Sex

Are You Sexually Satisfied?

Maybe the answer is “yes” if you are a woman, young, and having sex frequently.

Posted Dec 01, 2020

Khairat Ibrahim, CC BY-SA 4.0
Source: Khairat Ibrahim, CC BY-SA 4.0

Many people, regardless of age or biologic sex, desire sexual satisfaction—with an exception being asexual individuals. The big question within a committed relationship is how to achieve it. What is most critical? When can one expect it? Is it even possible?

Because many factors play a role in enhancing sexual satisfaction, clinical psychologists Julia Velten and Jürgen Margraf pursued several critical ones. They surveyed a representative sample of 964 German heterosexual couples (both partners participated) from all age groups with the express purpose “to demystify sexual satisfaction and to clarify which aspects of a sexual relationship contribute most to satisfying sexual lives within partnerships.”

They assessed sexual satisfaction and distress, female and male sexual functioning, sexual communication, life satisfaction, frequency of masturbation, frequency of actual and desired sexual activity, and a number of sociodemographic variables. Here, I focus on sex and, occasionally age differences, because they turned out to be major determinants in several of their findings.

Sexual Satisfaction vs. Sexual Distress

On a scale from 0 to 100, participants rated the degree to which they were satisfied with their sexual life and how much they were distressed by the dyad’s sexual problems. In general, sexual satisfaction was greater in women than men and in younger than older participants—perhaps because women and younger individuals also reported the highest levels of sexual communication with their partner. As opposed to women, men reported greater distress when they experienced sexual problems; this was especially true for older men. 

Frequency of Sex

Frequencies of partnered sexual activities and masturbations were assessed on a scale from “never,” “less than once a month,” “once to three times a month,” “once to twice a week,” “three to four times a week,” and “five times a week and more.” Women, on average, tended to initiate sex less often and wanted less sex than men; as a result, men had less sex than they desired. Men’s sexual satisfaction was highest when sexual activity was equally initiated by both partners.

If there are major gaps between level of sex desired and what actually occurred, sexual satisfaction was negatively affected. Thus, because this discrepancy was highest in men (they had less sex with their partner than they desired), their sexual satisfaction suffered. Women appear to care less about who initiates sex and thus when she does her partner might well feel an enhanced sense of desirability. For her, “the total frequency of partnered sex—which includes her sexual initiations as well as her positive responses to his initiatives—is the more important predictor of her sexual satisfaction.” 

Sexual Functioning

Participants self-reported their sexual functioning on a scale from 0 to 5. As expected, sexual functioning was much higher in younger than older individuals. Men were more likely than women to be sexually distressed because of their partner’s lack of sexual arousal; women, not by their partner’s actual sexual problems (e.g., erectile failure) but by his distress about his sexual problems. For both women and men with sexual problems, level of sexual satisfaction was independent of their partner’s sexual functioning. That is, they were more upset with their own sexual functioning than with their partner’s sexual functioning.

Sexual Communication

Although sex within heterosexual couples can sometimes be problematic and a causal agent in divorce, sexual communication is clearly important, beginning at the onset of a relationship. “To talk openly about sexual wishes and preferences, but also about issues or problems, might be especially relevant to increase the quality of sexual interactions within a partnership.” Talking assuages the dyadic member who desires either more or less sex than their partner. When a man or a woman experiences a negative response when sex is initiated, neither needs to feel “rejected” if the couple communicates about their feelings and reasons. 

Another German study found that among young and middle-aged heterosexual couples, it was normative for sexual satisfaction to steadily decline after the first year, which was not primarily due to a decrease in intercourse frequency. Although initially couples had to negotiate “partner-specific sexual skills” with their passion for each other, “intimacy communication” and conflict style resolution helped to erode the downward spiral. As Sandra Byers noted in her 2005 study of long-term relationships, “The quality of intimate communication accounted for part of the concurrent changes in relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction.”

I am left with one question: Why aren’t couples talking about their sexual desires and satisfaction?

Facebook image: fizkes/Shutterstock

References

Byers, E. S. (2005) Relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction: A longitudinal study of individuals in long‐term relationships, Journal of Sex Research, 42, 113-118. doi:10.1080/00224490509552264

Schmiedeberg, C., & Schröder, J. (2016). Does sexual satisfaction change with relationship duration? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 99–107. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0587-0

Velten J., & Margraf J. (2017). Satisfaction guaranteed? How individual, partner, and relationship factors impact sexual satisfaction within partnerships. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0172855. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172855