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Illustration by Mekhi Baldwin

Have you been staging some bogus bliss in bed? You’re not alone. The faux O is common for people of all genders. For example, according to a 2009 study, both men and women reported faking orgasms. Although, studies also demonstrate that putting on a show is more common for women.

First of all, faking it isn’t something to think of as bad. You might produce a little phony moan-y for any number of reasons. We explore some of them here. Plus, we’ve got sexpert takes on how to stop faking it — if that’s what you want to do.

Not wanting to deal with the emotional labor

Jessica, 38

“It felt like he was a pig rooting around for truffles, and I just wanted to go to bed.”

Jessica says she faked it at the time because that was easier than having to educate whom she now refers to as “truffle dude” on what might have been more pleasurable for her.

On top of having a crappy sexual experience, she was exhausted. And schooling her bedfellow — or worse, consoling his ego — would have amounted to emotional labor she just wasn’t up for.

Worrying about a partner’s ego

Lindsey, 33

“I faked 100 percent of them until I was 32. It was a mixture of things: Sex ed not ever speaking to a woman’s desire or pleasure, embarrassment, and a very, very deep fear of men with hurt egos.”

Lindsey says fear was the overriding emotion. “Faking was a way to mask my fear and protect his ego.” She says a few things helped her change. Talk therapy, learning to value herself, communicating with her partner to establish expectations, and finding someone she feels connected and safe with.

“I’d received so many conflicting messages over the years about what sex was supposed to be like,” she says, looking back. “I wanted to be so liberated, but I wasn’t.”

Society’s lack of value placed on pleasure for all

Lauren, 28

“I used to fake orgasms aaaalllll the time. Although no one ever said it to me directly, I felt like I had to fake an orgasm to make the man I was with, well, feel like he’d done a good job. I’m sure movie-magic sex where women had an orgasm within 5 seconds didn’t help.”

Lauren says she’d had plenty of peak moments when pleasuring herself, but when it came to partnered encounters, satisfaction seemed like an impossibility. “The men I was with — for the first few years of my sex life, just weren’t all that interested in really putting in the effort to make it happen or ask what I wanted or needed,” she adds. “Sex was, in many situations, just so men’s pleasure-centered by default.”

She says one guy even told her, “You need to make more noise.”

For her, change occurred when she met partners who were interested in having a more mutually pleasurable experience. She says coming out as bisexual also helped because it freed her up to be herself and to be open about her wants and needs.

“No porn-style moaning necessary,” she adds. “Now I never fake orgasms, and I don’t have to.”

Showing gratitude even though you weren’t going to get there

Amelia, 35

“I am not an orgasm faker, but I did once at 16 because I wanted that poor, sweet boy to know I appreciated his effort. Afterwards, I thought better of it and thought I should have educated him instead. And I never faked again since.”

No really, I wasn’t faking!

Brooke, 30

“I’ve never faked an orgasm, but I’ve had a partner yell at me mid-orgasm [because] he thought I was faking it. I yelled back, ‘No, no. Do not stop what you were doing. This is not a drill!’ But he did not resume.”

You don’t have to do the emotional labor of educating someone else when the sex is less than great — especially if the encounter is a one-time thing, and you’re over it already like Jessica was with “truffle dude.” Of course, you don’t have to produce mock ecstasy to protect someone’s ego either.

Whatever your reasons for faking though, it bears repeating that a fraudulent orgasm is not something to feel guilty about. And you don’t have to stop pretending your pleasure it if you don’t want to or aren’t ready. But if you’ve been putting on a regular show because you generally aren’t enjoying partnered sex, and you’d like to, we’ve got some tips from sexual health experts.

“Taking time to enjoy pleasure in your body by yourself can be foundational for more easily reaching orgasm with a partner,” says Antonia Hall, a transpersonal psychologist, sexual health educator, and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. “Go slowly and focus on your arousal and pleasure. What feels best to you? Does using a toy help?”

Get to know what gets you off, so you can encourage your partner to mimic your moves. “Using positive tones like, ‘It feels amazing when you…’ to guide your partner’s way will benefit you both,” Hall says. “Once you break the ice, you’ll find it easier to express your needs so you can enjoy yourself.”

And, if you and your partner need a little help from, well, you, go for it. “If you can have an orgasm from touching yourself, incorporate that into your partner sex,” says Searah Deysach, longtime sex educator and owner of Early to Bed. “Most partners find someone touching themselves during sex to be hot, so don’t be afraid to try it. Anyone worth having sex with will want to know what you like and what feels go to you.”

“Taking the focus off the end goal can refocus your mind and body on pleasurable sensations in general,” Hall adds. Hello, erogenous zones! And that can relieve the stress, anxiety, or pressure of crossing a finish line. You might eventually get there, but you might also take some really nice detours along the way.

So, what do you do if you think your partner’s contentment during coitus is perhaps a bit on the counterfeit side?

First, understand that if your partner is indeed faking it, that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying the encounter. So, don’t take it personally. As Hall mentioned, sex can be about so much more than the end goal. And, definitely don’t broach the subject mid-moan — as in Brooke’s situation above.

“Talking about it can be a little tricky,” Deysach says. “You want to be sure that you are not accusing them or putting them on the defensive.”

“Rather than asking your partner if they are faking orgasms, which may trigger mutual feelings of shame or embarrassment,” Hall adds, “you might want to keep the focus on pleasure and what they like and need in the bedroom.”

Deysach recommends having a convo at a calm time, rather than in the heat or friction of the moment, and to listen to and believe your partner.

“You are not the ruler of their body,” Deysach says, “and if they say ‘nope, not faking it,’ then you can leave it at that. It is important to remember that not all orgasms look alike, so it is also possible that you are just missing their orgasm cues.”

When it comes to orgasms, it’s also good to keep in mind that for most people, having good, enjoyable, toe-curling sex doesn’t happen overnight — or every time. Great sex is a matter of seeing what works for you and your partner and having honest conversations, the ones we never see in the movies where everyone comes in perfect unison.