As You Like It

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Sex Survey Results from an Unusual Sex Survey

Are all sex surveys the same? I don't think so.

line drawing of couple undressing
There are different ways of creating sex surveys. Most surveys have answers that can be computer scored. I've never found these to be particularly useful. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the way I've done the sex surveys on my own website, which asks for complete thoughts instead of "yes, no, multiple choice, or ‘on a scale of one to ten...'". This has netted a tremendous amount of information which is nuanced and complete--but a total nightmare to do anything with.

Also, while comparing answers to individual questions can be productive, what I find most interesting is to consider each survey in its entirety. I've also found that surveys completed by people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond tend to have more textured responses--which speaks to the impact that time and experience can have on our understanding of our sexual selves. I have also found that women tend to answer in complete sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs, while men tend to answer in partial sentences and sometimes monsyllabic grunts.

Over the next couple of months, I'll be posting some of the thousands of surveys that visitors to my website have have done. (Click here to see the complete surveys.)

The following woman's responses are much more complete than most, and she's had sex with more partners than most women. However, this doesn't mean she has had more sex than someone who has only been with one or two partners.

Three of the many things I found interesting on her survey were that she isn't focused on having orgasms, she doesn't like to masturbate very much, and while few healthcare providers will tell you this, her experience with hormonal birth control is not terribly uncommon. As for masturabtion, it's been clear from many survey responses that some women who are very amped sexually don't masturbate often, others do. So the frequency with which women masturbate says nothing about a woman's feelings about sex. Also, some women masturbate more when they are in relationship, others less.

How old are you?

32

Please describe yourself as being totally straight, mostly straight, it depends on the day and time, mostly gay, or totally gay.

I've considered myself bisexual since age 20 or so, when I realized that I both find females sexually attractive and romantically lovable; however, most of my long term relationships have been with males. So: mostly straight or depends on the day and time.

What country are you living in?

United States

Grew up in Virginia, attended college in the South, and recently moved to Oregon. I specify because the city of Portland might as well be a different country from rural Appalachia.

If you have a male partner, is his penis circumcised (cut) or uncircumcised (uncut)?

I have mostly had partners with circumcised penises; I have had only two uncircumcised partners, neither of whom were born in the USA. (South Africa and Wales)

If you have had intercourse, how satisfying is it usually for you?

I have trouble reaching orgasm during sex in general, although I have a few ex-partners and current occasional lovers with whom I usually orgasm; our physical and emotional rapport is deep enough that it simply works. That said, I nearly always find the intimacy and physical contact enjoyable, satisfying, and worthwhile, with or without orgasm. It took me years to reach that mindset, however, as way too much emphasis is placed on orgasm.

If you've had different partners, has intercourse felt better with certain ones? If so, please offer your theory about why.

Yes. The first time I ever managed to orgasm during penetrative sex, it was with the male partner with the smallest penis I've personally experienced. I think it was a combo: he had a lovely pelvic bone to grind against, and we were experimenting with different positions and angles to find one that worked. We did.

In general, I find an average to slightly-above-average-sized penis to be the most appealing, and to give the most pleasure... but there's far more to it. Curve and/or girth of the penis, the person's techniques of foreplay (from sexy, intense eye contact to holding hands sensually, to kissing, to breathing against a neck or ear, to nipple stimulation, to their skill with hands and fingers), the width of their hips (affecting angles and hip fatigue for me), their rhythm, their level of vocalization of their own pleasure, and how emotionally involved I am in the encounter all play a part for me. There's an emotional euphoria that comes with loving a partner, and it can equal or exceed the physical rush of orgasm.

When you are having intercourse, do you sometimes need to make a conscious effort to stay sexually excited and in the moment?

Yes. Sometimes, I recognize that my body is unlikely to reach orgasm in a session (for a variety of reasons). Then, I'll try to refocus on the good sensations I am experiencing and giving my partner, rather than trying to "reach the goal" of orgasm. In the past, I would sometimes push so hard trying to reach that goal that I'd drive myself to the point of tears of frustration - never a good thing in the middle of sex. Particularly during receiving oral sex, sensation sometimes fades, and while it feels good, it doesn't feel "as good as it should", and I then begin to "get in my head" about whether my partner is enjoying themselves, and I'm eager to move on to other activities.

If your partners have shaved, trimmed or waxed anywhere below the neck, please describe what and where, and if it had any impact on their desirability.

Most of my partners have had little body hair generally; most have also at least trimmed their pubic hairs to be "less unruly". Unless the amount or texture of their body hair is interruptive and overwhelming, I am indifferent: I want them to be comfortable with their own body, whatever that looks like. When a partner shaves his or her genitals completely, I generally find it unattractive (as well as uncomfortable, due to stubble/regrowth.)

What are the best and worst parts of giving a male partner oral sex?

I really enjoy going down on a man. The best part - second to his reactions and sounds of enjoyment - is the feel of the shape and texture of the head and shaft against my tongue and lips, sensual - like eating fruit or chocolate. The worst...? Some males have a "stronger" taste than others to their seminal fluids, and that can be unpleasant, although it's uncommon that it's that pungent.

Can you recall when you first "discovered your clitoris" as having potential for pleasure? If so, please describe the process and what your thoughts were.

I was 18, and my first lover encouraged me to begin masturbating. I had touched myself as a child and early adolescent, and had been intensely shamed for it, so there were emotional issues I had to deal with before I could start over, so to speak. I remember being amazed - I had seen the anatomical drawings, of course, but had never connected that with my own body in reality, and had no idea that those intense sensations could be produced from stimulating such a tiny spot. I think of that time as a reawakening of my body, of the very beginnings of my being happy and feeling attractive in my own skin. After my first self-induced orgasm (finally!) I realized that I had been having "wet dreams" for years while asleep! I had never even heard of other females this happened to. It was a revelation.

In the years since, I have discovered that my (visible, palpable) clitoris is relatively small, being quite pearl-like in fact. I have also found that more intense stimulation is not only not conducive to orgasm, but downright unpleasant. Is it possible that size has something to do with that, as more nerves are concentrated in an even smaller area than usual? Or, perhaps, a larger clitoris is less sheltered by surrounding tissues, and becomes somewhat desensitized to stimulation compared to a more "hidden" one? I wonder, and can't find any research on this.

When you were growing up, did you ever put your fingers inside your vagina to explore what was there?

I did, and couldn't make much sense of it. I hit puberty young (physical changes starting at 8, menstruation at barely 9) and I know I touched myself even before that; I couldn't even guess an accurate age. Two? Four? I knew it felt interesting, and eventually knew it was supposed to feel good, but there was always a HUGE amount of guilt and shame involved. I thought I was going to hell, and I was a freak, and a terrible person for doing this evil, nasty thing. I don't remember where those ideas came from, but I know I believed them fervently.

Which would be worse: being walked in on while masturbating or making love with a partner?

By whom? Worst case scenario: my father, and either would be truly awful. My father has never acknowledged me as an adult, sexual being, and we don't communicate about those topics at all. I'm kinky and bi, and he watches Fox News...

Do you shave, wax or exfoliate between your legs?

I shave my bikini area and usually my labia majora, but only trim the hair above my vulva. I don't like shaving completely, neither aesthetically nor for comfort reasons. I think it looks plastic and fake, or immature and childish to have no hair at all there, male or female. I shave about once a week, sometimes twice; more often produces irritation.

If you have hooked up with someone for only a night, what was the sex like?

A couple of times, and usually fairly horrible. If the initial connection was deep enough that the sex was good, our association usually developed into a longer relationship - wherein the sex got even better. I've found that one day/night isn't enough time to learn a partner well enough to really please them or be pleased; that takes time, and trust.

If your partner(s) use condoms, do the condoms impact the sensation you receive from intercourse? If so, please describe in what ways.

They do. I am allergic to latex, and so use polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms instead. They often feel plastic-ey or rough, especially to my vulva/labia, and I have noticed that I require more additional vaginal lubrication when a partner is using a condom. I also thrive during intimacy on a partner's reactions/sensations, and when those are reduced somewhat, so is my pleasure as well. However, unless I'm in a long-term fluid-bonded relationship, that's the deal.

Considering your last couple of partners, how satisfied were you with their ability to last during intercourse (too long, too short, just right). How long feels just right for you?

My last few partners lasted, if anything, too long.

About what percentage of the time do you have an orgasm during intercourse?

The first time I have intercourse with a lover, it's rare for me to orgasm: perhaps 10 percent, including foreplay and self-stimulation. In further sessions, that figure rises to around 60-70 percent, and with a very few people (perhaps three of the thirty-some lovers I've had) it was nearly every time, 90-95 percent.

If you have orgasms during intercourse, do they happen from thrusting alone, or does it require fingers on your clitoris or grinding against his pubic bone?

The two most successful and consistent methods for me to orgasm during penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse are: 1) lying on my back, with my lover penetrating me from the side or top while kissing me and/or kissing or manually stimulating my nipples, while I stimulate my clitoris; 2) riding astraddle my lover, using a specific front-to-back tipping, "rolling" motion with my pelvis to stimulate my clitoral area while hitting nice, sensitive internal spots with the penetration.

If you have hooked up with a person for only one night, how comfortable or uncomfortable is it when you see them in a social situation, at work or in class? Please explain.

Generally, it's not uncomfortable, and the flirting continues, with perhaps more of a "knowing" undertone.

How do you feel about the fluids your vagina makes--too little, too much, just right, or... ?

I don't produce as much lubrication now as I did in my early twenties, when additional lube was entirely optional or unnecessary for vaginal sex. Now, supplemental moisture is nearly always needed for sex, and occasionally for daily comfort, so I definitely wish I made more.

If you use marijuana, does it impact your experience of sex? If so, in what ways?

I don't. The few times I've tried, the effects I experience are similar to that of standing up too fast and getting light-headed for a short period of time, followed by a dull headache. It's not a drug I saw any benefits from.

If you masturbate, 1.) about how often do you do it, 2.) are there any changes in frequency if you have a partner, and 3.) are there certain times of the day when you are more likely to masturbate?

I might masturbate once a month or so if I'm single, although the frequency does tend to increase during the middle of my menstrual cycle. If I'm in a sexual relationship, the frequency increases as well, perhaps to as often as once a week. As for time of day...? Generally, all over the clock, with a higher concentration just after whenever I happen to shower.

If you masturbate, how often do you use your fingers vs. other things?

I admit, I often am what I consider "lazy" and use a vibrator for self-stimulation. It is the most reliable method, although I've found that many vibrators these days are far too strong/intense for my preference/ability to orgasm. I have to seek out the weaker cheap ones which inevitably wear out, because the higher-quality, durable ones seem to be on the stronger side. I'm a AA girl, certainly not a C, much less a 110-volt. I tried a Hitachi, after much celebratory gossip from friends; I shrieked and leaped away. Too much!

Approximately how many serious sexual relationships have you had in your life (with someone who you were exclusive with for at least 3 to 6 months, and who you had an emotional connection to)?

Thirteen - twelve of which were with men.

Approximately how many sexual partners have you had where there was not a strong emotional connection (fuck buddies, one-night stands, friends with benefits, etc.)

Twenty-three, (again) twelve of which were with men, although I hesitate to say there was a lack of emotional connection with all of these partners, because that's simply not true. With some, the emotional connection was quite strong, and even loving, but there was not a committed relationship.

Have you had sex with another woman? If so what was it like for you.

It's lovely. I was/am fascinated with the shapes of her, her tastes and smells, her reactions and likes, how they were similar to or different from my own... I have more often found myself being the more active or directing partner in same-sex encounters, and so have performed oral sex, digital penetration, etc, on far many more partners than have done so to/for me.

If you've ever had sex with more than one person at a time, please describe the make-up and what it was like for you.

Okay... situations I've experienced: from several friends who all fooled around playfully, mostly limited to oral sex and mutual masturbation, to various (m-f, f-f, m-m) couples having exclusive sex in each others' presence, to watching while lovers pleased each other, to performing oral sex on one partner (male or female) while another partner (male or female with a strap-on) penetrated me... I've had some experience with multiple partners, including one two-year triad relationship. Generally, it's fun, pleasing, and exhausting(!), and can be quite physically intense... but the most intense emotional connections I've ever experienced during intercourse have happened during one-on-one encounters (with or without a non-participatory audience.)

Considering your cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, and even foster parents, what is the closest family relation with whom you've had sexual or romantic contact?

None, unless you count overhearing through walls.

What kind or brand of birth control do you use? Has this had any impact (positive or negative) in your desire for sex since you started using it? If so, please explain.

I have a Paraguard (copper, non-hormonal) IUD for birth control. I have noticed a difference in my vaginal fluids since getting it, but not in my libido (thankfully!) When not in a fluid-bonded relationship, I also use Trojan Supra or Durex Avanti polyurethane OR Trojan Bare or Lifestyles Skyn polyisoprene condoms. Those are the most widely available and affordable brands locally.

When I took the pill in college, I had many disruptive side effects, from increased cramping, bloating, moodiness, and irritability, to more frequent yeast infections, to digestive troubles, to lack of any desire to be in the same room with a lover much less have sex with them, and even to escalated symptoms of anxiety and depression. It was hellish, and each experiment with a different type of hormone-base was progressively worse, although I didn't associate the pill with many of my symptoms until I stopped taking oral contraceptives altogether. Never again.

Have you ever touched a partner's prostate? If so, what was it like for you?

I have! It was fun, especially given the unmistakable enjoyment he was getting. I am a huge fan of the more open sexual attitudes of men who have discovered the joys of their prostates. And I really like helping, although using tools like dildoes or massagers is much easier than stimulating digitally, as I have somewhat small hands.

Illustration by Daerick Gross Sr. from Paul's Book, the Guide To Getting It On.

 

Paul Joannides, Psy.D., is a research psychoanalyst, author of Guide To Getting It On, and a speaker on college campuses. more...

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