By Leah Fessler
Spontaneous sex—clandestine encounters, afternoon delights, and one-night stands—is fantastic. But more often than not, the mind-boggling orgasms of this kind of sex are a myth you read about in magazines.
The alternative, planned sex, doesn’t sound particularly exciting. Sending a calendar invite for sex is about as sexy as sending a calendar invite for Excel training.
But for people in long-term relationships, it’s probably worth sending that invite anyhow. Conscientious, plan-ahead people actually have more satisfying sex lives, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sex Research.
Researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany surveyed nearly 1,000 couples (most heterosexual) about their sex lives, asking each person to rate things like how easily they got aroused, how inhibited they were around sex, and any issues they may have with sexual dysfunction. Each participant also described their own personality and their partner’s, using the Big Five personality framework—which includes extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.
The most surprising finding? A statistically significant correlation between conscientious people of both sexes and higher sexual satisfaction. Conscientious people had fewer sexual problems–like inhibition or feeling unfulfilled. This positive correlation was particularly strong for heterosexual women whose partners were highly conscientious. “Men who are thorough and dutiful may feel the need to satisfy their partner sexually, which may in turn lead to better sexual function of their partners,” write the study authors.
“We wanted to know whether certain sexuality-related traits (i.e. traits that reflect how easily people become excited, or how sexually inhibited they are) are more or less relevant to sexual function than more broad, general personality traits (the big five),” writes author Julia Velten, a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology and psychotherapy, in an email to Quartz. “Studies have shown that most of these personality traits and sexuality-related traits are relevant, but it was unknown which factors are the most crucial when taken together.”
Velten defines conscientiousness as one’s tendency to be efficient and organized, as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. Conscientious people show strong self-discipline, achievement-orientation, and dependability. They display planned behavior more often than spontaneous behavior, says Velten. Which means people who are more sexually satisfied are also more likely to be having planned sex (calendar invite or not).
Most importantly, the data showed no significant correlation between relationship duration and sexual function, writes Velten. “Thus, sexual function (and sexual satisfaction) don’t necessarily decline with age or over the course of relationships. Many of our older couples were still sexually active and quite satisfied with their sexual lives.”
The upshot? If you’re more disposed toward planning sex, that’s not weird, or unsexy. It’s a major plus. It means you’re thoughtful—not only about the amount of sex you’re having, but also about the quality of sex you’re having, and your partner’s unique desires.
“High conscientiousness can be especially beneficial when it comes to putting effort into a satisfying sexual life,” write the study’s authors, “or to postpone one’s own needs and interests to focus on resolving a sexual problem within the context of committed, long-term relationships.”
Ultimately, this all boils down to communication, says Velten. Speaking honestly and non-judgmentally about your sexual preferences is sexy. If you do it, you’ll have better sex. Conscientiously planning intimate activities is just an extension of such communication—it amps tension and excitement, and can make sex feel surprising, even with the most familiar partners.
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