Yes, Lesbians Fake Orgasms, Too

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
I’m not someone who goes camping, but less than a year ago I found myself in the woods, with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had, all because of a girl who I wasn’t even dating. We liked to say that we were the definition of friends with benefits, because we were friends first, and then later there were benefits… lots of benefits.
But, as amazing as sex often was with her, it wasn’t always a home run — at least not for me. I faked several orgasms over the five months that we were “together.”
So as I was sitting by the campfire listening to my FWB talk to her straight friend about how amazing sex between two women is, about how “we can go for hours” and have “so many orgasms,” I thought to myself, “Is that really true?”
There seems to be an understanding, both among queer women and straight people, that women having sex with other women never fake it. Of course, my experience alone is enough to prove that isn’t true. But the myth that sex between two (cisgender) women is significantly better than sex between a cis man and a cis woman, at least in terms of the number of orgasms we have, seems to be backed up by research. (Not an overwhelming amount of research, but there is data to look at.)
To start with, lesbians have more orgasms than straight women, on average: A study from 1983 of 407 lesbian women and 370 straight women found that 59% of lesbians reported frequent orgasms, compared to only 40% of straight women. And a study from just a few months ago found that lesbian women reportedly orgasmed during sex 86% of the time, compared to straight women’s 65% — though it should be noted that the sample sizes in this study were wildly different (only 340 lesbian women were surveyed as opposed to more than 24,000 straight women).
These studies, and several others like them, show that we’ve been intrigued by lesbian women’s sexuality as compared to straight women’s for decades. The assumption that rises from data like this is that queer women are just better at sex.
If we look at the numbers in a different way, though, that recent study found that 14% of the time lesbian women did not have an orgasm. Could that meant that, in those moments, they were faking it?

There's this idea that women having sex with other women know what they're doing.

Vanessa Marin, sex therapist
It’s certainly possible, and even likely. When it comes down to the numbers, at least based on one study from Dr. Ed, an online medical service, there’s not that huge of a difference between the percentages of gay women and straight women who reportedly fake it. In the survey of 2000 people, 59% of gay women said that they have faked an orgasm, as compared to 68% of straight women.
So, clearly, queer women fake orgasms. How often they fake them, though, isn’t part of the research. It’s very possible that during some of the times when women don’t come they have open, honest discussions with their partners.
One couple I know does just that. Nicky and Karen are, without a doubt, one of the most well-adjusted pairings I’ve met. Neither one has faked an orgasm with another woman (although Karen, who identifies as a gay woman, says that she has faked them with men).
“I feel like it’s a combo of valuing honesty in the bedroom, never being ashamed of my body, and the fact that I’m very easy to climax,” Nicky says. Karen, however, explains that she finds it much more difficult to reach orgasm, but in the times when she realizes that it’s not going to happen for her, she feels comfortable talking to Nicky — and therefore has no need to fake it.
That openness is less common in relationships (straight or queer) than it should be, experts say. “Sex is a form of communication, and it’s the type of communication we have the least experience with,” says Michael Ian Rothenberg, PhD, a psychotherapist and sexologist in Florida. “We don’t talk about how we want to be sexual or what works with you. We think that stuff will work itself out.”
The assumption that sex will “just work itself out” seems heightened for the queer community. “There's this idea that women having sex with other women know what they're doing,” says Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and the creator of Finishing School. The idea, she says, is that people who have the same body parts should automatically know how to pleasure each other, and don’t need to talk about what feels good and what doesn’t. While there may be a kernel of truth there, it ignores the complexity of women’s sexuality. As Marin put it: “Having a vagina doesn't magically help you understand all other vaginas.”
Photographed by Lula Hyers.
Even queer women fall for the “we have the same parts” idea, though, which can be confusing when queer sex doesn’t lead to a big finish. Erin, who identifies as a lesbian, says that she had a moment like this when she was in college and still trying to figure out her sexuality. “I ended up back at my place with a friend,” she says. “We were tipsy, but consent was given, and it was pretty clear that about five minutes in, I was not going to orgasm. I'm pretty sure that, in that moment, my thoughts processed something like: 1) I love queer sex, 2) why isn't this working, and 3) we have the same parts, why isn't this working?!”
Erin says that she faked an orgasm in that moment, and several similar moments when she was first having sex with other women.
Now, she’s married to a woman with whom she has great communication, and no longer feels the need to fake orgasms. Even if she did fake it every now and then, though, that wouldn’t be any indicator of how strong her marriage is, or how satisfied she is with her sex life. People — straight or queer, married or single — fake orgasms for all kinds of reasons.
“[Many] women feel self-conscious about their orgasms, or lack thereof,” Marin says. Her queer clients have shared that they feel especially embarrassed about not being able to orgasm if they’re with a partner who can (or at least seems to) orgasm every time.
Regardless of sexuality, women fake orgasms because we think that we should be able to have them, because we want our partners to feel like good lovers, because we’re tired and just want the sex to be over with, and on and on.
For some people, faking orgasms every once in awhile feels necessary because their health won’t allow an orgasm to happen. Sierra, a queer friend of mine who takes antidepressants that affect her sexual function, occasionally fakes it with her partner: “Sometimes my body doesn’t respond, or doesn’t feel like how you might feel when you’re about to climax — but to me it’s all still good — so yeah I fake, a little bit,” she says.
That doesn’t mean that her relationship is somehow flawed — I know that Sierra and her partner have a healthy, loving, and strong relationship — but the rhetoric around faking orgasms would make it seem that way. Often, when we talk about faking it, we use it as a joke about straight, cisgender men who aren’t able to please their partners or as a criticism of women whose bodies don’t work properly.
But, truthfully, the way we talk about faking orgasms likely cycles right back into the reasons we fake it: There’s so much pressure to orgasm, for both straight and queer women, that we feel the need to pretend.

I really do believe having open, honest communication with a partner is best, but sometimes faking an orgasm can be the best option for someone who wants to be done with sex.

Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD, sex therapist
“Most of us are orgasm-obsessed, so the thought of not making orgasm the goal can seem downright baffling,” Marin says. “But the funny thing about orgasm is that it's only 10 to 30 seconds, whereas you could be intimate with your partner for hours. If you're obsessed with orgasm, or rushing to get there, you miss out on so many opportunities to feel pleasure and connection.”
That rings true for all people, regardless of sexuality.
While the idea that queer women never fake it is obviously untrue, research and anecdote imply that gay women do fake orgasms less often.
This may have something to do with the types of sex women have with each other. Sex between two cisgender women requires a focus on women’s pleasure, more so than sex between a cis man and a cis woman.
“Women are more focused on pleasure over the whole body and clitorally,” says Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD, a sex therapist in New York City.
So, even though having a vagina doesn’t make you an expert on all other vaginas, the fact that queer women are often having oral sex or combining oral sex with fingering or toys makes it more likely for an orgasm to happen.
That doesn’t mean it ALWAYS happens, though, and faking it isn’t the end of the world, Castellanos says. “I’m not advocating faking — I really do believe having open, honest communication with a partner is best, but sometimes faking an orgasm can be the best option for someone who wants to be done with sex,” she says.
Think of it this way: “You’re not technically supposed to [drive] through a stop sign,” she says. “But if you’re at a stop sign and no one is around and you really need to get home, it might be best for you in that moment to run the stop sign.”
That’s pretty much how I approached the situation with my former friend-with-benefits. Most of the time, sex was great, because repeatedly rubbing someone’s clitoris with a finger or a tongue will get that person to climax most of the time — but sometimes she went hard when I wanted her to go soft, or she spent too much time focused on one part of my body, or she tried to use a strap-on without also stimulating my clit.
She wasn’t my girlfriend, though, and she tended to take things personally. So instead of saying, “Listen, I’m just not going to orgasm this time,” or telling her how to adjust what she was doing so I would, I faked it. Maybe it wasn’t the best solution, but it worked for me in the moment.

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