The Aquinian

Getting real about sex

STU researchers ask how real sex measures up to the hype and why some women fake it

(Tom Bateman/AQ)

Meg Ryan may have acted out the most famous fake orgasm in the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” but she’s not the first or last to feign pleasure. Studies show that as many as 80 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men fake orgasms. However, there’s relatively little research about why.

Dr. Monika Stelzl and Dr. Michelle Lafrance are recruiting participants for a study about why women exaggerate sexual pleasure. The St. Thomas University psychology professors hope to find out how reality compares to expectations when it comes to sex.

Stelzl, who teaches human sexuality, was inspired by classroom discussions.

“One very active discussion we have in the course is basically whether they fake orgasms and why,” said Stelzl, whose male and female students admit to faking on occasion.

“It’s not that I lecture on this, but we can spend an hour talking about it, very heatedly.”

However, when Stelzl tried to find out why, she found a lack of research.

That’s when she joined forces with Lafrance.

“Relatively little work is done with people’s real experiences and what we would like to look at is what do people really experience,” said Lafrance.

Dr. Monika Stelzl: “You have discrepancies between what’s happening and what’s portrayed , and it doesn’t create misconceptions. It creates reality for people.” (Tom Bateman/AQ)

The two women are in the beginning stages of research exploring pleasure in consensual sex and how women talk about it.

While they know exaggerating pleasure is common, they’re interested to find out why.

One theory suggests women feel they are expected to live up to media portrayals of sex.

“We are inundated with media representations of sexuality, which I think then translate into how we experience ourselves or how we think we should experience ourselves,” Lafrance said. She says too many women expect every sexual encounter to “result in wild cataclysmic orgasms.”

“You have discrepancies between what’s happening and what’s portrayed, and it doesn’t create misconceptions. It creates reality for people, a norm that they are not matching,” Stelzl said.

With the help of a STU research grant, Lafrance and Stelzl plan to conduct one-on-one

interviews and group discussions with young women.

While most participants have opted for private interviews, the researchers hope more students will join in what they call “open and honest” group discussions.

“We both think it would be a lot of fun to talk about it in a group of people,” Stelzl said.

If participants are not comfortable talking with strangers, Stelzl says groups of friends can sign up together.

“We think this an unexamined part of women’s experiences that we would like to explore,” says Lafrance.

To find out more about this study, or to participate email sexresearch@stu.ca
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