Sex, Satisfaction and Science

Since sexuality and desire for intimacy are important human features from birth to death (Hatfield, Rapson, & Martel, 2007) and sexual satisfaction, in particular, is considered to be a barometer for the quality of a relationship (Sprecher & Cate, 2004) it is only appropriate to discover what makes up the quality of sexual satisfaction.

Sex life satisfaction is particularly important for researchers of intimate relations (Goodwin, 2009) for two reasons. First, sexual satisfaction provides one mechanism through which to view a relationship’s partner. Second, sexual satisfaction is a construct that lends itself to prediction by a variety of other relationship phenomena (e.g., marital quality and stability). Furthermore, the domain of sex is very important for people’s lives. The satisfaction experienced in this domain can have repercussions on the whole life. Laumann, Paik, and Rosen (1999) found as much as 31% of men and 43% of women had experience with some form of sexual difficulties. Given the high levels of sexual difficulties and dysfunction in the general population, it is invaluable to understand the subject matter so as to be able to proceed in the improvement of people’s lives.

Sexual satisfaction is an important component of well-being for most individuals. Previous research positively linked reported sexual satisfaction to increased self-esteem (Hally & Pollack, 1993), sexual self-esteem (Ménard & Offman, 2009), healthy disposition, life satisfaction (Apt, Hulbert, Pierce, & White, 1996), relationship satisfaction (Byers, 2005; Holmberg, Blair, & Phillips, 2010), and emotional satisfaction and feelings of general happiness.

A key factor in relationship satisfaction among couples is their level of sexual satisfaction (Butzer & Campbell, 2008; Byers, 2005; Kisler & Christopher, 2008; Litzinger & Gordon, 2005; Sprecher, 2002; Yeh, Lorenz, Wickrama, Conger, & Elder, 2006). Many couples, however, are known to have different levels of sex drive or interest (e.g., Davies, Katz, & Jackson, 1999), with men tending to prefer sex more frequently than did women (Johannes & Avis, 1997; Richters, Grulich, de Visser, Smith, & Rissel, 2003; for a review, see Baumeister, Catanese, & Vohs, 2001). Women in relationships, at the instigation of their male partners, are having sex more frequently than they would ideally desire or with more emphasis on quantity over quality (see Klusmann, 2002; Leiblum, 2002).

What about the satisfaction with particular sexual practices? Turning to sexual satisfaction derived from particular activities, there are indications that men may prefer a wider range of sexual practices than women. Bell and Weinberg (1978) found that gay men engaged in a wider range of sexual activities than lesbians. Laumann et al. (1994), in a primarily heterosexual national (US) sample, found that men preferred a larger number of different sexual acts than women, and showed higher appeal ratings on most of the individual acts. Of course, the answers received to such questions depend heavily on the particular acts surveyed. In both studies mentioned, the emphasis was fairly strongly on genital sexuality. Women, and particularly lesbian women, may derive particular pleasure from more sensual acts, such as kissing or caressing their partner (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Iasenza, 2002). It is possible that such sensual acts might show a reversal, with women expressing higher levels of satisfaction than men. On the other hand, surveys of gay men and lesbians (Lever, 1994, 1995) do not show large differences between these groups in terms of enjoyment derived from kissing, cuddling, and foreplay. Both groups rated such activities very highly.

This area of life is common to all people and appears to be a critical domain of life to many populations of individuals. Thus making it a wise topic to be researched and not a taboo to be shamefully disregarded. It is in everyone’s common interest to further explore the dynamics in sex, with the hopes that their understanding will lead to a more fulfilled life, more functional relationships and greater self-discovery.


Hatfield, e., rapson, r. L., & Martel, l. D. (2007). Passionate love and sexual desire. In s.

Sprecher, s., & cate, r. (2004). Sexual satisfaction and sexual expression as predictors of relationship satisfaction and stability. In j. H. Harvey, a. Wenzel, & s. Sprecher (eds.), the handbook of sexuality in close relationships (pp. 235– 256). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Goodwin, R. (2009). Changing relations: achieving intimacy in a time of social transition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge university press.

Laumann, E. O., Paik, A., & Rosen, R. C. (1999). Sexual dysfunctions in the United States: prevalence and predictors. Journal of the american medical association, 281, 537–544.

Hally, C. R., & Pollack, R. (1993). The effects of self-esteem, variety of sexual experience, and erotophilia on sexual satisfaction in sexuality active heterosexuals. Journal of sex education & therapy, 19, 183–192

Ménard, A. D., & Offman, A. (2009). The interrelationships between sexual self-esteem, sexual assertiveness and sexual satisfaction. Canadian journal of human sexuality, 18, 35–45

Apt, C., Hulbert, D. F., Pierce, A. P., & White, C. L. (1996). Relationship satisfaction, sexual characteristics and the psychosocial well-being of women. Canadian journal of human sexuality, 5, 195–210.

Byers, E. (2005). Relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction: a longitudinal study of individuals in long-term relationships. Journal of sex research, 42, 113–118

Butzer, B., & Campbell, l. (2008). Adult attachment, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction: a study of married couples. Personal relationships, 15, 141–154

Davies, S., Katz, J., & Jackson, J. L. (1999). Sexual desire discrepancies: effects on sexual and relationship satisfaction in heterosexual dating couples. Archives of sexual behavior, 28, 553–567.

Johannes, C. B., & Avis, N. E. (1997). Gender differences in sexual activity among mid-aged adults in Massachusetts. Maturitas, 26, 175–184

Klusmann, D. (2002). Sexual motivation and duration of partnership. Archives of sexual behavior, 31, 275–287

Bell, A. P. & Weinberg, M. S. (1978). Homosexualities: a study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: the university of Chicago press.

Blumstein, P. & Schwartz, P. (1983). American couples: money, work, sex. New York: tmorrow

Lever, J. (1994, august 23). The 1994 advocate survey of sexuality and relationships: The men. The advocate, 18–24


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