Category Archives: Marriage and Sex Research

Waiting for Sexual Intimacy

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

I read a very interesting article last week from The Art of Manliness. Being thoroughly female, I still enjoy many of the posts from this male-directed blog. Last Monday, the article How Delaying Intimacy Can Benefit Your Relationship looked at studies on why it’s not such a good idea to jump into bed willy-nilly and why one should wait until the relationship deepens.

Now this wasn’t a Christian-based article, and I strongly advocate waiting until the real commitment of marriage vows. However, the studies cited support the church’s position that couples should wait. Here are two interesting findings.

Old Habits Die Hard

Repeated behaviors “train our minds to think and act in certain ways” — even to the point of rewriting our brain circuitry. The way you act over and over becomes a pattern that is very difficult to change. So the notion that you’ll settle down later, when you get married, and keep to one lover, and focus on deeper intimacy, etc., that’s not so easy to do. As researcher Dr. Busby says, “Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.”

If you pursue casual sex before marriage, it’s hard to make that shift to deeper intimacy in marriage. That’s not the message we usually get from sources around us. The romantic version often espoused in our culture is that something just shifts inside you when you meet “the right one.” But old habits die hard. It may not be personal — you may love and adore your mate — but you can have a hard time shutting off the way you’ve trained your mind to think about sex and introducing a different perspective.

The best option is to start right here, right now, establishing the habits you want to carry into the rest of your life and your marriage.

Oxytocin: It’s Not Just for Sex Anymore

I, and many others who write about sex, have mentioned the importance of Oxytocin in lovemaking. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone that reduces stress and fosters trust. It’s best known as a substance mothers release when they nurse their babies.

However, it is also released in men when they climax. For this reason, many believe that Oxytocin is key to the argument that sex is a bonding activity. But that’s not the whole story.

Oxytocin comes around during sex, but it also appears in non-sexual but affectionate activities, like hugging, touching, smiling, listening. Moreover, right after sexual climax, Oxytocin apparently takes a nosedive. So if the sex-made Oxytocin is all you’re working from, those bonding feelings will go pffft as soon as you’re done. Essentially, you need ongoing non-sexual Oxytocin-producing behaviors to really feel connected to your lover and then experience sex as an outgrowth of that bond. That’s what should happen in a marriage — ongoing interaction and bonding that makes the sex all the more meaningful.

From Martin Robertson, researcher: “Frequent, comforting feelings are important in maintaining strong bonds . . . . The more dependable the flow of Oxytocin via daily bonding behaviors, the easier it is to sustain a relationship. In contrast, a passionate one-night stand allows lovers’ innate defensiveness to snap back into place pretty much as soon as Oxytocin drops after climax.”

While else should you wait? I wrote posts for Preengaged some time ago explaining other reasons why couples should wait until marriage: Sex Before Marriage Part 1 and Sex Before Marriage Part 2.

Fun Findings about Sex

Before starting this blog and quite a bit since I began, I have read a lot of findings about sexuality. Some are intuitive, some are surprising, and some are, well, odd. I decided to share a few of my favorite findings about sexuality with you today.

Are your feet too cold for climax? A study by the University of Groningen in The Netherlands looked at brain scans during orgasm to see which parts light up and which turn off. In addition to findings on their original purpose, they also reported an interesting result: Both men and women had an easier time reaching orgasm with their socks on, with a 30% increase in climax among those couples who kept their feet cozy.

Psalm 139:14 quote

How cool is the penis? I recently watched a TED talk from research scientist Diane Kelly, who studies “the evolution of copulatory systems and sexual differentiation in the nervous system.” Don’t worry; I’m not sure what that means either.

Except that she has specifically studied mammalian penises and discovered that they are constructed in a unique way. The penis is stretchy like a worm but can also get hard. The general explanation is that blood flows into the penis, causing it to expand and stiffen. But blood flow alone doesn’t cause that stiffness, just like a worm can expand but not stiffen. Kelly studied cross-sections of the mammalian penis (go ahead and cringe, guys) and discovered that the fibers in the penile wall were arranged in a way that scientists had never seen in any other “skeletal” structure. In fact, “If the wall around the erectile tissue wasn’t reinforced in this way, the shape would change, but the inflated penis would not resist bending and erection simply wouldn’t work.”

The upshot: The penis is uniquely designed by God not only to expand in size, but to maintain the rigidity necessary for intercourse . . . and no other skeletal system is designed in this way.

Does size matter? While flaccid (aka “limp”) penis size varies greatly, erect penises stay pretty much in the range of 4 to 7 inches (10-17 cm). A study by Psychology of Men and Masculinity reported that 68% of men are between 4.6 and 6 inches, and a mere 0.4% are above 6.9 inches (17 1/2 cm) when erect.

How much of that can a wife feel? Aroused women have about 4.25 to 4.75 inches (10 1/2-12 cm) of vaginal length, and the most important area for sexual response is the outer one-third . . . so you guys are just fine.

Pie chart

Penis size among men, by inches.

Want proof that women were meant to enjoy sex? Let me introduce you to the female’s clitoris. The clitoris is a wishbone shaped organ with a knobby bit of flesh above the vagina (the clitoral head) that is particularly sensitive to touch.

The only known purpose of the clitoris is to provide pleasure. It does not assist in reproduction, urination, or menstruation. In fact, the clitoris is the only sex organ devoted solely to hmm-that-feels-so-good. God did not include the clitoris as an afterthought; clearly, He wants us wives to enjoy the gift of sexuality in marriage.

Can’t get rid of your hiccups? Try sex. A 1999 case report by Drs. R. and A. Peleg related the incident of a 40-year-old male who was struck with intractable hiccups. After four days of trying everything to get rid of them, he had sex with his wife. The case study stated, “The hiccups continued throughout the sexual interlude up until the moment of ejaculation when they suddenly and completely ceased. . . .” So the next time that glass of water or standing on your head doesn’t work, suggest a “sexual interlude” with your spouse.

Feeling down? Maybe you need a natural antidepressant. And that antidepressant would be . . . semen. Yep. A study by two evolutionary psychologists at the State of University of New York found that women regularly exposed to semen had better mood and fewer depressive symptoms. Apparently, the seminal fluid has mood-elevating compounds (endorphins, estrone, prolactin, oxytocin, thyrotrpin-releasing hormone, and serotonin) and the vagina is very absorbent.

Any research findings you’ve heard that demonstrate how interesting God made sexuality and our bodies? Which of the above findings surprises you?

Sources: Everyday Health – Does Penis Size Really Matter?; Elite Daily; Times Union; Psychology Today; TED Talks: What We Didn’t Know about Penis Anatomy by Diane Kelly; Discovery Health – Clitoris; Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups; 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Orgasm; and a whole bunch of other articles and books I’ve read that I can’t remember to list here.

Female Ejaculation: Is It Real?

Female illustration

Female what?!
Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

If I say the word “ejaculation” in reference to sex, the vast majority of you will think that it applies to the husband. However, many women have reported experiencing something like ejaculation themselves, where a “shot” of fluid comes out that is distinctly different from the vaginal lubrication that facilitates intercourse.

Is it real? Is there truly female ejaculation?

In books about sexuality that I’ve read in past decades, most doctors presumed that the ejaculate females had was actually a leaking of urine. Even when I read that sometime ago, I thought, “How stupid do these male doctors think we are? Surely we gals know the difference between vaginal flow and pee, right?” But then I began to doubt myself and take their word for it instead.

It take it back. I was right in the first place!

More research indicates that some women do indeed “ejaculate.” That is, they experience a flow of fluid that can be anywhere from a teaspoon to a half-cupful. In fact, some women report that their bodies squirt fluid out more forcefully and generously than that. It appears that the burst of lubricant occurs when that elusive G-spot is tangled with.

Now I’m not a huge fan of sitting around trying to find your G-spot. I’ve known too many women and couples obsessed with finding this place like it’s the Buried Treasure of Orgasms. You can become frustrated and unsatisfied with your current, rather wonderful sex life if you go on a hunt for something you may or may not find right away. However, I do believe that the G-spot exists, that stimulating it can feel quite good, and that most couples can eventually find it by trying different positions. Some wives love their husband thrusting straight into that spot, and other wives find it too jolting. It’s up to the couple to decide.

Does ejaculate come out each time the G-spot is stimulated to climax? No. The information we have thus far is that female ejaculation is by no means a given. Some women are unlikely to ejaculate, others may gush quite often, and a large majority in between may experience this phenomenon a handful of times.

“Shejaculating” is not necessarily linked to climax anyway. Wives can orgasm many times and never spurt, and some wives may ejaculate at other times. Pleasurable stimulation to the area around the G-spot seems to be the key.

Some researchers have suggested that the fluid comes from the Skene’s glands, which rest on the anterior wall of the vagina. (Scientific diagram of female anatomy below to show where Skene’s glands are.) These glands are surrounded by tissue, including the portion of the clitoris that reaches up inside the vagina and swells with blood during sexual arousal. This is a reasonable suggestion given the glands’ proximity to the G-spot and connection with sexual stimulation. In addition, the size of the glands vary from woman to woman, which could explain why some women are more likely to ejaculate than others. However, this theory has not been proved. We don’t know exactly where the fluid comes from.

Illustration of glands

What has been tested is the substance itself. Female ejaculate seems to have properties similar to male semen (minus the sperm, of course). PSA, an antigen manufactured in the prostate, and glucose, a form of sugar in the body, have shown up in the liquid. Those properties demonstrate that it is not urine.

Summary: What we seem to know now is that female ejaculation exists, that it is linked to the stimulation of the front wall of the vagina, and that it is unpredictable at best.

As you might imagine, this issue hasn’t been studied much because (1) research tends to go toward assisting sexual dysfunction rather than figuring out how to use your vagina like a hose; and (2) how do you research this? Would you participate in such a study?!! No, thanks.

Instead, most of what we know has come from self-report. If a wife says she ejaculates, I believe her. And she might want to keep a towel nearby.

To the hubbies out there, whether your wife “shejaculates” is not a reflection of your sexual prowess, the level of her pleasure, or her ability to orgasm. I suspect it’s a function of how big her Skene’s glands are.

Just keep plugging away (pun intended) and enjoy your marital intimacy. If a burst of liquid appears, so be it. Sex is pretty messy anyway, so what’s a little more fluid added to the event?

Sources: Love & Sex with Dr. Laura Berman; Net Doctor UK; Princeton University; News Scientist

Penis Size: From the Wife’s Point of View

Q&AToday’s reader question may be our shortest one yet. Here it is from our most popular commenter, that ever-present Anonymous.

Can you do a post on penis size?

I don’t know exactly what the reader expected me to say on the subject. However, a common question is whether penis size matters and, if so, how.

Ruler

Let’s start out with a little anatomy. The average length of a penis has recently been reported at 5.88 inches. That’s slightly smaller than a U.S. dollar bill. Previous estimates of 6.5 inches were skewed by discrepancies in self-measurement and liars who claimed to be up to 10+ inches. That 5.88 inches is an erect penis, by the way.

A flaccid (limp) penis has an average length of 3-4 inches (10.5 cm).

Interestingly enough, there are also variations in how much a penis “grows” when aroused. It isn’t a fixed amount, like double. A smaller flaccid penis could become larger when erect than a larger flaccid penis.

Which matters? From what I can tell, that flaccid penis only matters in the junior high locker room when you’re first aware of others. In adulthood, men care about their erect penis size because that contributes to greater confidence about their body and their ability to satisfy their mate. (Correct me if I’m wrong, guys.)

So does a husband’s penis size affect the pleasure his wife receives in intercourse?

Almost every penis is big enough. The female vagina also expands when sexually aroused. The most commonly used measurements come from research done in the 1960s (by Masters & Johnson), indicating that vaginal length when sexually stimulated ranges from 4.25 to 4.75 inches. Obviously, the average 5.88-inch penis is more than able to create contact and friction throughout the whole vagina.

But these are averages, right? So what about the shorter penis and the longer vagina? Does size matter then?

Here’s how the averages stack up for penis size.

Pie chart

This means that 68% of men are in the range of 4.6 to 6.0 inches. 16% are smaller and 16% are larger. But only 0.4 are less than 4 inches long. Almost every husband on the planet has more than enough to fill his wife’s vagina.

But even if he doesn’t, the most sensitive area of the vagina is that closest to the opening. That’s where the real action is. Paul Byerly of The Marriage Bed explained this well: “Some men worry about the size of their penis. Since only the first 2 to 3 inches of the vagina has nerve endings, length has little to do with pleasing a wife during intercourse.” So husbands can relax knowing that they are quite able to sexually stimulate their wives regardless of penis size.

But are bigger penises better? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In a recent study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers reported that when it came to achieving vaginal orgasm, “33.8 percent preferred longer-than-average penises, 60 percent said size made no difference and 6.3 percent said longer was less pleasurable than shorter.” Recognize that the study was self-reporting from 160 university students (not a representative sample of wives). Still, note that 2/3 didn’t think bigger was better. The issue for the women I’ve talked to is simply “big enough,” and almost every guy is.

The one possible advantage of a longer penis may be having contact with that “G-spot,” an area on the anterior wall of the vagina which some claim to be especially erogenous. If you’ve identified your G-spot, and your husband’s penis is able to reach and thrust against it, that may feel extra nice. But some women report that kind of intensity is too much. Honestly, though, even those who have located the spot, can achieve penile contact with it, and enjoy that sensation, are not not likely to make that happen every time they have sex. Perhaps it’s a perk, but there are numerous ways to achieve orgasm.

One issue with a bigger penis that isn’t talked about as much is that sometimes a huge penis hurts. A friend once told me that sex hurt because her husband was “hung like a horse.” (Yes, it took a little while before I could make eye contact with her husband because the stupid word “horse” kept galloping through my head.) But I understood her point. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage addressed this subject well in Penis Size and Painful Sex: What’s a Wife to Do? Husbands with XL penises may need to be more careful with their wives, taking into account how able she is to take in his full amount.

What about thickness? Usually, when penis size is discussed, people are talking about length. However, I’ve found more women concerned about the thickness of a penis. Specifically, when a penis is much thicker than usual, the wife may need greater lubrication and gentleness of entry so that her vagina can flex enough to take him in. I’m not sitting around having penis conversations all the time, but I have yet to find a woman who complained about a too-narrow penis. Given the size of the vaginal opening and elasticity, a woman can feel and be stimulated by a penis of just about any thickness. We adapt to the size of our husband’s organ.

What’s the “right-sized” penis? My answer: The size your husband is. If he’s the right guy for you, his penis is the right one for you too. You may need to figure out how to make it all work, though. If he is particularly big, you may need additional lubrication and for him to go slow and easy while you stretch to receive him. Over time, a wife’s body will likely adjust to that size. If hubby’s small and you can’t feel it quite as much, perhaps a different sexual position could help provide greater sensation, or more stimulation can be applied with his fingers on the clitoris as well to get the wife to orgasm.

If you want your vagina and hubby’s penis to come together in perfect harmony, practice. Try different things and see what feels good.

What should you say about your husband’s penis size? OMG. No, seriously, I found out a few months ago that there is a condition called Oversized Male Genitalia. Its acronym is OMG — just what you might say if you saw one. (If you’re not rolling on the floor laughing by now, you aren’t reacting like I did when I read about this oddly-named condition.)

Your husband probably doesn’t actually have OMG (unless he’s 8 inches or more flaccid). But you do want to make him feel confident about his body and his ability to satisfy you. A little “wow” now and then when he pulls it out isn’t too much to ask, is it? Don’t lie, but do let your husband know that he is big enough. If you can’t feel it enough, don’t insult his penis; it’s doing the best it can. Ask him to try something different so you can feel even more of him.

However, I have personally never known a woman who said her guy was too small for her to feel sufficient pleasure.

Does penis size matter? Yes, a little. But I’m a firm believer that it’s how he uses that penis that matters a whole lot more. It doesn’t matter if my husband is a Tall, Grande, or Venti, as long as he’s my favorite flavor.

“My beloved is radiant and ruddy,

outstanding among ten thousand.”

Song of Songs 5:10

Sources: Net Doctor; Live Science; Web MD; Oxford English Dictionary; Bible Gateway; Intimacy in Marriage; The Marriage Bed

Man vs. Woman: The Differences

Come here, reader. I have something very important to share with you. A secret that a lot of people don’t know. A timeless truth that has been forgotten in recent years. A revelation that will change the way you view your spouse. Lean in close now. Here it is:

Psst. Men and women are different.

Man and woman icons holding hands

by AnonMoos via Wikimedia Commons

Yep, that’s it! This obvious fact has indeed been denied by plenty of feminists, psychologists, and academics. They admit that we have differing private parts, but some have argued that the concepts of maleness and femaleness are largely social constructs taught as stereotypes to children.

Yet science has recently shown that having a penis/testicles or a vagina/ovaries is hardly the only difference between man and woman. When God took a little dust and molded it like Play-doh into man and then grabbed a rib bone and crafted it like a pipe cleaner into woman, he didn’t go for outer variations only. He made us female or male through and through.

Here are some of the amazing differences that we now know exist between men and women. (Of course, these are generalizations, and specifics may vary.)

  • Men are 10-15% larger than women and 30% stronger on average.
  • Men exhibit greater upper body strength.
  • Men have better vision and depth perception; women blink twice as often as men.
  • Women have a higher percentage of body fat.
  • Men have greater muscle mass to body mass ratio and more slow twitch muscle fibers (for greater endurance).
  • Men have stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Men have longer canine teeth.
  • Men have larger vocal chords; thus, the “Adam’s apple.”
  • The skull shape of men and women is different.
  • Women have a larger and broader pelvis.
  • Men have 56% greater lung volume per body mass.
  • Men’s hearts are larger than women’s.
  • Men have thicker skin, literally.
  • Men have more body hair; women are smoother.
  • Men have a greater tendency to lose hair; i.e., balding and thinning.
  • Women are generally lighter-skinned.
  • Women have more language processing areas in the brain.
  • Women have more blood flow to their brain. (Insert jokes here.)
  • Women have a more sensitive sense of smell.
  • Women have more pain receptors.
  • Women exhibit lower blood pressure overall.
  • Women experience a faster heartbeat.
  • Men have more red blood cells; women have more white blood cells.
  • Men produce androgen hormones (one of which is testosterone); women produce estrogen hormones.
  • Men are taller.
  • Men are able to sire children well into old age; women have a decrease in fertility after 35 years of age.
  • Women reach puberty approximately two years earlier.
  • Men can parallel park better than women, but women can listen to three conversations at once and men struggle to follow one. Just kidding. That’s not scientifically proven (yet); call it the J Theory.

Can you believe that list is so long? There are other differences as well, but I’m not writing a dissertation, just a blog post.

The differences between men and women begin with outer appearance, but run down into bones and muscle, to chemicals, to brain structure, and into the cellular level.

So other than throwing out some interesting facts, what is my point? Well, it’s challenging to have a fabulous sexual relationship with someone so completely different from you! Yes, we are human, and that makes us immensely more like one another than not. But all these physical, brain, and hormonal differences mean that we approach sex differently. And God designed us that way!

When your husband or wife approaches the bedroom differently from you, some of that is due to gender differences.

So perhaps her better language centers mean that she can juggle several trains of thought and communicate during lovemaking, whereas he can grunt.

The hubby’s better distance vision and depth perception may help to explain why he is so visually oriented, whereas the lack of body hair and more pain receptors link to why she is more sensitive to touch.

And then there is her sensitivity to smell. Do I really have to spell out what that means, guys?

His greater lung volume and muscle mass may explain why God designed men to typically have more work for the sexual act itself, while her lessened blood flow could be related to why it takes longer for the wife to become sexually aroused.

If we weren’t different from one another, there wouldn’t be such an attraction between male and female. But at the same time, you have to understand that the spouse in your bedroom isn’t exactly like you. Your sexual partner is different all the way down to their core.

I have come to believe that it is God’s brilliant design to make mutual sexual satisfaction something you must work toward together. You must recognize those differences, appreciate them, and play to them. As many have said before me: Viva La Difference!

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27