What if women don’t naturally want sex less than men do?
Rebecca here again on the blog with another study for you! Researchers from the University of Toronto have come out with really interesting research about what impacts women’s enjoyment of sex.
Note from Rebecca: survivors of rape may find this post difficult, as it discusses the effects of your first time having sex on your later sex life. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that this choice was taken away from you, and that the way it happened was so completely against what you deserved or should have had.
For so long, culture has just accepted the fact that men tend to want sex more than women and women just don’t tend to have as high libidos as men. But research hasn’t really put a lot of energy into asking “why,” so Peragine et al. set out to ask that question. (And you can read a plain-English article where the head researcher was interviewed here.)
What they wanted to find out is whether or not libido is an innate drive that women simply feel less, or if libido is more a learned experience. What was the impact of the way sex felt during your “first time”?
What these researchers found is that women who had an orgasm the first time they had sex showed NO DIFFERENCE in libido compared to men.
They were just as likely to have a high libido as men were. It was only when a woman’s first time having sex did not result in an orgasm that her chances of a low libido increased.
[The study] found that women only differed from men in their desire for partnered sex if their first experience of sex wasn’t an enjoyable one – that is, if their “first time” was lacking in orgasm.
“Women compared to men were half as likely to report being satisfied at first intercourse, and about eight times less likely to have an orgasm,” Peragine says, adding that women who had an orgasm the first time they had sex were more interested in partnered sex, and their current levels of desire for it were equal to men’s.
She says this suggests that, if first experiences are powerful lessons, first intercourse is no exception.
Let that sink in: if a woman has an orgasm, there is NO DIFFERENCE in likelihood for desire for partnered sex.
The research in monday’s post and today’s post work together to help us get a better picture of what goes into developing a woman’s libido.
And it seems equality really is the answer. Equality of pleasure from the get-go teaches women that they matter, that sex is enjoyable, and that it’s for them, too, and so their brains put energy towards fostering sexual desire.
Now, from what I can tell,many of the participants for this study were students at the university, so I would love to see a study that took this stuff into consideration with long-term relationships.
I’d love to see how this study and the one we talked about on Monday intersect. To me, it makes sense that orgasm on first time sets a couple up for an easier road libido-wise–they’re more likely to have matched ones, low libido isn’t a struggle, because her pleasure is a priority. But then if inequality creeps in in other areas over the years, like with mental load or emotional labour, even if sex feels really good and she’s always had a good time, she just begins to want less of it over the years anyway because inequality is a major libido killer.
So what do we do with this new information?
Now, from what I can tell,many of the participants for this study were students at the university, so I would love to see a study that took this stuff into consideration with long-term relationships. I’d love to see how this study and the one we talked about on Monday intersect. To me, it makes sense that orgasm on first time sets a couple up for an easier road libido-wise–they’re more likely to have matched ones, low libido isn’t a struggle, because her pleasure is a priority. But then if inequality creeps in in other areas over the years, like with mental load or emotional labour, even if sex feels really good and she’s always had a good time, she just begins to want less of it over the years anyway because inequality is a major libido killer.
Just like we did on Monday, let’s go through a few steps to take now that we know this data.
First, to the men–recognize that research really is showing that in multiple ways, you do create the sex life you have.
Obviously many men had no influence over how their wife’s first time having sex went, so I’m not talking to those men. But to those who did have the chance to make it good and who didn’t–I do think there’s cause for apologies. Even if unintentional, she deserved better for her first time, and now you can work on giving her your best and your all today!
I recognize that often things go wrong because of ignorance rather than selfishness, but it still has an impact.
Now, the answer isn’t to throw in the towel or feel like everything’s ruined–not at all! The answer is to start today to re-build from the ground up and recognize that even if it’s never as “easy” as it could have been, you have the chance to truly love your wife as you love your own body. Take that opportunity! Starting today, become the partner you wish you could have been from day one, and replace resentment about sex with service!
Second, recognize that if you had a bad first time, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an awesome sex life now.
Like we’ve been discussing this week, female libido is very susceptible to the environment. So don’t take this as a “once-and-for-all” proclamation of how your libido is likely to be–it is very possible to boost your libido, and you can reawaken desire. Absolutely!
What this research shows is that we need to equip couples before they have sex with the information they need so that, frankly, more couples can have an easier go at it. But if you’re in a position where things are mismatched and sex hasn’t always been pleasurable for you, there’s no reason you can’t revitalize your sex life!
Third, we need to change how we talk about sex.
This may seem like an obvious one, but reading through this all I could think of was the stories of women frustrated when they got married after waiting their entire life to have sex and then–blah. It just didn’t feel good. And then they were frustrated because they didn’t want sex, and he did, and it started fights, and wasn’t marriage supposed to be easy? Wasn’t sex supposed to be fun?
I believe this problem starts very, very young. In the church in particular, we teach boys to have quite a bit of entitlement over women’s bodies (e.g., the modesty message that tells girls to cover up rather than telling boys to not stare, even when girls are wearing things that are genuinely culturally appropriate). Then we tell the couple you can’t have sex until the wedding night, but we don’t tell them you don’t HAVE to have sex on the wedding night–you can wait until you’re not exhausted! And then so many women have sex even when fully not aroused the first time because she feels, “Well it would be unfair to say no, he’s waited so long.”
That’s not exactly a recipe for an orgasm.
Is it any wonder that so many Christian wives’ first times having sex, even when it’s with a wonderful guy they love very much, are incredibly one-sided? Our teachings MUST change.
What do you think of this new research? Let me know in the comments below!
The Research Deep Dive Series
- Does Sex Start in the Kitchen or Does It Die There?
- How Does a Couple's First Time Affect Libido?
- Is "All Men Struggle With Lust" a Primal Fear?
- Is She Dressing for Attention or is He?
- PODCAST: Ogling and Dressing for Attention
- 5 Questions to Ask That Minimize Bias When Discussing Research
- 10 Things to Know About Hormones and Libido
- Bring Back Vanilla Sex