Tag Archives: interesting research on sex

What Makes Sex Intimate? Try Affection.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband recently about casual versus committed sex. Why is committed sex so much better? Casual sex can actually feel quite physically pleasurable, but it lacks the intense satisfaction that marital sexual intimacy provides.

One reason research has revealed is that men get a wash of feel-good chemicals during sex that isn’t nearly as strong in casual relationships as it is in committed sex. Another study showed that men responded positively to the faces of their partners, over images of other women, due to the presence of oxytocin, a body chemical released in especially high doses during lovemaking. And of course, hubby and I discussed the deeper emotional and spiritual meaning of sexual intimacy in marriage.

However, I recently came across another interesting aspect that didn’t surprise me, though I was happy to see it show up so clearly in the research: One primary reason that sex feels so good is the affection we receive from our partner. It’s not just the arousal sensations but the closeness and physical touch we get when we make love.

Couple lying in bed and holding hands with blog post title

This particular study used three different methods to look at what the link between sexual pleasure and affection might be. First, they conducted a survey that showed “a strong correlation between sex and positive emotions, but only when affection was factored into the equation. When affection was removed, the link almost disappeared.” You hear that? If it’s just about the sex, without genuine affection, you don’t get the positive-emotion payoff.

The researchers also had 200 participants, mostly marrieds, keep a journal tracking their sexual frequency and “erotic feelings,” as well as times they had non-sexual intimacy and affection with their mates. The result? “Sex correlated with positive emotions almost exclusively when it also led to affection (more than 90% of the time across all of the couples’ journals).”

Finally, the study asked 60 couples to track their sexual and non-sexual affection in real time on their smartphones. Participants reported affection after sex, but also hours later — demonstrating that affection was a positive consequence of lovemaking.

So are we having sex in part to get affection? It seems that’s a factor. Is sex more meaningful when paired with affection? Absolutely.

Of course, I believe all of this is God’s design for sex. Marriage provides the perfect context for daily affection as well as frequent lovemaking. From this research, it appears that the affection might be more important than the sex in giving you the positive emotions of intimacy with your spouse. However, when both are present in your relationship, they feed each other. Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex.

Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex. Click To Tweet

That is God’s beautiful design.

How should you use this information in your marriage?

Well, some of us are more naturally drawn to affection, and some are more drawn to sex. And oftentimes, people from different categories marry each other. And then there are those who have simply shut down both affection and sex in their marriage. Be honest with yourself: Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m not having sex with him unless and until he spends a lot more time on romance and affection with me.”
  • “I’m tired of him wanting to be cuddle but not wanting to have sex. If he wants to touch me, why can’t he arouse me too?”
  • “I try to turn her on, but she takes too long to orgasm. So I just go after my own climax.”
  • “It’s been months since we made love, and we rarely touch anymore.”

Those are just a few examples, and I’m sure you could come up with others, but they illustrate what I’ve heard from various marriages. Some spouses are aching for more affection, and some spouses are aching for more sex. And some marriages are desperately in need of both.

But I’m not sure it matters as much which comes first: sex or affection. Or maybe it does matter, in that you should figure out what your spouse desires and try to meet that. Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate’s deepest longings.

Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate's deepest longings. Click To Tweet

Of course, it’s best if both of you are putting forth that effort. However, one spouse can ignite change in a marriage. So rather than thinking about what you’re not getting, maybe you should consider what your spouse longs for.

Because if it’s affection, providing that might lead to more sex. And if it’s sex, that might lead to more affection. And all of that will produce more positive emotions about each other and your relationship — that is, a greater sense of intimacy.

Regardless, most of us marrieds could spend more time on affection during sex. That is, we could slow things down and spend more time touching.

So ask yourself: Where do I need to invest? Affection, sex, or both? Then go do that. My prayer is that positive emotions and intimacy will follow.

Sources: Forbes.com – The Reasons Why Sex Makes Us Happy May Not Be What You ThinkPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin – More Than Just Sex: Affection Mediates the Association Between Sexual Activity and Well-Being; WebMD – How the ‘Love Hormone’ Works Its Magic

5 New Sex Studies (Including One Which Will Make You Laugh)

I love to peruse the internet for recent studies that involve sex. While God’s Word remains the foundation of my perspective on sexual intimacy, we have learned a lot about His creation and how things work in the bedroom from well-conducted research.

My last stroll through the web for interesting reports yielded five studies I want to share with you. A couple of them have important implications, a couple are simply interesting, and one is guaranteed to make you laugh.

5 New Sex Studies (Including One Which Will Make You Laugh)

Does having sex make men more spiritual?

Duke University researchers tested two groups of men by administering oxytocin to one group and a placebo to the second group. They then surveyed the men regarding feelings of spirituality and discovered that those who took oxytocin were more likely to answer questions about spirituality in positive ways. For instance, they said that “spirituality was important in their lives and that life has meaning and purpose” and agreed more with statements like “There is a higher plane of consciousness or spirituality that binds all people.”

What’s particularly interesting about this study is that oxytocin is a chemical produced by our bodies that has been labeled the “love hormone.” It’s been linked to feelings of bonding, trust, and satisfaction. And it’s released during breastfeeding, prolonged physical contact (like a long embrace or holding hands), and sex. Indeed, at sexual climax, men in committed relationships get a huge rush of oxytocin into their system. The upshot is that having sex may make your husband feel not only connected to you, but to the spiritual realm — and our Heavenly Father. So the next time your husband claims making love with you confirmed that there is a God, he might really be reporting his mountaintop-like experience.

Source: Duke Today: Oxytocin Enhances Spirituality, New Study Says

Is sex bad for his heart, but good for hers?

A federally funded study led by a Michigan State researcher looked at the link between frequency of sex and cardiovascular health. Participants were between 57 and 85 years of age, and information was collected once and again five years later. For those who had sex one or more times a week, men had a higher risk of cardiovascular events (like hypertension, heart attack, etc.), while women had a reduced risk of hypertension. So basically, more sex seemed to be bad for his heart, but good for hers.

But wait… The bigger question is why: Why are men at greater risk for heart conditions just by having more frequent sex? It’s not clear that it’s the sex, because older, sexually active men are also more likely to use medication to boost sexual function and could be straining themselves more to reach an orgasm that isn’t quite as easy to attain as it once was. Maybe the takeaway is that we need to let our sexuality mature with us — take our time, don’t sweat it if the orgasm doesn’t happen, and enjoy the vast array of sexually intimate acts. And if that doesn’t work, I know plenty of husbands who’d simply say: “I don’t care if having sex increases my risk of heart attack, because what a way to go!”

Source: MSU Today — Is Sex in Later Years Good for Your Health?

Should you turn on the lights?

Research conducted by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress studied 38 male participants with disorders characterized by a lack of interest in sex. They gave them half of them light therapy (exposure to light that mimics the sun’s rays and is used with seasonal depression) and half of them exposure to much dimmer light. The men who received bright light therapy showed increased sexual satisfaction three times higher as well as a jump in testosterone production.

Honestly, this matches one of my theories of why more men have lower sex drives these days. I believe that since many men aren’t spending time outside and in manual labor, they aren’t doing things that used to maintain their testosterone levels and decrease their stress. Whether my theory’s true or not, it appears that sunlight or light therapy would be a good idea for men whose libidos aren’t where they, or perhaps their wives, would like them to be. For you higher-drive wives, maybe you could suggest a daily walk or time together outside more days than not.

Source: Popular Science — New Research Shows How Bright Light Could Wake Up Men’s Sexual Desire

Why should college students have all the fun?

Researchers at the University of South Dakota surveyed 706 college students and discovered that having sex in a parked car remains a “fundamental coming-of-age phenomenon.” Sixty percent reported having experienced parked-car sex, and although men reported a higher rate of satisfaction, a strong majority in both genders viewed the experience positively.

Why am I talking about this to married Christians? Because hey, you can do it your car too! Frankly, as you get older, your car is usually bigger and more conducive to having sex without getting jabbed by a gear shift or slammed into the dashboard. You might well own a garage so that maintaining privacy is an easy goal to meet. And you’d probably be surprised how much your body can still bend and move when romance and libido run high. Some of us even own trucks, meaning we have an actual “bed” in our vehicle. Doesn’t that mean we should use it as the word intends?

Source: The Daily Beast — Science Says: Car Sex Is Still a Rite of Passage

Is polyester killing your sex appeal, guys?

Cairo University Professor Ahmed Shafik dressed lab rats in pants of different fabrics, then studied how they affected the rats’ sex drive. He discovered that rats in polyester pants got less action than those wearing cotton or wool — a finding that once-and-for-all confirms the 1970s were the worst fashion decade.

Image result for rat in pants

So throw out your old leisure suits, husbands, because that polyester look is not helping your sex appeal! Go with cotton or wool (or even a mixed blend, I suppose). Although I wonder how those rats would have fared in satin boxer shorts. Do you think they would have become “love machines”? Maybe, maybe not. But you could give it a try.

Source: Polyester pants dampen rats’ sex appeal: Ig Nobel prizes honor weird research

What do you think about these research studies? What surprised you or shed light on your situation?

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.