The Power of Pleasure

How the science of satisfaction can improve your sex life and your relationship

Willingness to go Extra Mile Sexually for Partner is High

New survey reports people willing to go above and beyond sexually for partners.

The statistic that CNN reported indicating over 40 million Americans were stuck in a sex rut and more than half of Americans were dissatisfied with their sex lives would leave one to believe that maintaining a good sex life isn't that important to the majority. I recently analyzed some data that made me think the opposite—maintaining a good sex life is very important to the majority. 

I collaborated with colleagues from Good in Bed in partnership with Pure Romance, Men's Health, and Women's Health to conduct a survey and collect data from over 4,800 men and women on a variety of "what if's" regarding sex and relationships. When I was analyzing this data, I quickly began to notice a theme in the results; both men and women were really willing to go the extra mile for their sex lives to flourish.

Here are just a few examples demonstrating this trend I observed in response to the survey (note: participants could choose more than one response option, so not all numbers will add up to 100%):

What Would You Do If...

  • Your partner wants you to try something that makes you feel sort of embarrassed in bed: More men (53.2%) than women (39.8%) would indulge their partner, and both women and men would give it a try (66.1% of men and 77.0% of women).

  • You find out your partner watches porn regularly: 63.9% of men and 46.8% of women would ask to watch it with them.

  • Your partner wants to watch porn with you: 75.5% of men and 69.1% of women would say go for it – that porn spices up a relationship, and 35.8% of men and 31.8% of women would want to look online for porn together.

  • Your partner wants to engage in BDSM behavior: 24.2% would think about it and 54.9% would have a discussion with their partner about it.

  • Your partner wants to have a threesome: Although more women (37.3%) than men (15.1%) would say “absolutely not”, the most common response from both  men and women was to talk through it (41.7% of women and 48.2% of men), with thinking about it indicated by 28.0% of women and 35.8% of men.

  • Your partner wants to have anal sex: Although far more men (47.9%) than women (18.2%) indicated that anal sex wasn’t a big deal and they would definitely engage in it, 51.1% of women said “okay, but let’s take it slow” and 33.6% of women said they would be willing to have a discussion about it. Only 7.5% of men and 21.5% of women indicated there was no way that would happen.

  • Your partner wants to swing: More than half would be open to a discussion about it (56.4% of women and 56.6% of men).

  • Both men (71.2%) and women (61.3%) were totally open to integrating a sex toy into their partnered sex lives.

  • Your partner really wants to have sex but you’re not in the mood: significantly more men (42.5%) than women (32.5%) would engage in charity sex with their partner. Significantly more women (18.5%) than men (8.3%) would decline the invitation and 21.6% of women would give an excuse for why, but only 12.8% of men would do this. However, 66.0% of men and 71.2% of women would try to get in the mood for their partner.

  • Your partner wants to engage in sex act you’re not overly comfortable with: 62.6% would modify the sex act in some way so that they do enjoy it.

The first thing I thought when I was analyzing this data was how uplifting it is to know that people are really willing to do things, that may not be their first choice, just to satisfy their partner. It gave me reassurance that sex is important. And it made me think more critically about how couples negotiate these situations.

These findings should be taken in the context of the bias that is inherent in many sex surveys. Sure, this wasn't a representative survey, but one of our main sources of recruitment was from Men's Health and Women's Health readership, perhaps a more health-conscious bunch than the general population, but not necessarily a more sexual or sexually-liberal bunch. And our demographic characteristics were fairly wide-spread. So I think this is relevant to more than the sexually adventurous. You can check out the long list of "what if's" in the full findings of the survey located on the Good in Bed website.

Next time you begin to feel that sex is doomed for long-term relationships, think about these hopeful findings, that people are actually pretty open to going out of their way for their partner's sexual satisfaction.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH, is a sex and relationships researcher and assistant professor at University of Kentucky and a managing editor at Good in Bed.

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