Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Can Less Be More? Comparing Duration vs. Frequency of Sexual Encounters in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Relationships

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Can Less Be More? Comparing Duration vs. Frequency of Sexual Encounters in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Relationships

Article excerpt

A commonly measured indicator of a romantic couple's sexual well-being and satisfaction has been the frequency with which they engage in sexual activity, or more specifically, sexual intercourse. Although some have acknowledged that frequency of sexual intercourse is not an appropriate measure for all types of romantic relationships (e.g. same-sex couples), the measurement of sexual frequency, of one type or another, has remained fairly constant throughout sex and relationships research. While precise estimates of sexual frequency among different types of couples (male/female same-sex vs. mixed-sex) have varied, the general pattern of findings has often indicated that female same-sex couples report lower sexual frequencies than other couples. The current study sought to examine an alternate dimension of sexuality by asking individuals in same-sex and mixed-sex relationships to report the length of their last sexual encounter as well as the length of their average sexual encounter. A sample of 822 participants reported both length of sexual encounters and frequency of sexual activity. While the sexual frequency data replicated past findings, with female same-sex couples reporting the lowest sexual frequencies, sexual duration data painted a very different picture, with female same-sex couples reporting significantly longer durations spent on individual sexual encounters than men and women in mixed-sex or male same-sex relationships. Consequently, it is argued that to better understand the nature of a specific couple's sexual relationship, it is important to examine not just sexual frequency, but also the amount of time spent on individual sexual encounters.

KEYWORDS: sexual frequency, sexual duration, sexual encounters, sexual satisfaction, same-sex relationships, lesbian bed death, female sexuality, sexual measurement


How often do you have sex? How often should you have sex? How often do you want to have sex? Sexual frequency, or the "how often" question, and its various manifestations, is the most commonly assessed aspect of sexual behaviour within the sex research literature (Cohen & Byers, 2013; Schwartz & Young, 2009; Scott-Sheldon, Kalichman & Carey, 2010). Sexual frequency has been linked to both relational (Schwartz & Young, 2009) and sexual satisfaction (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael & Michaels, 1994; Peplau, Fingerhut & Beals, 2004) within couples and has been assessed across a wide variety of relationship types and compositions (Blair & Holmberg, 2008; Peplau et al., 2004). Although the conclusions drawn from group comparisons (e.g., same-sex versus mixed-sex couples) are not always consistent across studies, the measurement of sexual frequency remains constant, often to the exclusion of measuring other aspects of sexual behaviour. One such aspect that has predominantly been ignored is the duration of individual sexual encounters. The question of how long couples actually spend on individual sexual encounters has been examined in only a handful of studies (e.g., Call, Sprecher & Schwartz, 1995; Cohen & Byers, 2013), and yet this information might be very relevant to our understanding of quality versus quantity of sexual encounters within romantic relationships. Consequently, the current study sought to examine both frequency and duration of sexual encounters within same-sex and mixed-sex relationships.

Sexual Frequency

Sexual frequency is one of the most commonly assessed metrics of sexual activity and is often included as an important element in assessments of overall sexual functioning. For example, two scales designed to assess overall sexual functioning or dysfunction, the Female Sexual Functioning Index (Rosen et al., 2000) and the International Index of Erectile Functioning (Rosen et al., 1997), include questions about sexual frequency. In fact, the notion that sexual frequency is closely linked to sexual functioning and satisfaction has reached a point of colloquial acceptance and is often a topic of concern for couples seeking therapy or advice from pop-psychology (Kleinplatz, 2006; Muise, 2012). …

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