Human sexuality is a wondrous activity. Our understanding of why we act the way we do when we have sex continues to intrigue psychological researchers, since we do things that don’t always seem to make much logical sense. Such as faking an orgasm.

Most of us would like to pursue a satisfying and pleasurable sex life. But expressing our sexual needs remains a taboo subject for most people — and especially women. Recently researchers examined how women communicate their sexual needs and examined the reasons behind faking an orgasm. Here’s what they found.

Despite the lack of open communication about our sexual needs, most people still report moderate to high levels of sexual satisfaction. That’s according to this most recent research from Debby Herbenick and her colleagues at Indiana University (Herbenick et al., 2019).

In a representative sample of 1,055 U.S. women drawn from across the country, the researchers administered a number of questionnaires online to gauge sexual behavior and development, faking orgasm and the reasons for doing so, sexual non-communication, and recent sexual satisfaction.

Faking Orgasm

The researchers found that over 58 percent of women had reported faking an orgasm, but that the vast majority — over 67 percent — no longer did. Why do women fake orgasm in the first place?

The reasons varied from wanting their “partner to feel successful, [wanting] sex to end because they were tired, and [because] they liked the person and didn’t want them to feel bad.”

Women who reported no longer faking an orgasm did so because they were more comfortable with sex, with their own identity as a woman, and a feeling of contentment and acceptance from their partner regardless of whether they had an orgasm or not. In other words, it wasn’t important any longer to their sexual satisfaction or self-identity. They felt safe and secure enough in their relationship to no longer feel the need to fake it.

The researchers note the positive effects of women who grow more confident in themselves and their relationship’s security:

In spite of the many challenges that women experience relevant to gendered norms and traditional scripts that minimize the role of female sexual pleasure and agency, the story our data and others’ tell is one of women’s persistence, growth, learning, and curiosity. Our findings evoke ideas of women navigating paths through relationships, love, and power differentials to explore and connect with their sexuality.

Sexual Communication & Conversations

Having a conversation about one’s sexual needs is not always easy. In fact, as this study discovered, most people simply choose not to. More than half the women — 55 percent — decided not to talk to their partner about their sexual needs, despite wanting to do so. Why? Primarily because they didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, didn’t feel comfortable going into detail, and because it’s just too embarrassing.

Younger women also reported having trouble in knowing how to ask for what they wanted and they also worried about being rejected.

Of course, as one might expect, the more able a woman was able to talk about their sexual needs in frank and direct terms, the higher levels of satisfaction such women reported. The more you can talk about sex, the better it’s likely to be because you’re asking for exactly what you want (which hopefully your partner can provide).

The researchers suggest:

This finding is congruent with the idea that sexual partners benefit by sharing detailed directions or preferences with one another in order to guide stimulation on … parts of their bodies. […F]eeling capable, comfortable and/or confident communicating with a partner in sexually explicit ways likely builds on a variety of knowledge, experiences, and skills.


Open and frank conversations are important to a satisfying sex life for both partners. Direct conversations about sexuality and body parts — while perhaps initially difficult or embarrassing for many — are vital to ensuring both partners’ needs are met in their sexual relationship. Avoiding such conversations is correlated with lower sexual satisfaction in women.

In the discussion of their study, the researchers note how long most women suffer in not finding their own sexual voice:

[W]omen are, on average, in their mid-twenties before they feel comfortable and confident sharing how they would like to be touched or have sex, as well as before they feel like their sexual pleasure has been valued by a partner.

Also, about 1 in 5 women in our study still did not feel comfortable and confident discussing their sexual preferences and 1 in 10 had yet to feel that their sexual pleasure mattered to a partner.

American women’s average age of first coitus is at around age 16 or 17, with many young women reporting other partnered sexual activities (such as oral sex or partnered masturbation) prior to that. Thus, young women commonly engage in varied kinds of partnered sex for nearly a decade before they feel like their sexual pleasure matters to a partner—if they ever do.

Show that your partner’s sexual satisfaction matters to you by having a conversation about their — and your! — sexual needs. You may be surprised at the positive outcome of such a talk.


Herbenick, D. et al. (2019). Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, Communication, and Reasons for (No Longer) Faking Orgasm: Findings from a U.S. Probability Sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior.