Both men and women were once thought to go through four clear-cut stages during sex, but some researchers and clinicians now say the real picture is a more complicated mix of emotional and physical reactions. In men and women, sexual response is just not that predictable.
Changing Views on Sexual Response: Emotional Stereotypes
In the 1960s, pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson described the human sexual response cycle in four stages ? excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Today, most clinicians now see sexual response varying tremendously from person to person and relationship to relationship, says Daniel N. Watter, EdD, a psychologist and certified sex therapist in Parsippany, N.J.
?Emotionally, I?d say there?s more variation among men and among women than between men and women,? says Dr. Watter. The stereotype, he continues, is that women are more emotional and men are more physical.
And that stereotype is played out in the types of research going on. ?There?s lots of research on male orgasm from the physical standpoint, and lots of research on [erectile dysfunction drugs], but I?m not aware of anyone doing research on how men feel about sex,? says Watter.
But that doesn't mean that sex therapists consider men to be sexual robots. What Watter has found is that men who are more desirous of sex than their partners take it as a personal insult when their partner doesn?t want to have sex. For example, they think, "You?re not interested in me," says Watter. In other words, men care how their sex partner feels.
The Female Orgasm
For women especially, good sex doesn?t always mean reaching orgasm. Female orgasm is not always necessary for pleasure.
Blanche Freund, PhD, a certified sex therapist and psychologist in Delray Beach and Aventura, Fla., says it?s pretty common for women not to have orgasms, especially vaginally. ?They may have orgasms some other way, while men usually have them one way, or women may not have orgasms and be okay with that because they are holding, hugging, and receiving other sexual stimulation, says Freund.
A decade ago, says Watter, it was thought that if a woman didn?t have a desire for sex, something was wrong with her or she had a diagnosable condition. ?Now the more important question is, 'When you have sex, do you enjoy it?'? he says.
Why Some Women Lose Interest in Sex
Researchers are also discovering reasons why some women lose interest in sex.
Marta Meana, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, in Reno, has done research on married women in their thirties who lost desire for their husbands. The reasons, according to Meana, included:
- Having a sex partner with whom the woman was familiar
- Having sex so available
- The belief that while their husbands wanted sex, the husbands didn?t necessarily want to have it with them
Meana believes a married woman's interest in sex may be more easily disrupted by the routine of a husband?s constant presence, and by other types of interference, like children, body image problems, and self-esteem issues.
Meana also thinks it?s more difficult for married women to become interested in sex, as compared to men, putting a greater burden on men to be romantic. This also means men have to work even harder to convince their wives that they don't just want sex, they want sex with them.
Does Good Sex = Good Couples?
Some old beliefs about sex seem to be supported by newer research. For example, couples who enjoy a good sexual relationship are more affectionate towards one another, according to the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, leading them to have more sexual contact, and more emotional satisfaction.
And it?s still a fact that men, whose sexuality is more driven by hormones than a woman?s, are probably more likely be the initiators of sexual activity in heterosexual relationships.
Says Watter, ?A lot of women enjoy sex ? but may not experience a strong sense of desire until they?re actually having sex. That?s what [one] researcher called the difference between spontaneous sexual desire and receptive sexual desire.?