Embarrassment, a Desire to Please May Cause Women to ‘Fake It’
If ever there were an argument for faking sexual satisfaction, the peculiar workers’ compensation case of phone-sex operator Marci Lyn Deutsch is it. The 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Fla., woman filed a petition for benefits in December, claiming she developed carpal tunnel syndrome in the course of stimulating herself while talking to callers.
Perhaps Deutsch should have studied Meg Ryan’s famous big-screen fake-out in “When Harry Met Sally.” Sally was demonstrating to Harry that women fake orgasms . . . and do so without being detected.
Which raises the question: Why?
“Women fake it to please their partner,” said Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist. “Women worry about the men they fake an orgasm with. If you want to train a man to do what you like, it is a way to encourage him when . . . he is doing everything right.”
It’s difficult to say just how many women engage in the practice (and reportedly, some men do as well), but Lonnie Barbach, a San Francisco psychologist and sex education expert, said that “lots of women” fake it occasionally.
“Women who are anorgasmic fake it because they are feeling embarrassed and don’t want to go into a whole big deal with their partner about something that may not be a big deal to them. There is some preserving of the male ego, but there is some preserving of how she is looked upon.”
Then there is what might be called the enough-already fake. “Sometimes, I get embarrassed because they are trying so hard,” said a recently divorced 41-year-old Venice woman. “I figure, it has been long enough, it is not going to happen . . . but I don’t want them to feel bad. It is just time to move on.”
“I only fake it when I am in a really intense relationship and he is more amorous than I am,” said a 23-year-old West Hollywood casting assistant. “Either my body is too dead, my life is haywire, or I can’t even think about sex. . . . I am willing to fake it to please him, which is a guilty, awful thing to do to make him happy.”
Other women refuse to engage in behavior that smacks of a lie. “I would never fake an orgasm with my husband because it is just way too deceptive,” said a 29-year-old Sherman Oaks attorney. “And I was usually involved enough with boyfriends that I could be honest. If I wasn’t going to have one, I wasn’t going to put a lot of energy into faking one.”
For some women, habitual faking replaces honest talk about sexual needs.
“I have worked with women who have faked for years,” said Barbach, author of “For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality” (Anchor Books/Doubleday). “They faked when they were dating, then they got married. Then there was never a good time to tell. Then there was not wanting to tell them because they’ll think, my God, what else are they dishonest about.”
But the rewards of fessing up can be worth it. One woman who admitted faking, says Barbach, included her more-than-willing partner in exercises aimed at fostering more satisfaction.
Eventually, there was no need to be deceptive.
Birds & Bees is a weekly column on relationships and sexuality. Kathleen Kelleher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.