Barry McCarthy, Ph.D.

Barry W McCarthy Ph.D.

What's Your Sexual Style?


Synchronous and Asynchronous Sexual Experiences

Embrace each other's differences.

Posted Dec 02, 2014

In R-rated movies, the sex scenes are always dramatic and synchronous - both partners are extremely desirous, highly aroused, and easily orgasmic.  Sex is magical and great for everybody involved. The norm is that both partners are swept away by highly charged, erotic, and amazing sex.

Is that the right model for real life couple sexuality? Clinically, I tell my couples if they have Hollywood type sex once a month, they beat 95% of American couples. They ask if they were truly a loving, sexually free couple shouldn't all of their sexual encounters be mutual and synchronous? Shouldn't both people experience desire, arousal, and orgasm each time? Ideally, yes. Realistically, no. Although sexual experiences which are mutual and synchronous are the most valued, among sexually happy, functional couples this occurs in less than 50% of their sexual encounters.

The Good Enough Sex (GES) model emphasizes that couple sexuality is inherently variable, flexible, and complex with a range of roles, meanings, and outcomes. The essence of couple sexuality is sharing pleasure. The couple can value both synchronous and asynchronous sexual experiences. In a healthy relationship, the majority of sexual encounters are positive, but asynchronous. What that means is that although mutual, synchronous couple sexuality is most highly valued, it is not only normal but healthy that sometimes sex is better for one partner than the other, sometimes sex meets different needs, and other times it is great for one while the other finds it pleasurable. Contrary to media myths, this is not governed by traditional gender roles. For example, in couples over age 50 the sexual experience is often better for the woman than the man.

The key for healthy asynchronous sexuality is that it's not at the expense of the partner or the relationship. Sexual experiences that are better for one partner are normal and healthy (the classic example is intercourse where the man enjoys himself and the woman is "along for the ride"). Examples of different sexual meanings includes one partner pleasures the other to orgasm, for one partner the focus is on orgasm as a tension reducer -for the other sensual pleasure, or sex to become pregnant for the woman while the man wants to experience feelings of love and attachment.

Healthy couple sexuality accepts both synchronous and asynchronous sexual experiences. The new sexual mantra is desire/pleasure/eroticism/satisfaction, with desire as the most important dimension. When the couple embraces variable, flexible sexuality which celebrates synchronous as well as asynchronous sexual experiences, they can enjoy a strong, resilient sexual desire.