Women Fake Orgasm, Men Fake Intimacy

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- Written by Gina Ogden

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We’ve all heard about faking orgasm. Forty-eight percent of American women do it, says a 2004 ABC News poll and Slate magazine’s 2000 orgasm survey raises that to 72 percent. But what about faking sexual closeness and intimacy? This has never been surveyed, but it’s a complaint I hear from countless women who come to therapy to talk about disappointment with their boyfriends and husbands. Faking intimacy can creep toxically into all aspects of our relationships to undermine openhearted honesty and sharing—which are primary qualities that make sex (and everything else) meaningful.

 Why do men fake it? Well, for many of the same reasons women fake orgasm. Men fake intimacy to please their partners. Men fake intimacy because they’re afraid to feel the full range of pleasure. Some men fake it in an attempt to spice up the kind of Johnny-one-note sex that never goes beyond once-a-week intercourse. Some fake it because they can’t access their own feelings so they mimic tough-guy images they see on TV.

 Many men admit they fake intimacy because they don’t feel the same lust that pulsed through every pore when they first fell madly in love—and they want to make themselves believe they’re still that youthful and lusty. Some fake it in an earnest effort to feel more, to quicken those pulses, to make things good again—to “fake it till we make it,” as the saying goes. And some fake it because they’re so hungry for emotional closeness they can’t see beyond the fear that they’ll never get it. One client confided, “I’ve faked my way through my whole life because I was scared if I told the truth they’d just laugh at me, then I’d die of shame.”

 Faking can get us over some rough spots—but over the long term it undermines our capacity for spontaneity and innovation. When we keep repeating the same script, we miss what’s happening in the present. There’s an R2-D2 quality to faking intimacy—as if the capacity for pleasure has been replaced by a computer chip that cries out “Oh God!” at specified intervals. Our internal data banks may briefly flare, but we don’t feel really moved or satisfied. We don’t feel authentic. And guess what—women notice this, and most of them complain about it. 

What’s the alternative to faking intimacy? For most men, it begins with understanding that intimacy means connection. Connection with themselves, and connection with their partners. It means waking up feelings that may have been dormant for a long time—even though tapping into these emotions may seem both difficult and risky. It means understanding that the longest journey in the world is the journey from the head to the heart, and that it takes enormous courage to take the first step.
One straightforward first step on the journey from head to heart comes from my Gestalt therapy training. It’s a sentence-completion exercise. This is an opportunity to find out where you get off the intimacy track—and to take full responsibility for hopping back on. All you need is the courage to jump in—right now.
You can do this exercise by yourself. You may increase the impact if you do it with a partner. You get more ideas. You also get to give and receive feedback. The important thing is to feel each sentence as you say it.
Here’s sentence completion number one:
 “I can turn off sexual intimacy by . . .”
Your task is to complete this sentence again and again until you run out of creative ideas. You can journal, you can draw pictures, you can meditate—whatever helps you complete this sentence by indicating all the ways that are true for you. Here are some ways men have completed this sentence:
“I can turn off sexual intimacy by talking instead of feeling.”
“I can turn off sexual intimacy by telling myself that I might not get an erection.”
“I can turn off sexual intimacy by obsessing about past embarrassments.”
“I can turn off sexual intimacy by imagining that something terrible will happen to me if I feel some tenderness.”
Here’s the second sentence for you to complete:
“I can turn on sexual intimacy by . . .”
This is your opportunity to imagine some active steps you can take to change your attitudes and behaviors in a positive way. Use the repetitions of this sentence to say all the things that are true for you. You may surprise yourself with the number of options you come up with.
Here are some ways men have completed the sentence:
“I can turn on sexual intimacy by looking into my partner’s eyes.”
“I can turn on sexual intimacy by imagining how my partner feels.”
“I can turn on sexual intimacy by remembering the last time I felt really good.”
“I can turn on sexual intimacy by forgiving myself for being anxious and scared.”
Again, review your list with yourself (and your partner)—and consider which of these ideas you’d be willing to put into practice.
The bottom line is simple: Developing the capacity for sexual intimacy starts with letting yourself feel the full range of your feelings. As the saying goes, you can’t heal what you can’t feel.
Gina Ogden, PhD, LMFT is a sex therapist in Cambridge, Massachusetts who offers workshops and trainings internationally. She is the author of The Return of Desire (2008) Women Who Love Sex (2007)and The Heart and Soul of Sex (2006), which is based on her nationwide survey: Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality. To learn mores: www.GinaOgden.com

About the Author

Gina Ogden


Over thirty years as a family therapist, sex therapist, teacher, speaker, researcher, poet, editor, and author have prepared Gina Ogden to become America's premiere voice for women, sex, and spirit.