Faking It? New Sex Study May Rat You Out

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The infmaous faked orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally" apparently still resonates with couples.

Now, an Indiana University survey has come along to put some confirming data on the faked orgasm phenomenon. Published Monday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the survey found that 85 percent of men said their partners climaxed during the most recent sex act, while 64 percent of women reported they actually did.

"There's this massive gap between men's perception and women's reality," says Debby Herbenick, co-author of the research and associate director at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the university. "It shows a lack of communication between partners, either by women faking it, or by men not asking or noticing if their partner [climaxed]."

The survey, which drew on data from nearly 6,000 participants between the ages of 14 and 94, covered a wide range of sexual behaviors, sexual health practices and sexual perceptions, and according to the center, it was the largest nationally representative survey on sexual health ever performed.

It's worth noting, however, that the survey was sponsored by the makers of Trojan condoms, which had some influence over the design of questions, particularly those covering condom use.

"Our primary goal was to capture contemporary sexual behavior. One of the frustrating things in sexual research up to this point is that the best data is from the early 1990s, and a lot has obviously changed since then," says Herbenick.

The new research offers a glimpse of what's going on between the sheets for Americans today and provides not only a wide range of information on sexual behavior but also how these behaviors shift over time.

As for the perceptual gap regarding female orgasm, this finding confirms past research on the subject, as well as cultural perceptions, says sex expert Pepper Schwartz.

"I think its a combination of people being too embarrassed to work out an issue or too careful about shaking up the system by giving accurate feedback. Men take a lot of pride in 'giving' a woman an orgasm ... so in the beginning, faking it could be about encouragement."

The Wide World of Getting It On

Teens are doing it, octogenarians are doing it, and if this national survey shows anything, it's that everyone's getting it on in one way or another. Some of the most striking findings among the Indiana University team had to do with the prevalence of certain sexual behaviors that had not been as frequently revealed in previous data. For instance, in the new survey, it was found that men performed oral sex almost as frequently as they received it, says Michael Reece, co-author of the study and faculty member at the Kinsey Institute.

"It hasn't really been part of our cultural script for a while, this idea that men are giving oral sex close to the amount that they receive it, but it looks like that's really changing," he says.

Flying Solo

Reece also believes that the survey's masturbation data for men, which show frequent solo masturbation throughout life, should help dispel some anxieties. "It's a normalizing thing for society to realize how prevalent it is," he says.

For most men of almost all ages, the percent who had pleasured themselves in the past month hovered around 60 percent, a number that declined to about 30 percent for those over 70.

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