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Fascinating Sex Studies of 2020

We probably won’t look back on 2020 and say, damn there were a lot of interesting sexuality studies that year, however there really were! Here are six studies that stood out.

The pandemic fucked with our sex drive. Journal of Sexual Medicine, surveyed 868 British adults about how much sexual activity they were having each week since they began self-isolating and social distancing. Sexual activity was defined as "sexual intercourse, masturbation, petting, or fondling." The results? Just 40% of people reported engaging sexual activity on a weekly basis. That means 60% of people weren't having sex⁠ -including masturbation- even once a week. Some of the reasons for this are obvious: People who are single or who aren't connecting with new partners, and therefore don't have anyone to have sex with during self-isolation. And on the flip side, for couples who are living together, the stress and anxiety of the pandemic can trample sexual desire and make it hard to really get in the mood, even if you are spending a lot of time at home with your partner.

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Gay males appear to be way more chill about receiving unsolicited dick pics than straight women. The Journal of Sex Research found that straight women predominantly had negative reactions to unsolicited dick pics including feeling disrespected, grossed out or violated. Only 26% of women reported having a positive reaction. In contrast, men tended to view receiving genital images more positively than women. About 44% of men reported being “entertained” and 41% reported feeling “curious” after receiving a dick pic. Though gay and bisexual men were much more likely to report positive reactions to receiving unsolicited genital images; one fourth of the men reported having a negative reaction. So it appears that the same dick can receive different reactions depending on the sexual orientation and gender of the receiver.

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Men who have experience with sex workers are less sexist. Men and Masculinities created an online survey of over 500 men who have paid for sex found that their beliefs regarding gender roles were more progressive than the average in the United States. Specifically, in response to questions such as, “A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work” and, “Most men are better suited emotionally for politics than are most women,” men who had paid for sex were more likely to give the response that showed their belief in gender equality. The results suggest that paying for sex doesn’t imply that men devalue women more than other men, if anything, the results suggest the opposite.

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How women feel about their relationships changes throughout their menstrual cycle. A study from Biological Psychology got women to track their menstrual cycles and write a daily journal on how they are feeling about their relationships. It was found that women had more negative views towards their partners during ovulation. The research suggests that during our most fertile time we may naturally take a step back from their partners to assess other potential mates. This is in line with previous research which shows women are also more likely to fantasize about cheating on their partners while ovulating. Personally, this just sounds like another study proving women get really cranky when they are PMS’ing - nothing new to see here folks!

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Thinking of sexuality as an exchange or barter is associated with less happiness and satisfaction in a relationship. Stephanie Raposo, M.A., a Ph.D. candidate at York University, surveyed and observed a total of 711 adults in committed relationships, asking them questions to understand their perspective on sex, how their sex life was in the relationship, and how the relationship was in general, and found couples who had a more communal approach to sex - rather than a trade-and-barter style - tended to be happier with both their sex life and their relationship. The research also found people whose partners had an avoidant attachment style also tended to steer toward a more exchange-oriented approach to sex. Although the sexual-exchange approach might feel safer and more beneficial to people with avoidant attachment styles, there are some consequences to the approach, and may actually detract from, sexual and relationship quality Meanwhile, if both partners are motivated to meet each other's sexual needs just for the sake of it, sex usually does end up being more pleasurable for both parties.

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Dudes can smell when you are aroused. Psychologist Arnaud Wisman Ph.D engaged in a study where straight men smelled the sweat of aroused and non-aroused women. It was found that the aroused women’s smell were rated as more appealing and were more likely to increase arousal in the men. This is in line with previous research which has found that men can smell when women are ovulating and can even smell our tears! Can you guess which one of these two men find arousing and which one is a boner killer? Of course, men aren’t consciously aware of what they are smelling, it is their subconscious mind which has evolved to associate female arousal with a higher chance of sex and tears with a lack of sex.

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It’s impressive that so much fascinating research on sexuality was done during a global pandemic. Which results surprised you the most?

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