Study measures couples’ ability to gauge sexual satisfaction

Graphic by Lena Yang

Graphic by Lena Yang

If you think your partner can’t tell that you’re faking it in bed — think again. Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that men and women are better at reading their partner’s sexual satisfaction than you might think.

Erin Fallis, a PhD candidate at UW, conducted a study on 84 heterosexual couples from the Kitchener-Waterloo area and found that men and women both did fairly well at gauging their partner’s sexual satisfaction.

The couples were in long-term relationships — either married or living together for two years as if married — and were questioned on their own satisfaction in addition to their perception of their partner’s satisfaction.

Fallis also had the couples complete an emotional recognition task, where they looked at images of people’s eyes and had to assess which emotion they were showing.

“There were two main research questions we were interested in. The first one was how well do people in long-term relationships read each other’s sexual satisfaction,” Fallis said.

“The other questions we were interested in was understanding what sorts of characteristics or factors would contribute to having more accurate perceptions of your partner’s sexual satisfaction.”

According to Fallis, one factor that affected perceptions of sexual satisfaction was a couple’s ability to communicate about sexual issues.

“We found that when sexual communication is better — so people feel more comfortable and able to discuss sexual topics or people feel they can resolve problems around sexual issues — then sexual communication was better, or [they were] better able to gauge their partner’s sexual satisfaction,” she continued.

Fallis explained that the idea for her study came from research she found from the United States. In the study, the percentage of men who reported always achieving orgasm was fairly close to the percentage of women who estimated their partners were always achieving orgasm. Basically, the women knew their partners weren’t faking it.

However, she said there was a “disconnect” when it came to women. A smaller number of women reported always achieving orgasm compared to what their male partners estimated.

“So that really created this question: how accurately do people perceive their partner’s sexual satisfaction?” Fallis said.

“In my study I looked at a definition of sexual satisfaction, where it is broader than looking specifically at orgasm frequency or consistency.”

Of the sample she studied, she said, “In general they had fairly accurate and unbiased perceptions of their partner’s sexual satisfaction.”

Essentially, in the case of the sample there was no need to fake it in bed because their partner could tell if they were satisfied or not.

However, the study does not end here.

“I think in terms of future research, where we’re headed next is looking at where did the impact of having more or less accurate perceptions of your partner’s sexual satisfaction on sexual satisfaction over time,” Fallis explained.

“So we would hypothesize that having a more accurate perception of your partner’s sexual satisfaction is probably going to contribute to both you and your partner being more sexually satisfied in the future.”

Fallis concluded with advice for couples to improve their own sexual satisfaction through improving communication pertaining to sexual issues.

“Though it can be difficult to discuss sexual topics within a relationship, it’s beneficial for couples to do that. So I would encourage couples to try to work towards discussing the sexual topics.”

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