Guys, could you tell if your wife is faking it?

I’m really grateful that I have so many men read the blog (and thank you so much to my male commenters who are part of this community as well). I know that many guys appreciate hearing healthy teaching about sex that perhaps says something different than what is often taught about sex in evangelical circles.

Because of that, though, I do like to write some posts for men every now and then–call it a “men’s corner”. And today I’d like to tackle a question that I get from a lot of men:

How can I tell if my wife is faking an orgasm?

Many guys honestly want to please their wives, and yet they’re unsure if their wives really enjoy sex, especially if their wives never initiate sex or seem to have very low libidos. There’s often this nagging doubt, then, about whether their wife is actually enjoying herself when they do make love.

I’m going to take a stab at answering this question, but I’d like to ask my women commenters to jump in here as well, because I’m not sure I have a great answer to this one. But I’ll take a stab at it, so here goes:

It can be very, very hard to tell if a woman is faking orgasm.

First, I’m going to be upfront. It can be very, very difficult to tell the difference between a real orgasm and a fake one, if a woman has decided to fake it.

In writing this, you all know where my mind went, right? It’s pretty hard to write about whether or not guys can tell if a woman is faking WITHOUT referencing that When Harry Met Sally scene. In fact, when I was sketching out this post I FaceTimed my daughter Rebecca and I said, “so, do I embed it or not? Is it in really bad taste?”

She wasn’t sure because she’d never seen it. I was flabbergasted. How could you not know? She said that while she knew that movie clip existed, she’d never watched it. So she went and watched it, and agreed that it was certainly funny, and was glad to now understand the significance of “I’ll have what she’s having.” (Fun fact: Did you know that the woman who said that in the movie was actually Rob Reiner’s mother? And Rob Reiner was the movie director.) As writers have said since, that scene became bigger than the movie itself.

So, I’ve been debating whether to embed it, but I think I’m going to because this one movie scene really has shaped the way that we think about faking orgasms.

What that scene told us was several things:

  • Women can fake orgasm pretty convincingly
  • Most women do fake orgasms quite frequently
  • The way to fake orgasm is about what we say and how we say it (with how body language being a distant second)

I want to deal with the second and third of these issues first.

Do most women fake orgasm?

The assumption from this scene is that it’s common; women do it because they’re dissatisfied in bed, they realize they’re not having a good time and they won’t have a good time, and they just want to get it over with. So is this true? I Googled it online and found so many conflicting reports it’s hard to say. One study said that 80% of women faked orgasm; another one said that just 20% did once they were married (the percentage was higher if you were in a long-term dating relationship). In the Journal of Sex Research the figure was 67%. I don’t know which figure is accurate, but whatever number you use, it’s obvious that some–if not most–women fake it at least some of the time.

How do you tell the difference between a real orgasm and a fake one?

While it’s easy to mimic what a woman might say during orgasm, or how her face may look, the physiological signs of an orgasm are much harder to fake. When a woman is about to reach orgasm:

  • Her clitoris will flatten out (after becoming more erect as she becomes aroused)
  • Her nipples will become erect
  • Her vaginal walls will swell and lubrication will usually increase (this isn’t as much of a telltale sign around menopause)
  • Her vaginal muscles will have involuntary contractions (they’ll squeeze rhythmically) during and after orgasm

However, with all that being said, trying in the moment to figure out physiologically whether she’s faking or not is unlikely to end up in any fruitful discussion. I think it’s far better to go back to first principles and ask WHY would a woman fake, and then what can you do in your relationship to make this less likely?

Why do women fake orgasm in marriage?

Let’s only consider marriage here, because that’s what’s really concerning us. Here are just a few reasons:

  • Sex isn’t feeling that great and it isn’t doing anything for her, and she knows she won’t reach orgasm. But she doesn’t want her husband to be disappointed, so she fakes to make her husband feel better.
  • Sex isn’t feeling that great, but the husband gives her a hard time if she doesn’t reach orgasm, wanting to know what he’s doing wrong and what’s wrong with her, and it turns into a big discussion. She’d rather just get it over with.
  • Sex isn’t feeling that great, but he refuses to take no for an answer, and is always determined to bring her to climax, even when she knows that it isn’t going to happen. So she fakes to stop him from keeping trying.
  • Sex isn’t feeling that great, but he lasts a long time if she doesn’t have an orgasm, and she just wants it over with.

In all of those scenarios, you’ll notice some commonalities. She knows that sex isn’t feeling that great, but for whatever reason communicating that to the husband isn’t something that she feels comfortable doing. If you don’t want her to fake, then, she must feel safe not reaching orgasm. She must be able to let him know how she is honestly feeling.

If you want your wife to not fake orgasm…

Make it clear that you believe her sexual pleasure is largely your responsibility

I’ve written at length on this, but often a couple gets married not knowing very much about sex, and he has an absolutely wonderful time. It feels great to him. But she doesn’t seem to enjoy it. So what’s wrong with her? Even when you a husband does attempt foreplay, it can seem like an imposition, something you’re just doing to get on with the main event, which should be intercourse. Why does she even need this, anyway? His experience of sex is often taken as the standard, and she needs to catch up to him.

I have written so much against this type of thinking, which is very prevalent, and not necessarily with any ill intent. I think most of us just don’t understand women’s sexuality very well. So I’d suggest reading together and talking about these posts:

Then go through 31 Days to Great Sex together. Really learn what makes her tick! Let her understand that if she doesn’t respond sexually, she’s not broken. She just may need more warm up time! It’s a great resource to use together, and helps both of you understand the other more. Most of all, though, it helps open up those conversations which can often be very difficult to have. Oh, and it’s a ton of fun, too!

Do you want MORE for your sex life?

Book Cover for "31 Days to Great Sex"

The 31 Days to Great Sex Challenge was written to help you spice it up in the bedroom! 

Try new things, explore each other, and turn on those fireworks!

Understand that she may not always reach orgasm, and that’s okay

One of the things that I say so frequently in my Girl Talk event is this:

One night he could do something to you that leaves you in raptures, and three nights later he’ll do the exact same thing–move for move, exactly the same–and you’re lying there thinking, “will you just get over with, because I want to get to sleep!” Our sex drives, you see, are almost entirely in our brains. If our brains are not engaged, our bodies don’t follow.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Girl Talk Event

And that’s ever so true. Some nights she just has too many other things running through her head and she just isn’t going to reach orgasm, no matter what you do. 

I’m all for women orgasming as much as possible, and I do think that men should not leave their wives hanging, on the whole. At the same time, if he expects her to orgasm each and every time she makes love, and when she doesn’t orgasm, he feels hurt, or he takes forever, or he wants to start a huge conversation, he could end up killing her libido, because she may be afraid to start making love in case she won’t reach climax. 

So again, communication is key here. Yes, make sure that she usually reaches climax. (And if she’s never reached orgasm, do the 31 Days to Great Sex challenge, have her read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and look at these posts):

But also talk it through about what it means if she doesn’t. Try not to take it too personally. And understand that for many women, orgasm isn’t necessary for sex to be enjoyable. Sometimes they enjoy giving the gift, they enjoy the closeness, whatever. Just talk about it!

Make it clear to her that it is much more important to you that they are truly intimate than that she appears to have an orgasm

Let her know that you don’t want her to fake–not because you don’t want your feelings hurt, but because you want to learn about how to read her body so that you can make her feel good, and so that you’re always being intimate by being vulnerable and transparent with one another. And then talk about what to do if she ever feels like she just isn’t going to reach orgasm tonight!

A note to the women about faking orgasm

And now, to the women, I’d just say this: Faking orgasm is a really, really, really, really, really bad idea. It just is. If you fake it, he’ll think he’s making you feel great, when you aren’t, and then he’ll think he knows all the great moves, when he doesn’t, and the chance of him actually bringing you sexual satisfaction will diminish substantially. Plus it makes you resentful of him in the end, and he won’t even know why. It’s just a bad idea all round, and I’ve written more about why faking is a terrible thing to do!

If you’re making love and you just know that it isn’t going to happen for you tonight, then find a way to “let him off the hook” that will help him keep going, if that’s what you’d like. Get on top and be more aggressive, so that he’s not as focused on pleasing you. Focus on pleasing him, rather than lying there and letting him please you. And talk to him about how, when you do this, it really is okay for him to let himself go and feel good.

Build your communication about great sex, and hopefully she’ll feel less need to fake orgasm.

I can’t give you any guaranteed tips that will stop her from faking orgasm, or that can help you tell if she’s faking, but I do think that it’s better to focus on building a great sex life from the ground up than it is to judge her every orgasm to see if it’s real. That’s going to help you a lot more!

And now I’d love for the women to chime in. Is there a reason that you’re faking that I haven’t mentioned? What would make you fake? What would stop you from faking? How can we solve this problem? Let’s talk in the comments!


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You’re Not Alone! Many Women Don’t Like Being Touched in Certain Places

First I want to say, loudly and clearly: You’re not alone. Many women find parts of their bodies are just off-limits sexually. For some it may be breasts; for others it may be just the nipple; for some it may be him inserting his fingers inside the vagina. (True story: every Girl Talk I give I have a Q&A part where I answer anonymous questions. I once had a woman ask, “I know guys like sticking their fingers “up there”, but it creeps me out. Why does my husband have to make it seem like he’s digging for gold or something?” At the time the question was funny, but I certainly felt for her).

I can’t tell this particular woman what to do because I don’t know enough of the story, but I’d like to give 4 big picture questions to think about, and then some tips for where to go from here.

Check Your Past

Sometimes certain body parts (or certain acts, like oral sex, for instance) are really creepy for us because of past abuse, or past things we’ve seen on TV or in movies when we are at certain ages that scarred us. We may also feel deep shame about certain parts of our bodies. When it comes to breasts, for instance, many women with larger breasts were mortified when they were 11 or 12 when the breasts started to grow, and no one else in their class at school had them. So they became a source of ridicule.

And then, as you got older, perhaps guys would fixate on them–even older men. It made you feel dirty. It made you think men were disgusting. It made you feel repulsed.

Today, when your husband that you love touches you there, it throws you back to that time when you were totally repulsed and creeped out.

This is NOT the case for everyone who hates their breasts being touched or who hates another body part being touched, but it can be quite common.

Basically you’ve developed what’s almost a phobia of it. And you CAN get over phobias. More on that in a minute.

Check the Control Issue

Is it that you hate having your breasts touched or that you hate someone else touching your breasts? I’ve had letters from women with both scenarios. One woman, for instance, couldn’t stand it if someone else touched her breasts, but could handle it if she did. Another woman freaked when her husband tried to insert his fingers into her vagina–but she couldn’t do it either.