It’s often thought of as a quick escape from bad sex.
But faking an orgasm could actually improve women’s sex lives and make them more likely to have a real one, scientists claim.
Among women who pretend to climax in a bid to turn themselves on, playing up may actually work and help them to enjoy sex more.
Researchers said faking it has for years been believed to be damaging to life in the bedroom but therapists should think again and appreciate its potential benefits.
Almost a third of women in the study said they never reached orgasm during sex, and one sex expert told MailOnline there was some truth to the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach.
In a study, experts at the University of Texas surveyed 998 women between the ages of 18 and 29 about whether they faked orgasms and why.
The women were also asked how consistently – on a scale of one to six (never to always) – they had an orgasm during sex or oral sex.
And the scientists found women who faked orgasms to feel better about themselves or turn themselves on in turn had more consistent real orgasms.
This was compared to those who faked it because they wanted their partner to feel good or because they were concerned about being ‘abnormal’.
In their paper the researchers, led by Dr Michael Barnett, wrote: ‘Researchers and sex therapists have generally suggested that faking orgasm may be harmful in that it is deceptive.
‘However, this may overlook psychological factors involved in the relationship between faking orgasm and orgasm consistency.
‘Since psychological factors may play as large of a role in female orgasm as
ones, women may engage in behaviors such as faking orgasm in order to accommodate those psychological drives.
‘Thus, by outwardly faking orgasm, women may infer their own internal state as being more pleasurable and themselves as being more sexually aroused, perhaps increasing the chances of achieving orgasm.’
In their study Dr Barnett’s team found that, while 25 per cent of women said they always climaxed during penetrative sex, 30 per cent said they never did.
They discussed how women’s sexual function appeared to be more complex than men’s and how they were apt to reach orgasm ‘at substantially lower rates’.
This could be because psychological factors are more important than they are to men, the paper said.
And they found various reasons women gave to explain why they pretended to climax during sex.
Some based on insecurity, such as faking it out of concern for their partner’s feelings or out of ‘fear of dysfunction’, were linked to women reporting less consistent real orgasms.
Whereas staging a fake orgasm for ‘elevating arousal’ was associated with more consistent real orgasms, the study found.
Tracey Cox, a sex expert, author and psychologist, told MailOnline there were both pros and cons of pretending to climax.
‘There has always been two schools of thought on faking orgasm,’ she said.
‘The “never do it” camp say there’s never any point faking an orgasm because how is your partner supposed to know how to give you a real one unless you’re honest?
‘But there is a “fake it til you make it” side that says faking it can actually help you have a real orgasm. By reenacting the lead up to a real orgasm – breathing faster, making noise, moving your hips, tensing your muscles – you might just push yourself over the threshold to the point where orgasm becomes involuntary.
‘This study is consistent with that school of thought. By pretending to be aroused, you can make yourself feel more turned on.
‘It also makes your partner more excited, which in turn makes you more excited. There do seem to be some benefits to faking orgasm.’
Recent research by Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, found that women who admitted to faking orgasms did so, on average, once in every three encounters.
From a survey of 462 heterosexual women in Britain researchers found that three quarters of them said they had faked it at least once, they wrote in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
That study said: ‘It may reflect a hesitancy to communicate honestly and openly about sex, including sexual preferences and difficulty experiencing orgasms.’
In Dr Barnett’s study the team acknowledged that their study was limited because of the narrow scope of questions they asked participants, and said their findings were ‘small but significant’.
Dr Emily Harris, the Queen’s University researcher who led the study mentioned above, told MailOnline Dr Barnett’s findings were not particularly strong but that there are ‘obvious’ benefits to faking orgasms.
She said: ‘The finding that women who fake orgasm to increase arousal does not significantly correlate with orgasm consistency, indeed the correlation is very small, so I’m hesitant to draw any firm conclusions.
‘But there are the obvious short-term benefits like bringing sex to an end when someone wants to, or protecting a partner from negative feelings.
‘The negative consequences of faking orgasm are not well understood, and we need more research on this topic.
‘Some women report “resisting” faking orgasm because they don’t want to sacrifice their own pleasure to protect their partner. So I think the consequences of faking orgasm are likely to be different for different people.
‘For example, perhaps feminist women will experience particularly negative consequences following faking an orgasm, because the act may be inconsistent with their values and beliefs.’
Dr Barnett’s study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.