News flash: Women want to have sex, and a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology confirms it. Two researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario found that men in long-term relationships often under-perceive their female partner’s level of sexual desire. Split into three separate studies, the research spanned 229 long-term, heterosexual couples aged 18 to 68 years old who had been in a relationship for an average of six years.
Group one was instructed to keep a diary about their own level of sexual desire as well as how sexually interested they perceived their partner to be. Group two was instructed to come into the laboratory to discuss their own level of sexual desire, as well as their perception of their partner’s desire and relationship satisfaction, in person. Finally, group three answered the same questions in a diary and were also instructed to report on their daily aversion to sexual rejection. In all three instances, men consistently underestimated their female partner’s sexual desire and interest, while women had a more accurate read on the level of interest in their partner.
“The assumption that women are going to be the lower-desire partner needs to be thrown out,” said Kristen Mark, director of the sexual health promotion laboratory at the University of Kentucky, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
So why the discrepancy? Researchers of the study believe that men underestimate desire in an attempt to avoid sexual rejection, while others believe women struggle to clearly communicate their sexual needs or don’t feel comfortable initiating sex. On the upside, both issues can be cleared up through improved communication and a general willingness to hear the other person out. According to New York City–based sex and marriage therapist Sari Cooper, even something as simple as using the word “we” instead of “you” when talking about sex can make a difference. “A good start is to say: ‘This is important to me. How can we create a situation that is comfortable for both of us?’ That way there is no blaming going on.”
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