Talking about one’s sexual history is an important part of new partners’ communication with each other. After all, they say that you’re not only having sex with this new person, but with everyone he or she has had sex with too (sort of a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” game with a sexual twist). But how do you know your partner is being truthful when informing you that he or she has had three, thirteen, thirty, or three hundred past partners? People certainly have reasons for being less than honest (like you don’t want others to judge you based on your busy, or not so busy, bedroom), so when they self-report about their sexual behaviors, how do we know they are not lying? People often fudge their responses about things like how much they recycle and go to the gym because those lies make them look better, and researchers need ways to get participants to tell the truth when reporting about all sorts of “socially desirable” behaviors.
Entries in sex (147)
Let’s play a quick word association game – read each word or phrase below and say the first thing that comes to mind. Here we go….
The Glass is Half: ?
Bondage-Discipline, Dominance-Submission, Sadism-Masochism: ?
While writing last week’s article about the importance of sex in relationships, I started thinking about the taboo nature of sex in North American culture. In the article I mentioned that “North America is arguably a highly sexualized culture, but at the same time, sexuality is rarely talked about in an open, honest way.” Around the time I posted my article, I came across a TED talk that presents a simple way to alter the stigma associated with talking about sex and sexuality.
A recent article in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by Elizabeth Bernstein, How Often Should Married Couples Have Sex? What Happens When He Says 'More' and She Says 'No', created some controversy. The article focused on Chris and Afton Mower, a heterosexual couple who share the details of their previously sexless marriage. At one point in their relationship, the couple went one year without having sex. The husband, Chris, desired more sex, whereas his wife, Afton, had no interest in sex.
Over time, after communicating and reading a self-help book together, Chris and Afton revived their sexual relationship and now both report being satisfied with their sex life. In the article, Bernstein referenced our research on sexual communal strength (discussed here) to suggest that at times a person may prioritize their romantic partner’s sexual needs over their own preferences and that this focus on a partner’s needs can be beneficial (not only for the partner whose needs are being met, but also for the partner meeting the needs).1 Bernstein's article caused quite a stir in the media; a number of news outlets, including Jezebel, The Week, and New York Magazine, published responses. Critics rebuked the article for what they perceived as its focus on the “man’s perspective” and questioned the depression, weight gain and emotional distress that Chris linked to his sexual rejection. Based on some of the responses, it was also controversial to suggest that a person has some responsibility in an ongoing romantic relationship to meet their partner’s sexual needs, perhaps especially when it is the male partner who desires more sex than his wife.
After reading these responses I began to wonder whether (and for whom) we allow sex to be important in a relationship.
Is control in the bedroom related to power in the relationship?
Power dynamics are a relatively common element of sexual fantasy.1 Some individuals enjoy being sexually dominant – they derive satisfaction from exerting power or control over their sexual partners. Others enjoy being sexually submissive – they are satisfied when their sexual partners exert power over them. But the reader poses an intriguing question: do a couple’s power dynamics within the bedroom mirror their power dynamics outside the bedroom?
A new study by Science of Relationships contributor Dr. Amy Muise and colleagues on keeping the sexual spark alive in long-term relationships was recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
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?
What if you were sitting at a café, the park, or a beer garden (the latter being where you’re most likely to find me) and someone you’ve never met before approached you. Doesn’t seem too bad at this point, right? Now, what if this stranger then attempted to solicit casual sex from you? What would you say?
A good friend of mine (who is 7 months pregnant) told me recently that she is concerned about her sex drive. I recalled that my sex drive dropped to almost zero when I was pregnant with both of my boys, so I assumed that this might be the case for her. Surprisingly, my friend’s experience was quite the opposite: she wanted it all the time. When her husband couldn’t help her out (and he was generally happy to do so), she felt compelled to masturbate. She was worried something might be wrong with her.
For heterosexual couples, just making sure that both partners reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse can be difficult. Achieving orgasm at the exact same moment (i.e., “simultaneous orgasm”)? That’s even more of a challenge. Why? Because the typical motion of penile thrusting does not seem to provide adequate sexual stimulation for many women. In fact, only about half of women report being able to climax from penile movements alone during sex and, even among those women, many of them report that they do not experience orgasm reliably.1 As a result, many women find that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse (e.g., with the use of one’s hand or a vibrator) or attempting different sexual activities is necessary to help them climax. However, it turns out that you may not need to do these other things if you can better align your own and your partner’s genitals during sex.
In a previous post, I critiqued the recently-released report of the “Singles in America” survey. The report is the third annual attempt of Match.com to perpetuate the myth that what single people care about, more than anything else, is becoming unsingle. The company pretends to don the mantle of science, and gets lots of media attention, so it is important to take the report apart claim by claim, rather than just dismissing it out of hand.
The Huffington Post took the press release from Match.com and turned it into a slide show with the title, 10 things you didn’t know about single people. The 10 things included such topics as sexting, sex, more sex, snooping in a partner’s Facebook or email account, hiding things online, dating, and more dating.
Real single people live bigger, more interesting, and more meaningful lives than those very circumscribed topics would suggest. So here, in tribute to the real lives of single people, are 10 meaningful things you might want to know about them.
According to a recent study published in Psychological Science,1 teenagers who wait longer to have sex experience different kinds of romantic relationships later in life compared to teens that start having sex earlier. This 15-year longitudinal study (beginning in 1994 and concluding in 2009) tracked teenagers’ sexual activity and long-term relationships into their late 20s/early 30s. Those teens that had sex before age 15 (23%) were considered “early” sexual bloomers. Most teens (60%) had sex for the first time between the ages of 15 and 19, which scientists consider normal for American teenagers (thus, “on time”), and 16% of teens reported having sex for the first time after age 19, and were labeled “late” sexual bloomers (8% of the sample did not report having sex at all in their lives).
I kicked off SPSP this year by attending the close relationships pre-conference where Dr. Emily Impett (my mentor) received the Early Career Award. In her award address, Dr. Impett presented research on how we may give up our self-interests to meet our relationship partner’s needs, and when this can be beneficial and when it is may be less ideal.
Over the course of a romantic relationship, there are bound to be times when your sexual interests diverge from your partner’s interests. Perhaps you enjoy having sex at night, but your partner prefers morning sex. Maybe you desire sex about once or twice a week, but your partner would like to have sex once or twice a day. Or maybe you fantasize about being tied to the bedpost, but bondage is not one of your partner’s sexual fantasies. Although a satisfying sex life is an important part of overall relationship happiness,1,2 sex can also be one of the most challenging issues to negotiate in a romantic relationship.2 Romantic partners may disagree on when to have sex, how often to have it, and what those sexual activities involve. If romantic partners have differing sexual interests, what can they do?
I met my first boyfriend in a Sailor Moon chat room. For the uninitiated, Sailor Moon was a Japanese anime show that was “popular” in the late 1990s. My online alter ego, a character I named Hiko Aino (Japanese for “fire child of love”), was tall, graceful, and witty—everything that I, at the time, was decidedly not. After a few weeks of frequenting the chat room, I started a relationship with a guy whose online persona was a dog (yes, a dog, as in a canine…oh, the shame is endless). It’s probably worth mentioning I was thirteen at the time and wildly unpopular at school (given what I just shared, I can’t imagine why). But the chat room allowed me to reinvent myself, connect with others with similar interests, and—in short—escape the sad reality of middle school. And although the Sailor Moon chat room is probably long gone, other virtual worlds have sprung up in its wake. One such environment is the online community named Second Life.
Was 2012 a sexy year for you? It sure was here at ScienceOfRelationships.com. Here are the highlights of our "Year in Sex":
- Supersize Me: Does Penis Size Matter to Women?
- Getting Her There: When Are Women Most Likely To Have Orgasms?
- The Ins and Outs of Sexual Frequency
- Breaking It Off: Sex-Positive Shops and the Women’s Sex Toy Revolution
- Is Masturbation Bad For Your Health and Your Relationship?
- Monkey See, Monkey Do (and by “Do” We Mean “Have Sex”)
Have you ever read The Game1 or seen the VH1 series The Pickup Artist? Even though The Game is no longer topping the New York Times bestsellers list and The Pickup Artist has long since left the air, the pickup community is alive and well. In fact, in my hometown of Austin, Texas, there are at least three major pickup companies and dozens of independent instructors, all willing to provide (expensive) one-on-one lessons designed to teach the unlucky-at-love how to play the game. As someone who enjoys the nightlife arguably more than she should, it was only a matter of time before I stumbled across the local pickup community and, as a result, met some of the biggest names in the seduction industry (yes, I have met Neil Strauss. No, he did not make a pass at me—and no, I’m not disappointed).
Makes us wonder if this penguin is in any way related to the ScienceOfRelationships penguin. If so, we should name our penguin Muffins.
Our friend and colleague Dr. Gurit Birnbaum recently contributed to a discussion on the New York Times website on the topic of sexy Halloween costumes and fear of death. Check it out here.
We've covered Dr. Birnbaum's research in the following articles: