand back onto my right breast, which is where it remained until morning.
Defining Pleasure Language | Anonymous
Never faked one, but to boost my partner's ego I said “I got there.” Don’t get me wrong, it was a good time but no orgasm (not that that’s an issue).
Have a fake orgasm story to share? Submit yours here!
*In a study published in February 2018 in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, approximately 52,600 cisgender people shared how often they had orgasmed during partner sex in the past month. 26,000 participants identified as heterosexual men; 450 as gay men; 550 as bisexual men; 24,00 as heterosexual women; 350 as lesbian women; and 1,100 as bisexual women.
The study found that straight men orgasmed more than anyone else at 95% of the time, though gay and bisexual men both orgasmed 89% of the time. Straight and bisexual women orgasmed only 65% and 66% of the time. And, lesbian women orgasmed 86% of the time.
Source:Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, andHeterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample, 2018, published inthe Archives of Sexual Behaviour, and led byDavid A Frederick, H Kate StJohn, Justin R Garcia , Elisabeth A Lloyd