WASHINGTON, D.C. — Women's fake screams of ecstasy in bed may have less to do with trying to protect the sensitive egos of their partners, and more to do with a gal's own personal insecurities and fear of intimacy, new research suggests.
Approximately 60 percent of women have faked an orgasm during intercourse or oral sex, according to Erin Cooper of Temple University, who has been studying these women to figure out why.
"This is something that we talk about happening in popular culture, in the movies and magazines," Cooper told LiveScience. "We know that this is pretty prevalent in our culture, but we don't know much about it from a scientific standpoint. That to me is a real catastrophe."
Cooper presented her work here in a poster session at the Association for Psychological Science annual meeting on May 27.
Why fake it?
Cooper surveyed 366 females ages 18 to 32 who had indicated they endorse faking orgasms, about their sexual habits, their reasons for faking it during a past relationship and their feelings about intimacy.
Many of these women said they faked it due to their own fear of intimacy; they also reported faking orgasm because they felt insecure about their sexual functioning, or because they want to get it over with.
There was also a small group of participants who did it to enhance their own sexual experience. "This small subset of women who are faking orgasm for the purposes of increasing their own arousal, actually have higher levels of sexual satisfaction," Cooper said. "So, maybe we should not be questioning their strategy; it's one of many tools in their toolboxes for having a positive sexual experience."
Intimacy of all kinds
For the intimacy-challenged gals, faking it could be a means of keeping a guy at arm's length, Cooper suggests. And if they're embarrassed about their sexual savvy, pretending to have an orgasm is a simple way to save their own egos.
"Women who have a hard time getting close to other people on an emotional level it seems now are also having a hard time getting close to other people on a sexual level," Cooper said. "They are having a hard time across the board, and may be very much in need of intervention to help them out in another domain. This could either be the cause or the symptom; we don't know enough about it yet."
Women who might seek to quickly end sexual intercourse might do so because they have difficulty allowing others to get close to them; they could feel disconnected from their partner or the sexual experience and might not be able to derive pleasure from sex, Cooper said.
These reasons can have a negative effect on relationships, even outside the bedroom. Increased communication and work to bolster trust and intimacy could help these women overcome their need to fake it in the bedroom.
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Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor and a regular contributor to Live Science. She also has several years of bench work in cancer research and anti-viral drug discovery under her belt. She has previously written for Science News, VerywellHealth, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, WIRED Science, and Business Insider.