Wellness

The year in sex studies: From not-so-casual relations to the problems Canadians are having in the bedroom

Info for every age and stage of intimacy.

Info for every age and stage of intimacy

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Put the dirty talk on hold, there's lots more to discuss about sex. We've given you a lot of advice — whether its how to get your crush to notice you, find your fantasy or spice up your sex life — but if you think you know it all when it comes to the bedroom, trust us, you don't. Researchers are constantly studying the ins and outs of our bodies and minds to uncover just what dynamic roles they play between the sheets.

So, in the spirit of keeping you abreast on all the latest and greatest intimate information, here are the best sex studies of the past year that you — and your lover(s) — might want to know about.

Getting it on when you're getting older

Sexual activity may seem like a young person's game, but there are more and more incentives for older adults to be senior seducers. Research out of University College London offers data analysis of nearly 7,000 older adults (with an average age of 65), and found that those who had reported any sexual activity within the past year reported much greater life enjoyment than those who did not.

Females reported greater life enjoyment if they frequently — meaning two or more times per month — engaged in fondling, petting, kissing and emotional closeness during sexual activity. However, while the act of intercourse was associated with greater life enjoyment among males, it was not among females, suggesting penetration may be more important to men.

Overall, these findings reveal yet another benefit of sexual activity in old age (which has already been found to keep you smart) and another reason to erase the stigma around it.

Sex with the ex won't hold you back

You've always been warned not to hook up with your ex, but the no contact rule might be more myth than fact. A pair of studies asked a total of 485 participants to journal their attempts at physically reconnecting with their former partner as well as their emotional recovery from the breakup.

While those who pursued physical contact with their exes did initially have stronger emotional attachment to them (and the majority of their attempts did lead to sexual interaction), the overall trend suggested it did not hinder their ability to get over the breakup vis-a-vis other participants who didn't pursue ex sex.

Not only do these results challenge common convention, but they suggest that a breakup is a more gradual process than we may think, with many lingering elements, such as sexual contact, that each take time to detach from (though it is always important to acknowledge your motives).

What personality types have the most sex?

Australian researchers analyzed data of 2,998 heterosexual men and 1,480 heterosexual women to find correlations between the Big 5 personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism) and sexual frequency and reproduction.

For both males and females, those with high extraversion recorded higher sexual frequency, the rationale being that these types are more social and more likely to initiate such contact. Males who were also more conscientious, emotionally stable and less agreeable had a higher sexual frequency, while males who had higher extraversion or lower openness reported more offspring.

Conversely, agreeableness was the only female trait that resulted in higher reproduction, suggesting that females may be more discerning regarding the personalities of their potential mates.

Mind the (orgasm) gap

The orgasm gap has never been a secret, but more research keeps unravelling about just how deep and misunderstood it really is. A sexual survey of 1,608 heterosexual couples found that 87 per cent of husbands were consistently achieving orgasms, compared with only 49 per cent of their female counterparts.

Furthermore, 43 per cent of the husbands surveyed believed their wives were orgasming more than they actually were. Not surprisingly, this disparity also translated to a difference in relationship satisfaction. Wives with more frequent orgasms reported greater relationship satisfaction and better communication in the relationship, while husbands' relationship satisfaction was correlated with their perception of their wives' orgasm frequency as well as communication.

These findings not only underscore how complex the dynamics of the orgasm gap are, but also how integral communication can be in relationship satisfaction.

Casual sex isn't so casual

An online survey of 639 young adults, ages 18 to 25, sought to track the frequency of affectionate behaviours — cuddling, eye-gazing, spending the night and foreplay — among those in traditional monogamous relationships and those in uncommitted, casual sex relationships.

Not surprisingly, those in traditional relationships reported a greater need for affectionate behaviours, but many in the casual encounters group engaged in them as well. Those who explicitly preferred casual encounters over traditional relationships were even one and a half times more likely to cuddle and spend the night, and almost five times more likely to engage in foreplay.

As non-monogamous relationships become more mainstream, insights like these serve to reframe how we discuss them as alternatives to more traditional constructs.

Canadians are having what problems in the bedroom?

And now for something a little closer to home. A survey of 2,400 Canadians — ages 40 to 59, a segment of Canada's largest population group — found that sexual problems, among men and women, were relatively common.

Around 40 per cent of women reported low sexual desire (an even more common problem among those who were post-menopause), while other frequent problems included vaginal dryness and difficulty achieving orgasm. Among men, around one third also reported low sexual desire, while about one quarter suffered from erectile or ejaculation issues.

A correlation was observed between low sexual desire and being in a long-term relationship, while many other physical issues were associated with poorer sexual wellness, underscoring how your overall health can factor into your sexual health.

The prevalence of such sexual problems among middle-aged Canadians (especially in light of the previously mentioned benefits of sexual activity in older adults) reinforces the need to be open and honest about our sexual needs and functions with our partners, health care professionals and ourselves.

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