In recent years, there’s been an explosion of research about sex. This is a mostly good development as we seek to understand more about how our brains and bodies work with regard to sexuality and apply that understanding to physical intimacy in our marriages.
A caveat about sex research.
But when looking at any sex research, we should ask a few questions:
- What was the purpose of the study? Sometimes, a study is designed in such a way as to deliver the very answer the researchers wanted to get. But more often, it’s a question of what narrow topic they were covering and not applying the results beyond their focus.
- What methods were used? For example, it’s worth noting who was in the study, was it self-report or observation, how were results compiled and analyzed for takeaways. How accurate the answers are depends on how you ask the question.
- Do the results align with God’s plan? No matter what research shows or doesn’t show, our priority as believers is to ask how our lives and sex lives can honor God. One example is prioritizing what creates intimacy between a couple over what provides short-term pleasure for an individual.
My overall point being that if you see a headline like 50% OF WOMEN WANT MORE BONDAGE IN THE BEDROOM (totally made up, solely for the purpose of illustration), don’t just buy that as true! They might have used a skewed sample—like those who purchased BDSM toys from a sex shop or members of a sexual fantasies forum. They might have counted “I want more bondage” as anything from doubling down on hard-core kink to “I might be willing to try a silk tie around my wrists.” And they might not be reporting that 40% wanted less bondage, or whatever.
Headlines about studies are written like everything else these days: click-bait. Do diligence on your end, and I’ll try to sort out what’s worth looking to as well. But let’s not take any one finding as definitive or let go of our main purpose—to honor God and our spouse in our sexual intimacy.
With all that upfront, let’s look at 4 curious research findings about sex!
Is night-time the right time?
If I had a dollar for every time a spouse said to me, “I thought we were going to have sex, but by the time we got to bed, I (or s/he) was too tired,” I’d be writing this post from my French chateau while sipping my Bordeaux.
But is night-time the only time? Or the right time? Many couples would do better with intimacy if they stopped putting sex last on the list of to-dos or only thought about it at all when they crawled into bed and felt too exhausted to move.
Research has shown that morning is the best time for many couples to make love. One study went so far as to say that 7:30 am was the best go-time. Why? Because that’s when energy levels peaked. More specifically, that happens about 45 minutes after you wake up. So if you’re more like me—a night owl who rarely goes to sleep before midnight—adjust your schedule accordingly.
But the benefits of morning lovemaking include:
- More energy for sex
- Lowered stress levels throughout the day
- Release of oxytocin, making you feel more bonded to your spouse the remainder of the day
- Better sleep the following night
Does it have to be morning? No. But I can vouch that sexual frequency and satisfaction in my own marriage improved when we got creative about when to have sex—making the most of late afternoons, early evenings, and daytime on weekends, as well as mornings now and again.
Are your walls the right color?
A 2016 study for Travelodge surveyed 2000 homes in the United Kingdom about wall color and bedroom habits. Mostly, they wanted to know what wall colors were most conducive to sleep (answer: blue), but they also asked about lovemaking.
Researchers found that a caramel color was most correlated to sexual frequency. Those couples had sex an average of about 3 times a week. Meanwhile, those with red walls got it on about once a week.
Now there’s always a chicken-egg question with research like this: Do the caramel walls promote frequent sex, or are people who have frequent sex more likely to paint their walls caramel? Who knows. One theory, however, is that caramel reminds us of chocolate, a natural aphrodisiac.
Oh, and the research also found that silver walls correlated with more online shopping and less sleep.
Anyway, if you need to save money, get more snooze time, and/or up your love game, maybe take out your paint roller this weekend?
Maybe it’s not so bad to “earn it” a little?
Having been the higher desire spouse in my marriage for some years, this title particularly caught my eye: Study: Men underestimate how much their wives and girlfriends want sex. But that was nothing compared to what the study found, specifically:
On days when men underestimated their female partners’ libido, the women showed higher levels of relationship satisfaction.
This suggests that, whether consciously or not, men might be better partners when they think they have to work for it—in other words, a man will try harder to please his female partner if he thinks she’s not responding to his advances, which keeps him from taking the relationship for granted and getting lazy.
Whoa. “Work for it”? A fair number of gents who read this blog have decried how unfair it is to feel that they have to work for sex—that it’s So Much Effort to get her to want and enjoy sexual intimacy, when it should come more naturally, easily, satisfactorily.
But you know what? I’m not sure it’s so bad for us to have to earn it a little. Not in the Sisyphus Pushing His Rock Up a Hill way, where the effort is hardly worth the reward! Indeed, I’ve written about being your husband’s sure thing. But in the Let’s Not Take Each Other for Granted way.
If you replace the word “work”—which has a negative connotation for some—with “effort,” then yeah, sexual intimacy requires effort. And perhaps more effort for husbands overall, since the more typical situation is the wife having a responsive drive. (Though, as I said before, plenty of us wives have the spontaneous drive.)
That effort might look like wooing, helping her around the house so she can have a freer mindset, or additional time for her arousal, but pleasing your spouse is a worthwhile effort regardless. And perhaps even more sex if it leads to more sex and better relationship satisfaction.
Don’t underestimate interest or hope.
Actually, let’s backtrack to the same study, but a different finding—that men tend to underestimate how often their mate wants sex. I’m well-aware that some spouses don’t seem to want sex at all, and if that’s your case, then (1) I’m sorry, that stinks, and (2) you might want to check out my sexless marriage posts.
But I’ve come believe that most marriages that have a discrepancy of sexual interest actually have a discrepancy in perception of sexual interest. A lower drive spouse may be more interested in sex than you think, but:
- It’s more time and effort for them to become aroused or satisfied, so the cost-benefit analysis plays into how often engage.
- They have sexual baggage they wish wasn’t there, but it is and it’s frightening to admit, confront, or process through it to get to the other side.
- Just the issue of sex has become unpleasant in their marriage, so they avoid not only sex but addressing the challenges they face.
- They worry something is wrong with them—the attractiveness of their body, their lack of drive, their inability to perform, etc. Also scary.
- Based on prior teaching or experience, they feel guilty, incompetent, or broken when they have sex.
- The marital relationship isn’t what they long for, so they can’t or don’t want to be vulnerable in the bedroom.
Those are just some options, but the point is that your spouse might want sex more than you believe—if the obstacles could be pushed away, leaving only their desire for physical intimacy.
Hey, I’ve heard from plenty of LD spouses that they want to want sex. That is, it’s not a priority right now, but they’re interested in physical intimacy with their mate overall. That should provide a lot of marriages some hope and desire to work through the problems, whatever they are.
Hope one or more of these research findings helps your marriages! And remember, the best research you can do involves reading God’s Word and studying your own spouse.