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Friday
Mar222013

Does Sexual Narcissism Lead to a Better Sex Life?

If I asked you to list the qualities that make for a good sexual partner, what would you say? Maybe you would want a lover who focuses on your sexual needs, someone who understands your feelings, or perhaps a lover who is sexually skilled and confident in his or her abilities. These different ideas about what makes a good sexual partner suggest that narcissism could either be linked to greater sexual satisfaction (a lover who is confident in his or her sexual skills) or a lower quality sex life (a selfish lover).

In previous posts (see here, here, and here), we have discussed why narcissists tend to be poor romantic partners (they are self-absorbed, low in empathy and more likely to cheat on their partners), but what about the sex lives of narcissistic people?

On the one hand, narcissists tend to focus on themselves and are not good at considering the needs of their partners, which is likely to make them poor sexual partners (see here). On the other hand, narcissists tend to be erotophillic (have positive associations with sex) and are confident in their sexual skills, which may make them good sexual partners.2 So, does the over-confidence and grandiose tendencies of narcissists make them better sexual partners? Or does their lack of empathy and manipulative nature lead to lower quality sexual experiences?

In a new study, researchers consider sexual narcissism1narcissistic tendencies (i.e., self-confidence, entitlement, low empathy) in the specific domain of sexuality – and whether this promotes or detracts from sexual satisfaction.2 The researchers followed 120 newlywed couples for the first four to five years of marriage to determine how sexual narcissism was linked to sexual satisfaction. Sexual narcissism was measured at the beginning of the study and included four key domains: Sexual exploitation (When I want to have sex, I will do whatever it takes), sexual entitlement (I am entitled to sex on a regular basis), low sexual empathy (I do not usually care how my sexual partner feels after sex), and sexual skill (I am an exceptional sexual partner). The sexual satisfaction of both partners was then measured up to eight times over the course of the study.2

People higher in sexual narcissism declined in sexual satisfaction over time, but the different facets of sexual narcissism led to different outcomes for sexual satisfaction. When one partner was low in sexual empathy (or did not try to understand a partner’s sexual feelings), both partners had lower sexual satisfaction at the beginning of the study. Similarly, when one partner was highly sexually exploitive (or felt a partner owed him or her sex), both partners declined in sexual satisfaction over the course of the study. But, in contrast, when one partner felt he or she was highly sexually skilled, both partners had higher sexual satisfaction at beginning of the study and maintained satisfaction over time.2 

In short, feeling confident in one’s sexual skills seems to be good for sexual satisfaction, but other aspects of narcissism seem to be bad. If you are looking for a good sexual partner, you may benefit from finding a partner who is sexually confident but doesn’t have other narcissistic traits such as low empathy and entitlement. Happy screening!

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1Widman, L., & McNulty, J. K. (2010). Sexual narcissism and the perpetration of sexual aggression. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 926–939.

2McNulty, J. K. & Widman, L. (2013). The implications of sexual narcissism for sexual and marital satisfaction. Archives of Sexual Behavior, online first.

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV

Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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