Should You Ever Fake an Orgasm?

This is the question.

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The Great Fake-Out

Marisa Meltzer doesn't mind giving a performance in bed:

Years ago, I dated a guy who turned me on completely. Orgasms, however, were another story. An hour would pass and we'd both be exhausted. And that's when I started to fake it.

Orgasms with a partner take time, patience, and valiant effort. I genuinely come about one-third of the time. Most guys I've been with—from one-off Tinder flings to serious boyfriends—will pull out all the tricks in their arsenal, but they ultimately seem freaked out when it takes longer than expected. I get bored; I worry that they're getting bored; the moment is lost.

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But they're trying so hard that I feel I owe them a performance. (And sometimes they won't stop, or feel like they shouldn't, until I come.) I always think it's subtle enough to pass; I take what already feels good and amplify it. I breathe a little more loudly, make some satisfied noises, and bring it all to a crescendo.

I'd always prided myself on putting on a convincing show until a guy called me out. That night he was doing something new; it felt nice, but I faked it, as usual. "Next time maybe you'll enjoy it for real," he said. Thank God it was dark or he would have seen my face turn bright red.

That could have been a "teachable moment" to tell him that I'm not an orgasm machine. Or I should have vowed to be more honest. Faking it feels like a naughty habit, like sneaking the occasional cigarette. It probably makes the guys I'm with think they're better in bed than they are—which isn't doing anyone any favors. But mostly, I'm cheating myself.

Maybe it'll happen sooner than I think. Recently I was giving the requisite oohs and aahs with a guy when I realized I was really enjoying myself. Like, into it into it. And from faking an orgasm came, well, a real one.

No More Bedroom Lies

Bibi Deitz on why honesty is the only policy:

I faked an orgasm a couple of times with my first boyfriend, in high school. I'd had enough, but I was afraid to say so. I just wrapped it up with a few moans and gasps, some overly excited body language, and a languid smile afterward. He never seemed to know the difference—but I felt empty. Pretending was the same as lying, so after that, I committed to never fake again.

It takes me a long time to climax. Someone has to really know my body. I need tons of foreplay and clitoral stimulation. But if I am distracted, or tired, or any litany of issues that might get in the way of climaxing—that's OK. I need a partner who understands that sex is not just about mutual orgasms. It's also about intimacy, about connection. And if it's a late-night booty call and ongoing closeness isn't part of the equation, there's no reason to let my partner think he's gotten me to some epically charged place when he hasn't.

This means I have to tell my partner what I want and need. There's no out. I have to communicate—a little to the left, faster, deeper. I've shown men precisely how I want to be touched. If I were down with feigning an orgasm here and there, I probably wouldn't be so intent on helping my partners get it right. But since no man will ever see me come unless it's real, it's on me to ensure my partner knows how good it feels—or not—all of the time.

This article appears in the May issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.

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