Sex and Science: Do Open Relationships Make Us Happier?

People tend to have strong feelings about non monogamy.

People in non monogamous relationships are convinced they are the happiest people in the world and the ‘vanilla’s’ are all boring, brooding fools.  People who are monogamously committed, tend to see open relationships as risky, reckless, sinful and doomed.

So who has art right? The sinful swingers or the dutiful monogamists?  According to a new study from the University of Michigan.. both.  A survey of over 2,000 people (a decent sample) found that monogamous and non monogamous couples had almost identical levels of relationship satisfaction.

Interestingly, most of the media reporting on the study focussed on the ‘surprising’ result that non monogamous couples would be as happy as those in monogamous relationships. The assumption being, I suppose, that society would expect monogamists to be happier.  In my experience – knowing many people in open relationships and many on monogamous relationships – I had the exact opposite opening perspective.  In my experience in these two worlds, I certainly would have thought swingers and those in open relationships would be significantly happier than those leading a monogamous lifestyle. In our experience, swingers are the happiest people in the world and enjoy life and relationships at levels unparalleled in the vanilla world.

So I’m wrong.. the vanillas are happier than I thought.  At least (1) they report to be and (2) those in this study are.  I do wonder if, as couples are in their relationships longer, the vanillas have a tougher time of it. This would certainly fit my lived experience.  Many monogamous couples we have known for years had been very happy at one point in their relationship, but many are significant less happy as the years pass.  Our swinger friends, on the other hand, seem to maintain a vitality, happiness and energy as their relationship ages that alludes their monogamous counterparts.  For my wife and I for instance, as we age we are finding we enjoy spending more and more time with our swinger friends… just because they are happier.

So, maybe I’ve been too hard on the vanillas.  Maybe.

Sexy Science: Sex and Happiness

In what should come as a surprise to virtually no one, science has confirmed – once again – the link between a fulfilling sex life and happiness.  A series of scientific studies have shown a strong positive link between those who have frequent sex and the happiness/well being they feel in their lives and their relationships.

The details are a little more complicated.  A study  by Anik Duborc tried to figure out the reasons for the positive association between sex and well being.  The result was a little surprising – the well being and happiness seemed to be linked to the cuddling and feeling of intimacy that accompanies sex, as opposed to the sexual act itself.  At the very least, the researchers found, the cuddling and closeness were at least as important as the sexual act.

I suppose this makes sense. I’ve long believed that humans crave touch and connection even more than we crave sex.  As social creatures in a digital age we miss physical closeness and seek it out.  Sex is a great way to get this, but it is the both sex and the closeness we want – to more-or-less the same degree.

This idea that sex and intimacy are equally important really appeals to me.  I will admit to (infrequently) having had sex with women in the past who I didn’t feel particularly close to.  It was fun and felt great at the time, but I wouldn’t say it had any enduring effect on my happiness.  But when I’ve had sex with women I feel a closeness and a connection with… the afterglow will last for weeks.

I’m at one of those stages of life where a number of close friends are getting divorced.  They reach a point where their kids are getting a little more independent and not needing their attention 24/7.  As they look to their partner, they realize that the connection and the intimacy has been lost.  I can think of three friends in particular – in only the last month – who have found new partners. Each of them said what they liked about the new relationships they are entering into was (i) sex was exciting again; and (ii) it felt good to be touched in a  way that made me feel wanted.

This idea of touching and being touched in a way that makes you feel wanted, desirable and intimate is really important I believe.  While sex and orgasms are fantastic, so is the feeling of closeness we get as we achieve them.

Opposite Sex Friendship – A Tempest in a Teapot?

“Its no big deal.. we’re just friends”.  Is this legit or are they the famous last words uttered two weeks before your wife runs off with her yoga instructor?

Science has confirmed what [paranoid, psychotic, over-protective] spouses have always believes.  Men and women cannot just be friends.  Well, more precisely, male-female friendships are very often underlined with a sexual attraction.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin has confirmed that male-female friendships – always considered an evolutionary anomaly – are wrought with sexual attraction.  Both men and women are apt to view their opposite sex friends with a sense of sexual attraction.  And men and women are prone to think more fondly and highly of their opposite sex friends who are more attractive.

And, the new finding in this study, both men and women feel this at pretty similar levels.  Earlier studies had fond that men tended to lust after their female platonic friends, but women were far less likely to feel the itch for their male buddies.  Turns out no… men and women get the sex goggles for their platonic opposite sex friends at pretty similar levels.

These findings are particularly tricky for me.  For all of my life I have had more close female friends than male friends. I prefer hanging out with women and, while I have never crossed sexual lines with any female platonic friends that would violate rules in my primary relationship, I would be lying if I didn’t say there were a number that I felt attractions to at some level.  And I have definitely allowed attractions to build and for sexual flirtation to become part of the friendship.

And – while I’m not necessarily proud of this – I definitely have a bias in friendship toward attractive women.  My university (male) friends used to tease me about how many good looking women I hung out with as friends.

I guess I have always felt that if you can mix friendship, attraction and a little harmless flirtation… all the better.  But, in retrospect, does that make me a little shallow for this life-long bias I have had toward attractive women? How many good friends have I missed because of this bias?

I’m really happy to have found this study… While I love the friends I have, I’m happy to have this bias (that I know I hold) exposed.  Resolution of the day – go out and find an unattractive male friend!

Do Sensitive Nipples Make You More Sexual, or does a Strong Sex Drive Make Your Nipples Sensitive?… the ultimate chicken and egg scenario

A friend asked me an interesting question last night. She wondered aloud wether her [extremely] sensitive nipples were a reason that she felt constantly aroused and was such a sexual person. Or, was it the converse… that she was so inherently sexual that this made her nipples (amongst other body parts) extra sexually sensitive.

What a great question… and how cool that she asked it.. you have to love friends that are willing to talk about their sexual proclivities :).

So, since we are in the age of google, where anyone with a laptop can do pseudo -PhD level scientific research, I thought I would look into it a bit.

So, first off… the role of breasts on sexual arousal.  For anyone who watches the amazing show, Master of Sex, you will know that it was Master and Johnson in the 1960s who first chronicled that a woman’s breasts would grow and her nipples would be come erect during sexual arousal.

Moreover, when a woman’s breast is stimulated (i.e., licked, pinched.. you get the picture), oxytocin is released. And oxytocin is, of course, the cuddle hormone.  When oxytocin is released we feel warm and good and close to those we are with.

As well, when scientists have mapped pleasure zones on women, they find direct neurological response connections between a woman’s nipples and each off there three most erogenous zones – the clitoris, the vagina and the cervix.

So, baed on that, you would think that the more sensitive your nipples, the more good chemicals get released and the more great neuro-vibes get sent down to your nether regions.

So, I’m going to call it… sensitive nipples, for those lucky enough to have them, make you hornier and more sexual.  And if you happen to be inherently sexual to start with… it probably feels even better.

Porn Hub’s Data Dump

I work with a lot of academic economists. One of their frequent refrains “new data is like porn to them”. There is nothing a researcher of any type likes more than original data, from which they can conduct research to better understand the world.

So imagine the euphoria on brainiac-ville, when the new data really is porn. Porn Hub has, in recent years, led the crusade to make data public on our sexual proclivity and porn viewing habits.

By analyzing the Porn Hub data, we are able to understand sexual habits, desires, and fantasies — how they evolve as we age, how they vary by gender, age, relationship status or social economic status, and even how they effect our other hobbies and habits.  The combining on online meta data with porn viewing data is a powerful thing.

The latest from Porn Hub – Cuckolding – it seems that married men are far more intrigued by the idea of their wife having sex with another man than are the wives themselves.  Married men are 5 times more likely than women to view cuckolding porn (where a man watches his wife have sex with another man). Married women, on the other had, are twice as liked to search for terms like “husband and wife making love”.

But before you jump to the conclusion that women are more chaste and romantic in their porn consumption, keep in mind that the top porn search terms for women is “threesome” porn and “lesbian” porn.  In both of those categories, women are far more likely to search out that type of porn than are men.

A couple of thoughts on this:

  • the fact that men are so much more into cuckolding than women surprised me a bit.  There is very conclusive sexual science showing that women carve sexual diversity as much as men.  I guess the thought of getting that sexual diversity in front of their husband is simply less appealing to women than it is to men.. but that surprised me
  • the fact that women watch ‘romantic’ porn more than men doesn’t surprise me, but I bet it is not for the reason most think.  I believe porn watching is a little newer to women and still a bit taboo.. as such some (by no means all) will search for the type of porn they are expected to want, as opposed to what they may eventually really want.
  • And on women enjoying threesome and lesbian porn… that fits my experience completely.  It is a super common female fantasy and real life desire.

So.. thanks to the good folks at Porn Hub for all they do in the interest of science.  When those Nobel Prize ballots come around next year, lets hope they are remembered and rewarded.

Porn and Guilt – continues to amaze me

Porn… a gateway to salvation?!?!?!

Porn consumption is a tricky thing and individual experiences vary… tremendously. For some… a sexy, escapist hobby; for others.. a relationship enhancer; for yet others… addiction-foder.

But this new one… a gateway to salvation…. A new study (from a very reputable and objective source – published in the Journal of Sexual Science – has linked high porn consumption with a tendency to become more religious. Read my lips here… watching porn a lot makes you embrace religion. Mind blown.

Before you dismiss this (because it is very counter intuitive) let me unpack this.

First, the research methodology… because this is a high quality study.  Researchers followed 1,300 people over a 6 year period (this is a very respectable longitudinal research method.. very respectable).  They followed their porn viewing habits and their level of frequency of engagement in religious activities.

And the result.  They found: (i) those who watched porn tend to initial engage in less religious activity; but (ii) frequent porn watchers – more than once a week (is that frequent – oh oh) – eventually begin to engage in more religious activity.  So, for some reason, people who watch a lot of porn tend to – eventually – seek religion.

This is amazing!  Yet another example of the odd relationship between sex and our morality.  What is obviously at play here is a sense that develops over time that our porn consumption is wrong.  Watch too much and then seek redemption.  I’m not saying this is right or wrong (although I think its wrong.. so maybe I am saying that)… just that it is really fascinating.


Do Kinks Work Differently for Women

Yesterday, I wrote on some science that showed that – for many of us – the kinks we have as adults where imprinted from some quasi-sexual experience during our youth.  For example:  strict teacher in middle school; hot for teacher fetish.

I canvassed a few friends for real life examples, and found something interesting.  Many of my male friends supported the finding, and could trace their current fetishes back to an experience when they were young.  My female friends, however… none of them could trace their kinks back to a childhood experience. In fact, virtually all of the women I asked said they developed their kinks later in life, as they became more confident and comfortable in their sexuality.

This made me wonder if this is one of the key differences in male and female sexuality.  As boys, we are taught that our sexual urges are natural and healthy.  Therefore when we have a quasi sexual experience when we are young, it will remain a positive deep rooted memory and, possibly, reemerge later in life as a fetish.

For women, however, they are told as young girls – either explicitly or implicitly –  that their sexual urges are wrong.  Therefore, I would suppose, these youthful quasi sexual experiences are not the roots of positive sexual memories.  Women tend to spend their 20s  – if they are lucky – unlearning the taboos and confines that society has placed on their perfectly natural sexual desire. And it is through this unlearning of the bad and acquiring of a positive relationship with their sexual desire that they acquire, from scratch, a set f kinks.  And, again, these are the lucky ones; I suspect it is far ore common that they simply maintain that stigmatized negative view of sexuality their whole lives).

Juts my two cents on kinks for your Thursday morning.