Have you ever faked it? If so, why?

A team of researchers at Ryerson University found their initial hypothesis begin to crack under pressure when they looked at a larger study about women reporting how often they fake pleasure.

“Participants were initially recruited to talk about feigning sexual pleasure in the context of consensual sexual encounters,” said Emily Thomas, Masters of Psychology student and researcher at Ryerson’s Sexuality Hub: Integrating Feminist Theory (SHiFT) Lab. “It was very surprising to us that all of the participants spoke explicitly of faking an orgasm to end at least one negative or unwanted sexual experience; moreover, they described the experience not using the explicit language of rape or coercion, despite the fact that several descriptions could be categorized as such.”

Participants reported faking sexual pleasure in situations where they had felt uncomfortable. When consent isn’t spoken about prior to each sexual action, it’s much more difficult to find the words to speak with your sex partner about whether that thing they’re doing to you actually feels good. Remember, the traditional image of rape as something that happens only in darkened alleys by masked assailants is what prevents so many people from categorizing what happened to them in situations of coercion as rape. Most instances of non-consensual sex happen between people who know each other, not total strangers.

Thomas added: “The research highlights some very interesting cultural issues, such as why women may consent to sex they don’t desire. It also highlights dominant and widely accepted norms such as the ‘appropriate’ way to end a sexual encounter. Finally, it points to the lack of available language to describe women’s experiences that acknowledges, names and confronts the issues women spoke of in our interviews. On a societal level, we need to address this lack of language and engage in a conversation that promotes open, safe and honest sexual experiences for both partners.”

Here are some ways to communicate more consciously when it comes to sex: make sure that you discuss limits and preferences beforehand. If you get uncomfortable, it’s okay to press pause. As Thomas points out, using your words helps get to the bottom of why you may be feeling uncomfortable around sex at this time, with that person, which is very okay!

Take some time to sit with yourself and think about what constitutes pleasurable sex for you, and it will become that much easier to articulate it next time you have sex, even if it makes you nervous.

Take a peek at Thomas’s paper: Faking to finish: Women’s accounts of feigning sexual pleasure to end unwanted sex.