Economics of orgasms

31st July, 2004

Dear Economist,
I love my partner, but he does not always satisfy me in bed. Sometimes I fake my orgasms – is this wrong?
— Ms C.H., Nottinghamshire

Dear Ms C.H.,
Economics doctoral student Hugo Mialon argues that you need to analyse this as a two-player signalling game. You have two choices – fake, or be honest about the earth’s failure to move. (Mialon comments helpfully: “faking is the strategy of a devoted girlfriend or courtesan, depending on whether the intent is to spare feelings or gain favours”.)When you appear to be enjoying yourself, your partner also has two choices: to believe you, or not.

The strategy Mialon advises depends on the intensity of your love, and on how likely you are to be enjoying yourself anyway, which in his model is a function of your age. His conclusion: the more you love your partner, and the further you are from 30 (the age at which your partner expects your capacity for orgasm to be greatest), the more you should fake.

I have to confess I found it all extremely complicated. I discussed it with my wife, but that didn’t seem to help anybody very much. Yet, several of Mialon’s ideas have been supported by data from the 2000 Orgasm Survey. (Presumably, the name is chronological rather than quantitative.)

After much reflection I finally located my doubts: in Mialon’s model, orgasms themselves are exogenous. The players cannot simply try a bit harder. This is an important omission, since one of the main arguments against faking is that it denies your partner the feedback he needs to improve.

Therefore, I have decided to construct my own economic model of the subject. Meanwhile, my advice is to stop faking orgasms, and instead make sure your partner doesn’t fake his foreplay.

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