A new study purports to answer the burning question of why women fake orgasms: it's to keep a man faithful, of course.
According to a paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (via Business Insider), psychologists studied 453 women in heterosexual romantic relationships. They asked the women whether they'd ever faked an orgasm with their current partner, and how worried they were that their partner had or would cheat on them. They also asked the women how frequently they'd performed 104 different "mate retention acts" in the last month, from innocent behaviors like "Dressed nicely to maintain my partner's interest" to the more confrontational "Yelled at a woman who looked at my partner." They found that women who had faked an orgasm (nearly 54% of the sample) were more likely to be afraid of their partner cheating, and also more likely to engage in "mate retention" activities. Farnaz Kaighobadi and his co-authors write,
The results of this research support the hypothesis that pretending orgasm may be a form of mate retention performed by women to prevent a partner's infidelity or defection from the relationship. Women who perceived higher risk of partner infidelity were more likely to have pretended orgasm during copulation with their partner. Furthermore, women who were more likely to have pretended orgasm reported engaging more frequently in all five categories of mate retention. Thus, women's perceptions of partner infidelity risk may be an underlying variable that causes both pretending orgasm and increased performance of mate retention.
The authors cite a number of limitations, including the fact that "dispositional traits may account for some of the variance in pretending orgasm" — for instance, maybe women who tend to feel insecure in relationships are also more likely to fake climax. One limitation they don't cite is the fact that their "mate retention" framework was developed by David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist par excellence who's made a career saying things like "men's genes program them to seek many mates and try to monopolize the reproductive lives of those mates" and explaining that orgasms "could promote emotional bonding with a high-quality male or they could serve as a signal that women are highly sexually satisfied, and hence unlikely to seek sex with other men. What those orgasms are saying is ‘I'm extremely loyal, so you should invest in me and my children'." Kaighobadi and co-authors' work is informed, to some degree, by evo-psych ideas of woman-as-man-catcher: they write, "the results indicated that women who perceived higher risk of partner infidelity may pretend orgasm to manipulate their partner's commitment." That doesn't mean their research is useless — infidelity fear could be one reason why women feel the need to pretend they're getting off. Still, it's wise to take with a grain of salt anything that comes from the Evo Psych School of Explaining Orgasms.
Why Do Women Fake Orgasms? [Business Insider]
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