My friend Monika recently shared a concern that her sex play with her boyfriend has been spilling over into other areas of her life. Several months ago, her boyfriend requested that she take on a sadistic, dominatrix-like role in their sexual relationship. Sadomasochism (S&M) involves using bondage, spanking, and other types of dominating sexual play, with the sadist being the dominant partner and the masochist being on the receiving end. At first, she was uncomfortable with the request because it was not something she had ever done before. However, after playing things out a little bit, she found the role quite exciting and empowering—her boyfriend also clearly enjoyed their sexual experiences. Now their sexual practices nearly always involve S&M, with her boyfriend getting off being the consenting recipient of (non-injurious) pain during their sexual experiences.1 Although Monika is more comfortable with assuming a dominating role than she used to be, she is not as sexually satisfied as she once was.
Entries in sex (133)
The Sex Lives of College Students, by Sandra L. Caron, Ph.D., presents the results of a human sexuality survey administered over the past two decades to thousands of college students ages 18-80. Responses by 4,683 college students between the ages of 18-22 are compiled in the book. The more than 100-question survey has been administered during the first week of every human sexuality class at the University of Maine since 1990. The undergraduate class has a capacity enrollment of 350 students and regular waiting lists. In 2010, several new questions were added and refined to address the latest issues and trends, including the use of social media to facilitate relationships and use of morning-after pills.
The book is not the be-all and end-all survey on the sex lives of college students. It is not representative of a cross-section of all college students across the country, but it does give us a glimpse of a student sample from a mid-size public research university. Indeed, it is a unique perspective informed by a 20-year data set. The data facilitate the tracking of trends and comparison of changes in attitudes and behaviors. Because of its longevity, the survey includes not only the views of today’s college students, but also those of their parents, including some who may have sat in the same lecture hall taking the course in human sexuality.
The goal is to survey college students’ attitudes and behaviors at the start of the course. And while many of the students enrolled in the course are majoring in the social sciences, the students represent every college and major at the university. This book presents results over the past two decades from 1990 to today. It highlights findings on college students’ sexual behaviors, sexual attitudes, parental influence, safer sex/HIV, the difficult side of sex, and newer data. Below are 10 things that have changed sexually over the last two decade for college students:
Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, and you’d probably assume that couples end up expressing their love (or lust) for each other in ways other than giving gifts. In fact, the #1 gift that men want to receive for Valentine’s Day wasn’t really a traditional “gift” at all: it was sex (read more about the top-ranked gifts here).
We asked over 1,000 Americans (learn more about survey here) if couples should expect to have sex on Valentine’s Day, and if so, if that sex should be better than average (i.e., “extra special Valentine’s Day sex”) or if it would be the “typical” sex that the couple normally has. Overall, 36% of people expected to have better sex than usual, 27% thought they’d have typical sex (if you’re bad at math, this means that almost 2 out of every 3 respondents expected couples to have sex on Valentine’s Day), and 37% didn’t think that sex should be expected on Valentine’s Day.
Katherine submitted the following question:
I have always wondered about research behind the topic of being friends with benefits (with strict rules of no kissing, no hugging, just sex, and only sex), and if they have the same benefits as sex within a committed relationship based off of love and trust, instead of lust?
Thanks for this great question! It sounds to me like what you’re really asking is whether sex between “friends with benefits” is as good as the sex that two people in a committed romantic relationship might have. I recently published a study in the Journal of Sex Research that addressed this exact question.1 We recruited nearly 400 men and women over the Internet who either had a current “friend with benefits” or a romantic partner. All participants completed a survey that asked how sexually satisfied they were in their relationship and how much they communicated with their partner about a variety of sexual topics.
Commitment, the big “C-word” in relationships, is defined as feeling connected to your partner, wanting your relationship to succeed, and thinking about your long-term future together. Although there are downsides to commitment (see here for an example), commitment is associated with lots of good outcomes...
The average woman will have 500 menstrual cycles throughout her lifetime.1 Although menstruation typically doesn’t win the “favorite days of the month award,” the actual purpose of a woman’s cycle is to prepare her body for conception and procreation. Yet, the irony in Mother Nature’s plan is that the actual window of potential conception only lasts for roughly 2-4 days throughout the 28 day cycle. Among researchers, we call these few days the “period of high fertility,” or the time when women are most likely to conceive.
Many women (and probably even some men!) may have noticed that the days leading up to menstruation can be accompanied by mood swings (you’ve heard of PMS – right?). Yet, there’s a bundle of evidence showing that women’s moods, behaviors, and interpersonal styles actually change during that small window of high fertility as well. For example, during those few days (compared to other days in the cycle) women are more likely to dress sexy,2 they are more accepting of men’s advances,3 they prefer the scent of symmetrical4 and dominant men,5 and they’re even more likely to fantasize about someone other than their current boyfriend or spouse!6
If you were sexually permissive, would you approve of your friends’ sexual permissiveness, too? After all, who are we to judge when we act the same way ourselves? Well, let’s say something you value is at stake. The attitudes of an overly sexy friend could threaten your own romantic relationships (“Hey BFF, let’s share everything, including your partner!”). Would you be likely to “mate-guard” your partner from a sexy friend? Or, do you believe in sharing?
Our partner site, ThoseLoveGeeks.com, has just released a new podcast on "friends with benefits"-- check it out!
Read all of our articles on friends with benefits here.
There is a common assumption that men and women are very different and perhaps originate from different planets. Although the “males and females are fundamentally different” narrative may be the prevailing opinion, it is science’s duty to determine whether these ideas are common sense or common nonsense. The “men and women are different” idea is perhaps most pervasive with respect to individuals’ thoughts about sex and romance. Common knowledge suggests that men are hypersexual and women are more reserved, but when it comes to romance, women are much more enthusiastic than men. Findings from survey research seem to support these general assumptions.1,2 With surveys, however, participants report their own feelings, so it may be that participants feel pressure to conform to existing stereotypes. Rather than ask men and women how they consciously feel, in order to get to their true feelings, two University of New Brunswick researchers measured participants’ unfiltered feelings by tapping into their automatic responses.3 The researchers hypothesized that participants unfiltered responses may not conform to existing stereotypes.
In a previous article, I mentioned that having sex dreams is associated with feelings of love and intimacy with romantic partners on the following day. This finding begs the question: What else do we know about sex dreams? Much has been theorized (beginning with some wacky ideas from Freud1 and psychoanalysis, which I won’t go into here) but when you examine the research that has used modern scientific methods, it becomes clear that we don’t know very much. Sex dreams have been documented worldwide, but the frequency of sexual content in dreams is really tough to estimate (some early studies estimated 5-10%,2 while others peg the frequency around 80%3). In addition, some studies have found gender differences (men having more frequent sex dreams than women2), but that has not been replicated in all samples; for example, in a sample of Brazilian participants, sex dreams appeared roughly 10% of the time in both men and women.4 Some of these discrepancies in the research could be due to inconsistent frequency of dreaming in general, or less willingness to report sex dreams in some samples.
Humans are wired to bond. In our earliest beginnings, the key to our very survival included co-operative tribes, clans and families. Intrinsic to that system is an individual’s psychological need for attachment and close connection.1 It is no coincidence that our most tortuous punishment -- from grade school to prisons -- is social alienation. Humans don’t do well in solitary confinement, but we do thrive in loving relationships.
In today’s high-supply sexual economy, where the price of sex has dropped to the barrel-bottom price of one well-worded text, it seems bonding has gone out of vogue. And the cultural message in the West is to take all sex, any sex, at any cost.
Editors's note: A few weeks ago we ran an article on "manscaping", and one of our fans on Facebook asked if we'd could do a similar article on female body hair removal. You asked, and Dr. Justin Lehmiller answers!
Female pubic hair removal is not a new invention. In fact, we have reason to believe that this practice originated with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks!1 However, the degree to which women have shaped their pubic hair has ebbed and flowed considerably across time and culture, and works of art and historical artifacts display variations in attitudes toward it. Today, female pubic hair removal is common, but not all women do it and there is considerable variation in the amount of hair removed, the methods used to get rid of it, and the reasons behind it.
Folk wisdom gives us mixed-messages when it comes to compatibility. We hear phrases like "birds of a feather flock together" telling us we need to be compatible with a partner in order to be successful. Then we hear contradictory phrases like "opposites attract" telling us we need not be similar to our partner, but rather different for relational success.
Although compatibility isn't necessarily a synonym to similarity, they are certainly in the same family.
Perceived sexual compatibility is defined as the extent to which a couple perceives they share sexual beliefs, preferences, desires, and needs with their partner. Another form of sexual compatibility is the extent to which similarities exist between actual turn ons and turn offs for each partner emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally.
Long before I entered this field, sexual scientists have been debating whether there are different types of female orgasm. It began with Freud’s claim that women experienced internal or “deep” orgasms and clitoral or “surface” orgasms, and this was refuted with Kinsey’s claim that there was only one type of female orgasm. To this day, the debate continues.
We’ve highlighted a fair amount of research on casual sex (see here) and hookups (see here) over the past couple of years. Although these studies are incredibly interesting, past researchers typically have not tracked people (and their hookups) over time to identify the factors that signal if hookups are likely to occur in the future. In a new article published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, the researchers do just that, by measuring a range of characteristics among women when they first started college and then tracking their hookups across the next eight months (i.e., their first year of college).
Want to earn more money and lead a healthier life? Have more sex (correlation/causation issues aside). Not that you needed more reasons to have sex on a weekly basis, a recent study of Greek men and women found that those who reported having more sex earned higher salaries and were less likely to suffer from certain health problems. You can read more over at the Huffington Post.
In a recent article, I discussed my research using fictional scenarios to show that perceptions of why someone is having sex with their partner influences how people rate that person’s sexual desire and satisfaction. In that study, people who were perceived as having sex for approach goals, such as to enhance intimacy or to feel closer to a partner, as opposed to avoidance goals, such as to avoid conflict or a partner’s disappointment, were perceived as feeling more sexual desire for their partner and being more satisfied with their sex lives and relationships. In our next study, we wanted to consider people’s actual goals for sex and how having sex for different reasons is associated with a person’s sexual and relationship quality. So, how do a person’s own reasons for having sex influence their own feelings of desire and satisfaction?