Why A Difference In Sexual Desire Doesn't Mean The End Of A Relationship, According To Science

A lot has been said about men and women and their differences in sexual desire. For instance, men prefer morning sex while women prefer to get it on closer to midnight. When you’re in a long term relationship, you might find that the sex may not be like it used to be. Sex is, of course, a major part of any healthy relationship. So, can a couple stick together even if their levels of sexual desire aren’t exactly in sync? According to a new study, yes! But it all depends on you.

In a study published in the Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin, psychologists from the University of Toronto Mississauga looked into sex lives of longterm couples and found that differences in sexual desire didn’t automatically guarantee a one-way ticket to Splitsville.

The researchers conducted three different studies to come up with their conclusions. In the first study, one group was asked to describe how they meet their partner’s sexual needs as a way to increase “sexual communal strength.” Then, people in all groups were asked to respond to a scenario where one partner was eager for sex while the other was not. People were more willing to engage in sex even when their desire was low when they thought about how sex strengthened their relationship. Furthermore, people from that group expected to feel more satisfied with the sex overall.

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The second study found that people who had a strong sexual relationship with their partners benefited from having sex even if they weren’t in the mood because they were strongly motivated by their partner’s desires. In other words, they were willing to get over their lack of sex drive just to please their partner.

In the third study, couples were asked to individually fill out daily surveys for three weeks on their levels of sexual desire and whether they had sex with their partners or not. Unbeknownst to participants, the researchers were interested in seeing the differences in desire among the couples.

As researcher, Lisa Day found,

“These people are motivated because they love their partners, want to make them feel good and benefit the relationship. They are still keeping their own needs in mind they don’t participate out of fear or a sense of obligation. They are excited and interested by their partner’s sexual needs.”

Sex may be an issue in some couples. But just like any aspect of a relationship, it takes a little motivation and a lot of compromise to make things work out. Here are five things you may not have known about sexual desire:

1. Anxiety As An Aphrodisiac?

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In a 1987 study published in Psychophysiology, researchers from the psychology departments at the University of Houston and SUNY-Albany presented 16 heterosexual males with brief erotic videotapes while simultaneously receiving four levels of shock threats (no shock, half tolerance, tolerance, and twice tolerance threat). The men, who reported to having no trouble achieving and maintaining erections, were told that if they didn’t get an erection, they would receive an electric shock. The study found that the threat of getting a shock increased the males’ sexual arousal. However, it should also be noted that the men who suffered from some kind of sexual dysfunction were not helped by the threat of an electric shock.

2. Sexual Arousal Can Lead To Poor Decision Making

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Researchers found that sexual arousal had a negative impact on decision making. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, researchers enlisted the help of 25 undergrad male students and told them to masturbate to a series of porn on a computer screen. After achieving a high level of sexual arousal, each guy was then tasked with answering questions about their sexual practices. It was found that when men were under the influence of their desire, the brain became focused on achieving immediate pleasure and gratification. Thus, activities that wouldn’t be seen as arousing such as encouraging a date to drink or trying to have sex with someone after they’ve said, “no,” seemed more appealing.

3. Cucumbers Get Women Hot

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I’m talking the vegetable here, and even more so, the smell of the vegetable. In a 1998 study conducted by Dr. Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, the smell of cucumber, baby powder, pumpkin pie and lavender caused significant increases in vaginal blood flow, resulting in higher levels of sexual arousal in women. The researchers measured blood flow in 30 women after they were exposed to eight different scents and scent combinations. They found a 13 percent increase in vaginal blood flow when the women were exposed to scents like cucumber and baby powder. There was an 11 percent increase for a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie, and a four percent increase in the combination of baby powder and chocolate.

The smell of meat and cherries decreased vaginal blood flow, and for the guys out there, men’s cologne had had little to no effect on a woman’s arousal. As far as men are concerned, the smell of lavender and pumpkin pie increased blood flow to the penis by 40 percent.

4. The Tone Of Your Voice Can Be A Turn-On Or Turn-Off

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In a 2013 study published in PLOS ONE, researchers from University College London took a sample of 32 participants and found that women with high-pitched voices were found to be more attractive because it indicated that they had smaller bodies. On the other hand, deep male voices were found to be more attractive because it meant the men had larger frames. Participants were told to listen to digitally manipulated voices of males and females saying random phrases like, “I owe you a yo-yo.” When they were asked to rate the voice’s level of attractiveness on a scale of one to five, men preferred the voices who suggested that the females were small, while the deeper voiced male was found to be the most attractive one.

5. Sex Isn't Gross When A Woman Is Aroused

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If you really think about it, sex is pretty freaking disgusting. I mean there’s all this sweat and saliva, and the exchanging of body fluids, not to mention the smells. A 2012 Netherlands study conducted by researchers at the University of Groningen found that sexual arousal overrides the body’s natural disgust reaction to sex and all its components, in order for women to willingly engage in sex. Ninety women were assigned into one of three groups. One group watched “female friendly” porn, another watched a video of high-adrenaline sports which was designed to be arousing (though not sexually arousing), and the third group watched a neutral vid of a train clip.

Afterward, the women were told to perform 16 “icky” tasks ranging from drinking from a cup with a bug in it to eating a cookie sitting next to a live worm to sticking their fingers into a tray of used condoms. It was found that the women who watched the sexually arousing videos found the disgusting tasks to be a lot less disgusting than those who were not sexually aroused. The study also found that sexual arousal greatly influences how much a woman is willing to do.

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