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Are You GGG?

Understanding the benefits of sexual communal strength.

GGG is a term coined by sex columnist Dan Savage to represent the qualities that he thinks makes a good sexual partner. GGG stands for "good, giving, and game." Think "good in bed," "giving of equal time and equal pleasure," and "game for anything—within reason."

We know from previous research that people who are more motivated to respond to their partner’s needs (high in communal strength) report higher relationship satisfaction and feel more intrinsic joy after making a sacrifice for their partner.1 But do the benefits of being "giving" and "game" translate to the sexual domain of a relationship, as Dan Savage would suggest?

In a recent study, myself and my colleagues explored whether being motivated to meet your partner’s sexual needs is good for yourself.2 We termed this motivation sexual communal strength—the desire or willingness to meet a partner’s sexual needs, even when different from your own preferences. When we asked people what this meant to them, they provided several examples including: having sex with your partner when you're not entirely in the mood, pursuing sexual activities that your partner enjoys even if they are not your favorite, and taking strides to understand and meet your partner’s sexual fantasies. Here are a few items we used to measure people’s levels of sexual communal strength (rated 0=not at all, 4=extremely):

  • How far would you be willing to go to meet your partner's sexual needs?
  • How high a priority for you is meeting the sexual needs of your partner?
  • How likely are you to sacrifice your own needs to meet the sexual needs of your partner?
  • How happy do you feel when satisfying your partner's sexual needs?

In a sample of long-term couples (together for 11 years on average), we found people who were higher in sexual communal strength reported higher levels of daily sexual desire and were more likely to maintain their desire over time. People who began the study with high sexual communal strength maintained desire over a 4-month period, whereas those who started off low in sexual communal strength saw a decline in their sexual desire.2

So Dan Savage may be right—there are benefits to being GGG. The motivation to meet a partner’s sexual needs can be good for the self and can help keep the spark alive in long-term relationships.

This post was originally written for Science of Relationships.


1 Kogan, A., Impett, E., Oveis, C. Hui, B., Gordon, A. Keltner, D. (2010). When giving feels good: The intrinsic benefits of sacrifice in romantic relationships for the communally motivated. Psychological Science, 21, 1918-1924.

2 Muise, A., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., & Desmarais, S. (in press). Keeping the spark alive: Being motivated to meet a partner’s sexual needs sustains sexual desire in long-term romantic relationships. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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