For hot sex, try equality

Researchers find relationship between sexual equality and sexual satisfaction.

Tracy Clark-Flory
April 20, 2006 4:07PM (UTC)

The Chicago Tribune highlighted a study released Wednesday that finds that sexual satisfaction is higher in countries with greater equality between the sexes. And -- grab hold of your jaw, here -- women like foreplay, no matter their geographical location. Sure, the results are predictable, but better to overestimate the need for scientific research to validate what would seem like common sense, since often enough, it isn't so common.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, "The Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors" focused on people between the ages of 40 and 80 in 29 nations. In countries typically thought of as male-dominated, reports of sexual satisfaction were less common. In Mideastern countries, 50 percent of the men surveyed reported sexual satisfaction, compared with 38 percent of the women; in East Asian countries, about 25 percent of men and women reported sexual fulfillment. In comparison, two-thirds of couples in Western countries reported a satisfying sex life.


"Male-centered cultures where sexual behavior is more oriented toward procreation tend to discount the importance of sexual pleasure for women," said sociologist Edward Laumann, who headed the study.

Overall happiness and sexual satisfaction are closely allied, researchers found. Laumann reports that worldwide, one in three women reports sexual dysfunction that is detrimental to her overall happiness. Wonder if Viagra manufacturer Pfizer, which funded the study, can spin that finding for a cheeky ad campaign.

Alarm bells began ringing in my head, though, when I read that these Western researchers concluded that egalitarian (read: Western) societies are conducive to better sex. How exactly is equality of the sexes measured? Western countries, on the whole, undoubtedly have something more closely resembling sexual equality. But, surely, the minutiae involved in determining a country's sexual equality is complex and difficult to extricate from a baseline cultural bias. (I'm skeptical of anything that, snag-free, deems Western societies as sexually egalitarian.) Researchers began the study to "assess the impact of aging, health conditions and culture on sexual well-being" and admit that the findings point to the need for further research.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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