If you’re in a serious relationship, your gal may not be completely satisfied in bed—but don’t worry, she doesn’t care. Studies revealed that while many women aren’t completely satisfied with their sex lives, it usually doesn’t upset them.
“Studies find that while one-third to nearly one-half of women report sexual function problems,” according to Livescience.com, “only about 10 percent are worried about those troubles.”
In 1999, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that 31 percent of men and 43 percent of women admitted to sexual problems. As a follow-up, a 2008 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that only about a quarter of the 31 percent stressed about those problems.
There’s a reason why these numbers don’t match up. For guys, the problems are usually physical. Something like erectile dysfunction is easy to diagnose. But for women, the problems are more emotionally complex.
Part of the reason dysfunction and distress don’t match up, said Leonard Derogatis, the director of the Center for Sexual Medicine at Sheppard Pratt Health System, is that the average woman’s sexual desire is more contextual than a man’s.
“Women might be having sex for a dozen different reasons, only one of which might be that it feels good and is satisfying,” Derogatis told LiveScience. “It’s a path to intimacy, it’s a path to fulfilling a role of the woman or wife, it’s a means to keeping her partner happy, and on and on.”
In August, Kyle Stephenson, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, attempted to dig deeper into this conundrum:
They asked 200 heterosexual undergraduate women to complete questionnaires about their relationship quality and sexual satisfaction. The results, published in August in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggest a woman’s approach to relationships, as well as her level of intimacy with her partner, influence how distressing she’ll find sexual problems.
The researchers went into the study predicting that in intimate relationships marked by trust and openness, sexual problems would be less distressing. That turned out to be true only to a point, Stephenson said. Only women who were anxious about their attachment to their partners found intimacy soothing in the face of sexual dysfunction. In women with secure attitudes about their relationships, extra intimacy didn’t help.
They posited that women who were more anxious to be in a relationship tended to be satisfied with sex, possibly because they were just relieved to be having sex. Women in intimate relationships gave sex a higher precedence, requiring more to be truly satisfied. However, they argued, women in intimate relationships did not get as upset about sexual problems because they receive intimacy in other, nonsexual ways.
Stephenson is now analyzing the data on a case-by-case basis to find more concrete conclusions.