2019 has been memorable for a lot of reasons—including what science taught us about sex. Here’s a quick recap of some of the most interesting things we learned about sex this year.
1. One in five people in North America say they’ve been in a sexually open relationship.
A nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 Canadian adults found that 20% said they had been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship before; however, men (25%) were more likely than women (15%) to have done so. These numbers are virtually identical to the findings of a 2016 representative survey of adult Americans. Learn more about both of these studies here.
2. Romantic partners who have similar personalities aren’t any happier than those who are dissimilar.
In a longitudinal study of couples in long-term relationships, researchers looked at how each partner’s individual standing on the Big Five personality traits, as well as the degree of similarity between partners’ personalities, predicted psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction. While specific personality traits predicted happiness at the individual level (e.g., people who were more detail-oriented tended to be happier), similarity in personality had weak and inconsistent associations with well-being. In other words, your own personality traits seem to say much more about your overall happiness than whether you and your partner are similar to one another.
3. Children of lesbian parents are more likely to identify as LGB as adults.
The idea that gay parents are more likely to have gay children has long been thought to be a myth; however, a longitudinal study of lesbian parents found that their children were more likely to report sexual minority identities, same-sex attractions, and same-sex experiences than children whose parents were heterosexual. This does not mean that sexual orientation is socially transmitted or learned; rather this may be a sign of genetic linkages to sexual orientation, given that many lesbians have their own biological children. However, it’s also possible that children of sexual minority parents are just more willing to acknowledge same-sex attractions because they were raised in non-judgmental environments.
4. Women who use marijuana before sex report better orgasms.
In a study of women who were asked about their marijuana use habits and sexual history, researchers found that a majority of women who said they used marijuana before sex reported better sexual functioning. For example, most said that it made sex more pleasurable and increased their sex drive. In addition, women were twice as likely to report a satisfying orgasm when they were high. These results suggest that marijuana could potentially be used as a future treatment for female sexual difficulties.
5. The number of Americans who identify as bisexual has tripled in the last decade.
National surveys from Gallup tell us that, whereas 1.1% of Americans identified as bisexual in 2008, 3.3% did so in 2018. In other words, the rate of bisexual identification tripled in just 10 years. By contrast, the numbers for gay/lesbian identification remained pretty stable. Specifically, 1.6% of Americans identified as gay/lesbian in 2008, while 1.7% said the same in 2018. Thus, while gay and lesbian individuals used to outnumber bisexuals, there are now about twice as many self-identified bisexuals as there are self-identified gays and lesbians.
6. The stereotype of polyamorists as young, White, wealthy, and liberal doesn’t match up with reality.
In a study comparing a large sample of people who identify as polyamorous to those who identify as monogamous, it turned out that polyamorists were not any younger, Whiter, wealthier, or more likely to identify with the Democratic party than were monogamists. Instead, it turned out that polyamorists were actually a pretty diverse group—and they tended to be non-conformists in several ways. Learn more about this research here.
7. In a long-term relationship, sexual desire is impacted by attachment style more for men than it is for women.
In a longitudinal study of dating couples and newlyweds, researchers looked at how people’s sexual desire changed over time and whether these changes depended on both gender and attachment style. It turned out that, regardless of attachment style, women’s sexual desire tended to decline over time. By contrast, men’s desire only declined if they were insecurely attached—securely attached men didn’t experience a drop in desire.
8. Some guys who send unsolicited dick pics to women are high in narcissism, while others are low in self-esteem.
Two studies of unsolicited dick pics came out this year. One of them involved a younger and more diverse group of men and, in that study, sending unsolicited dick pics to women was linked to being more narcissistic. The other study involved an older and Whiter sample of men—and, in that case, sending unsolicited dick pics to women was linked to low self-esteem. This suggests that men’s motivations for sending unsolicited dick pics may vary based on both their age and race/ethnicity. Motivations also appear to vary based on sexual orientation—the aforementioned associations only emerged for heterosexual men and did not appear among men who sent unsolicited dick pics to other men.
9. People who use more emojis have more sex.
In a survey of more than 5,000 single Americans, researchers found that frequent use of emojis with potential dates is linked to a more active and successful dating life. Emoji users had more dates, more partners, and more sex. Why is that? Perhaps because emoji users are more emotive in general—in other words, it may be that emoji use signifies that one is more emotionally expressive, engages in more self-disclosure, and has an easier time building intimacy.
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