It’s something many women do, but few will admit to their partners. It’s the punchline of jokes, the source of tension in some relationships, and the unspoken reality in bedrooms across the country.

Yes, women fake orgasms. They fake orgasms a lot. Although studies on the subject are limited, recent research suggests that up to 80% of women are faking it at least half the time they have sex. The same study showed that 1 in 4 women fake it every time they have sex.

It’s easy to assume that “faking it” is negative and dishonest, but the reality is a far less black and white. Relationship experts note that some types of “fake pleasure” can actually be positive in a relationship, while others are completely destructive.

Here’s a breakdown of some common reasons women fake orgasms, how to spot them in your relationship, and what to do about it.

Scenario #1: She’s putting on a show because it turns you on.

What it looks like: If she’s rocking the bed with loud screams and over-the-top shakes, it’s possible that your partner is exaggerating her pleasure to get you excited. She may well be enjoying herself, but studies show that women tend to make more aggressive noises when their partners are close to climaxing, while their own orgasms have less of a soundtrack.

What to do about it: This is the “good” kind of fake orgasm, provided the woman is not denying herself enjoyment or taking it too far. For the most part, it simply means she cares about getting you off. Sure, she might be using sound effects to get you there more quickly, but this is common and harmless behaviour. If your concerns linger, touching base about her needs and wants might be a good idea.

Scenario #2: She is faking orgasms to appease your unreasonable expectations and to protect your ego.

What it looks like: To identify this, it’s better to look in the mirror rather than at your partner’s behaviour. Do you insist on making her orgasm every time you have sex, despite how long it takes (and whether she desired an orgasm to start with)? Do you feel a strong sense of accomplishment and security from pleasuring your partner? Could she feel pressured to give you that affirmation? If so, chances are she might be occasionally faking it to spare your feelings.

What to do about it: This type of fake orgasm emerges out of the myth that the female orgasm is the same as the male orgasm, and that in order to be satisfied a woman needs to climax. This is often not the case with women, which can be hard for men to grasp. Faking it is an understandable response–it is a lot easier than debating the complexities of female pleasure mid-encounter. On the other hand, allowing unrealistic expectations and myths to control your sex life is not a good move. To have a conversation about this, try asking your partner to explain her orgasm expectations and be willing to listen to her experience. You may be surprised by what you learn!

Scenario #3: She is trying to make it stop, because she doesn’t want to be doing it in the first place.

What it looks like: This could look similar to scenario #1, but there are some key differences that make this cross the line into dangerous territory. For example, she may show visible signs of discomfort, such as wincing or avoiding kissing, throughout the encounter. She also may evade eye contact and be physically still while you are having sex. She may seem aloof, then start making “pleasure” noises while in a position where you aren’t looking at each other. Experts agree that this type of orgasm faking is the most dangerous.

What to do about it: Abort mission! There’s a difference between a woman who wants to have sex despite not being initially “into it” (maybe she wants the intimacy, or wants to fulfill your needs) and a woman who feels pressured, uncomfortable, and doesn’t want to be there at all. Before the encounter, make sure you have consent. If you notice discomfort during sex, even if it conflicts with other signs of pleasure, ask again. Most importantly, be genuinely open to stopping if she is not comfortable continuing.

What should you do if you are having trouble in your sex life?

Almost everyone struggles at one point or another with understanding their partners’ needs and behaviours in the bedroom. It is clear from our look at the female orgasm that couples without sexual dysfunction have trouble communicating about pleasure. Dealing with health issues can add a whole new level of complexity for any couple.

At FullMast, we know you care about the pleasure of your partner, and that you want a full and happy sex life. That’s why we offer compassionate, comprehensive, and confidential support for men dealing with erectile dysfunction. For more information, please call 1-844-500-1177 or book an appointment today.

Written by Shauna Vert