Category Archives: Sex And Relationships

Sexual statistics

Studying the intimate relationship between narcissism and satisfaction

by Elaine Smith

If you learned that your next-door neighbours were having sexual relations more frequently than you and your partner, would it bother you?

Three U of T Mississauga researchers set out to understand how people view their sex lives in comparison to those of others and discovered that sexual narcissism colours the way people make and view those comparisons.

“For some people, those comparisons are pretty influential,” said Lisa Day, a PhD candidate at UTM.

In new research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Day, Emily Impett, a UTM psychology professor, and Amy Muise (now a York University professor) looked at how these comparisons affect both relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction for people with varying degrees of sexual narcissism.

Sexual narcissism should not be confused with general narcissistic personality traits. It is defined as “the tendency to exploit others, a lack of empathy, feelings of grandiosity and an excessive need for validation in the sexual domain.” They’re the people, for example, who buy you dinner and expect sexual favours in return.

The trio of researchers discovered that many people seemed to be curious about the sex lives of others. Individuals who had a high degree of sexual narcissism were very susceptible to comparisons with others, regardless of whether the source was friends, colleagues, survey data or magazine articles. They tended to make comparisons favourable to themselves (downward comparisons). Comparisons that showed them in a lesser light (upward comparisons) appeared to decrease their satisfaction, both with their sexual relationship and their overall relationship.

“Individuals with a high degree of sexual narcissism tend to make comparisons with those who are less sexually skilled, for example,” Day said. “When they do make comparisons with someone doing better than they were, it gets under their skin.”

By contrast, individuals with a low degree of sexual narcissism weren’t much affected by favourable comparisons; they didn’t have much of an impact on how sexually satisfied they were or how much satisfaction they derived from their relationships.

The researchers reached these conclusions through three studies that used participants from the Amazon survey roster. In the each study, the participants were measured for sexual narcissism and for personality narcissism. In the first study, participants were then asked to recall the most recent comparison they had made between their sex lives and that of others – data show that people make such comparisons on five per cent of the days in the year.

The researchers assessed the direction of these comparisons. “People who were higher in sexual narcissism were more likely to recall a [favourable] social comparison, which in turn predicted greater sexual and relationship satisfaction immediately after recalling that comparison,” they wrote.

In the second study, the researchers asked the participants how much they would be bothered by sexual comparisons with those who had more prowess or more regular if those people were: (a) their best friend, (b) their partner’s best friend, and (c) the average couple. The results, wrote the researchers, “showed that who were higher in sexual narcissism reported that they would be more bothered by upward social comparisons, and, in turn, reported lower sexual and .”

In the third study, subjects were given a doctored magazine article relating to sexuality and randomly asked to compare its findings to their own sex lives in an upward fashion, a downward fashion or not to make any comparison. They were then asked about their satisfaction with their personal relationships and their sexual relationships. As anticipated, those with a high degree of sexual narcissism were very sensitive to such comparisons and were dissatisfied with their sexual and personal relationships when forced to compare themselves in a non-favourable way.

“People are curious about the sexuality of others and make comparisons that impact how they feel about their own relationships,” Day said. “This curiosity has opened a completely new line of research for us.”

Complete Article HERE!

Swinging offers sexual freedom, but you have to play by the rules

Don’t assume ‘the lifestyle’ does not come with a rulebook. Communication is important, and rules can make relationships better.

Fatima Mechtab, Marketing Supervisor and events coordinator at Oasis Aqualounge, poses at the Toronto adult playground.

Toronto’s Oasis Aqualounge, at Carleton and Church Sts., is a pretty open environment. The clothing-optional sex club hosts events each week for people to explore their sexual fantasies. But for such a sexually free venue, there are certainly a lot of rules.

No photos. Certain areas are off limits to men unless accompanied by a woman. No touching of any kind unless given permission. No means no, of course, but the club takes it a step further: only yes means yes. That means there are no sexy times until consent is verbalized, says Fatima Mechtab, the marketing and events co-ordinator at Oasis, which had approximately 16,000 members last year.

The clothing-optional space, where sex is allowed, is by its nature vulnerable, she says. The rules are to make sure everyone feels safe, comfortable and encourage people to talk. “A big problem with consent is people assume it’s something you don’t have to verbalize,” she says. In fact, when it comes to sex, there’s lots that people don’t talk about — but should.

Mechtab, a queer woman who has explored swinging and polyamorous relationships in the past, says these types of strict rules — don’t make assumptions, ask before touching — are common in “the lifestyle,” a term for consensually nonmonogamous couples. And, she says, rules make relationships better.

Couples and the locations they go to play have to create an environment in which all parties feel not only safe, but also heard. These boundaries take away the grey areas, forcing couples to say what they do or don’t want and what they need from sexual encounters. And there’s a lot non-swingers can learn from them about building a healthy (and satisfied) relationship.

A successful swinging relationship is based on constant communication, says Carol Hunt, founder of VenusCouples, a Montreal-based online forum for “sex-positive” exploration of the lifestyle. She and her husband have been swinging for a decade. Before any party or outing, they agree upon a set of boundaries (such as they’ll always be in the same room during sex) and expectations for the evening (be it sex with another person or a night observing others). Afterwards, they always break their experience down: what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what would they like to try in the future?

While it might seem exhausting to always talk about sex, Hunt says it means both parties feel their needs are being heard. If her husband wants to try something new, but she’s not interested, the decision isn’t shut down entirely. Instead, they discuss both points of view and try and find a happy middle ground in which they can explore. No always means no — but that’s only the start of the conversation.

That consensus building trickles out of the bedroom, says Edward Fernandes, a professor of sexuality specializing in swingers, at Barton University in North Carolina. “I’ve had people say, ‘We used to have trouble with our finances — we couldn’t talk about this,’ and once we went into swinging, that (inability to communicate) went away,’” says the Toronto expat. “Now, they’re able to talk about everything.” If you can talk about a taboo topic like sex freely, there’s nothing to stop you from vocalizing issues with the chores, he says.

One 2014 study from the University of Oklahoma, which compared monogamous and consensually nonmonogamous couples, found those in open relationships rated their happiness and health higher than their counterparts. Another study from 2000, found 90 per cent of couples said their marriage became happier after they started swinging.

“People will often avoid talking about things, because they don’t know how (their partner) is going to respond,” says Fernandes. “So we hide. Swinging tends to pull that curtain, and allows them to have direct communications with each other.”

Write your own sexy rule book

  • Hunt suggests couples looking to spice up their bedroom can start small: make it a point to go to a sex shop, for example, to discuss what both parties might enjoy or not. To avoid embarrassment, make it a rule that neither party can wander off on their own: you’re in it together and that can decrease the awkwardness.
  • Watching porn can be a great way to get both parties in the mood. But before hitting play, Hunt suggests setting expectations: you’ll only watch for an hour, and collectively pick one act to try and re-create.
  • If you’re trying something new and don’t enjoy it the first time, Hunt say don’t shut it down right away. Commit to revisiting the act at least once at a later date, and if you still don’t enjoy it, then it’s OK to take it off the table for the future.
  • Great relationships need work, she says. Set aside a couple hours each week just to be with each other. No television, no distractions (and if you want, no clothes).
  • Make a relationship rule to do one sexy thing a day — even if it’s just kissing each other deeply for a few minutes, Hunt says. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that, but it ensures a daily connection with your partner.

Complete Article HERE!

Worried your partner might have a bisexual history? Why?

Myths about LGBTQ sexual health need debunking – and healthcare professionals are part of the problem

‘You don’t have to openly identify as bisexual to get the bad side of bisexuality.’

By

“Use a condom, the pill, or get an IUD – avoid pregnancy” was the drill from sexual health practitioners who came to speak at my comprehensive school in Kent. There wasn’t much detail or thought beyond, “Some of these boys are going to get some of these girls pregnant before they hit 16 – let’s try to get that down to a lower number than we had last year.”

Thankfully, when it comes to the subject of sexual identity, there’s now more guidance than ever trickling down into the societal subconscious in the west – hopefully in schools, but certainly during publicity rounds for films starring Kelly Rowland and Cat Deeley. While talking about Love By the 10th Date to the New York Post last week, Rowland espoused the importance of knowledge when embarking on a sexual relationship with another: “I can’t tell someone how to feel about dating someone who is bisexual or had a past gay experience, but it’s proper to ask [if they have] in today’s times.”

It is “proper” to ask? Maybe it’s unfortunate phrasing, or maybe not being able to hear the tone of voice in which the opinion was offered gives it negative impact, but the sentence rings faintly of suspicion and mild disapproval: “Please submit your history of sex with people of the same gender, and it will then be decided whether or not you are too risky to be intimate with.” That’s how it comes across to this particular someone who is “bisexual or [has] had a past gay experience”, anyway.

Bisexuality just continues to have a bad rep, even though it’s on the rise (according to CNN) … or then again, maybe it’s not on the rise (according to the Verge). Statistics on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and which groups of people are spreading them, are easily found (and quickly wielded by those mistrustful of anything beyond heteronormativity), but they can obscure a simple and universal truth that applies to all groups, whether those groups are on the rise or not. And that is: whatever genitalia you and your partner(s) have, you should protect yourselves (condom/dental dam/wash your hands and accoutrement between uses, thank you). Ignoring that fact in favour of “it’s the bisexuals, mostly” is the source of so much harm.

You don’t have to openly identify as bisexual to get the bad side of bisexuality, because it goes beyond the myths of promiscuity, greed and dishonesty still held by some – biphobia also has an impact on physical health. Here in the UK, if you’re a man who’s had sex with another man in the last 12 months, you can’t donate blood (though that stance is currently being reviewed). Women who have sex with women are less likely to get a smear test, because many of us don’t realise we need to – we’re forgotten by the healthcare system, or our needs are misunderstood.

“Gay and bisexual women are at lower risk for HPV,” we confidently tell each other, “we don’t need a smear test.” A lot of us have heard that from our doctors, as well. It was only after seeing a leaflet about the issue from lgbthealth.org.uk during this month’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week that I realised this was just ignorance.

In 2008, Stonewall released findings that one in 50 lesbian and bisexual women had been refused a smear test, even when they requested one. The 2015 survey on training gaps in healthcare, Unhealthy Attitudes, found that three in four patient-facing staff had not received any training on the health needs of LGBTQ people. Many women get variations of the “use a condom, the pill, or get an IUD – avoid pregnancy” mantra from our doctors to this day, if we don’t declare our gayness or bisexuality as we walk through the surgery door. Sometimes even a declaration is ignored by an uncomfortable practitioner. Straightness is still automatically assumed, unless you’re lucky enough to have a doctor who doesn’t see heterosexuality as the default for everyone they treat.

According to that 2015 Stonewall study, a third of healthcare professionals felt that the NHS and social care services should be doing more to meet the needs of LGBTQ patients, which is encouraging. Knowledge is wanted – needed – to undo the harmful myths that block help and prevent education. And that is what is “proper” (to quote the star of Freddy vs Jason and Love By the 10th Date) – fighting ignorance and biphobia, rather than continuing to be suspicious of sexual histories that might have featured people of the same gender. Whatever and whoever is in our sexual pasts, we must protect each other, and stay informed. That’s healthy.

Complete Article HERE!

How friends with benefits can actually make a friendship stronger

By Jack Rushall

When I was an insecure 16-year-old, I came out to my female best friend. What followed was just as bold, but it involved both of us: We hooked up.

Our sexual escapade developed into casual encounters that spanned a year-and-a-half. Of course, our friendship inevitably veered into unsettling romantic terrain, like a car creeping into a bike lane. We stopped being physical after concluding that emotional attraction can’t compete with innate sexual desire. Two years later, she had a boyfriend and I had my OkCupid profile set exclusively to men. We began texting. Now, we are tentatively planning on becoming housemates. Platonic housemates.

Our history may read a bit unusual, but it speaks for quite a few modern friends with benefits (or FWBs). With the rise of dating apps, sex is boisterously unromantic; one 2009 study of college students found that two-thirds had been in this type of relationship and a third were still in one. Still, there’s a common perception – in romantic comedies and in the media – that such pairings are unhealthy and ruin friendships.

“I think, in general, there’s a backlash toward casual sex anything,” explains Jesse Owen, the chair of the counseling psychology department at the University of Denver. “Friends with benefits can threaten the traditional relationship. This idea of friends with benefits is like saying: ‘This person is not your true love, and you’re continually in search of something better.’ True love is what sells on TV and in the movies.”

In 2013, Owen conducted a study measuring how many FWBs ultimately remained close after the benefits expired. He took 119 male and 189 female university students and found that 80 percent of FWB pairings continued being friends. And 50 percent of FWBs claimed to feel closer to their former partner after they went back to being platonic.

“People feel closer after intimacy because they feel that they know somebody, and they’d like for that relationship to continue,” Owen explained. “It’s a different sense of intimacy because there’s this idea of actually caring about the person and following their life story. Even when the intimacy stops, the nature of the friends with benefits is a true friendship. They got to experience more intimate moments that most normal friendships actually involve.”

While some friendships can tighten following the benefits, negotiation is necessary. Similar to real romantic relationships, communication provides stability. For example, after my high school friend and I stopped sleeping with each other, we decided to end our friendship as well. If we had noted that the intimacy was drowning our friendship, perhaps we wouldn’t have needed years of distance.

“Friends with benefits is a term for ambiguity; it conveys what Facebook would call ‘It’s Complicated,’ adds Kendra Knight, a communications professor at DePaul University who has studied FWBs. “Success depends on what each person is hoping for out of the relationship. If two friends find themselves sexually involved and they are relatively symmetrical with what they’re hoping for – like, ‘this is fun!’ or ‘let’s just get to know each other better’ – and they mutually negotiate the cessation of the sexual intimacy, there shouldn’t be many drawbacks.”

Another finding from Owen’s work is that there was no difference in FWBs remaining friends post-benefits along gendered lines, or even in terms of mismatched sexual orientations. For instance, if a gay male and his straight female buddy experiment while he sorts out his sexuality, this couple is not more likely than a heterosexual male-female pair to remain friends post-sex.

“It shouldn’t make a difference,” says Owen, admitting many participants in his study could have been closeted college students. “In all cases, communication is key.”

In retrospect, my ongoing foray with my straight female friend helped both of us during those vulnerable, John Hughes years. The result of our intimacy was a determination to seek relationships that are more fulfilling, both inside and out. For us, the “benefits” outweighed the costs.

Complete Article HERE!

Happy in a low-sex marriage

By Nara Schoenberg

For many writers, it would have been an occasion to celebrate: Hazel McClay’s book group had chosen to read an anthology containing an essay that McClay herself had written.

But McClay’s essay was about being happy in a low-sex relationship, a sensitive topic in a culture where intense desire is widely celebrated. Hazel McClay is a pen name, so no one in her book group knew that she was the author; in fact, she hadn’t talked about her essay with anyone — not even her boyfriend, who had since become her husband. “This should be interesting,” she thought when she learned she would be hearing her book group’s unfiltered feedback, and so it was.

First, McClay sat through the comments of a woman who seemed to think the essay was a celebration of sexual relationships that start awkwardly but improve markedly over time. The woman explained — in some detail — that this had been her own experience with her husband.

An awkward silence followed, and when no one came to the speaker’s rescue, she turned back to the essay.

“This sounds like a wonderful relationship,” she said.

“Sounds like a boring relationship to me,” another woman said, and then she and her friend burst out laughing.

McClay, whose essays appear in the recent book “The Bitch Is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier” and the 2002 best-seller “The Bitch in the House,” is tackling one of the few remaining taboo topics in a time of marked sexual frankness. We have respectful news articles about the polyamorous, who openly engage in multiple romantic relationships, and we have blogs and Facebook pages for asexuals, who may have no interest in sex at all. A popular reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” tells the story of a man with multiple wives. But low-sex marriages that are neither unhappy nor dishonest? When was the last time you heard about one of those?

“It really is something under the radar,” said McClay, a writer and editor in her early 50s.

“There is a bit of shame attached to it because there’s kind of a pressure to be highly sexed and highly performing sexually in this culture. And so if you’re not, that’s considered to be a problem.”

A much-quoted 2016 study in the journal Social and Psychological Personality Science found that, on average, couples in romantic relationships who have sex once a week are happier than couples who have sex less frequently. (Having sex more than once a week wasn’t associated with additional happiness.)

But the study looked at averages; it didn’t rule out the possibility that some individuals are very happy in low-sex marriages.

About 40 percent of married couples in part of the study were having sex, but less than once a week, co-author ‪Amy Muise said in an email exchange.

Asked what percentage of that group reported being very happy, Muise said she hadn’t broken down the data in that manner.

In “The Bitch Is Back,” McClay writes that she and her husband, “Charlie,” laugh a lot, love each other deeply, and have a son who’s thriving.

“With Charlie,” she writes, “I felt, and still feel, like somebody in the world gets me; I feel, at the risk of sounding cliched, loved for exactly who I am. This is something that was missing in every relationship I had before him, including the ones that were filled with sexual passion. … Within weeks of meeting him, I loved him — his brain, his quirks, his humor, and the grounded way he made me feel. I still do.”

They don’t have sex often: at this point, once a month at most. When they do, she’s always glad, but for different reasons: Sometimes because the sex itself is really good, sometimes because she knows sex is important to her husband, even though he doesn’t press the issue or seem dissatisfied.

“I never crave sex,” she writes, “so if I never had it again, I don’t think I’d miss it. If I never had another brownie, now, that would bum me out.”

McClay does have her fleeting moments of self-doubt. At one point, she writes, she tried medication to increase her sex drive; it didn’t work. And there have been rare times when she’s missed feeling the kind of intense passion that makes “your bones seem to melt away underneath your skin.”

“I know that there are women out there who think that (a marriage like mine reflects) a very 19th-century Victorian attitude, and that that’s sort of horrifying to them. And I guess I understand why they would see things that way, and why they would think I had settled for something terrible, and that you should hold out for the whole package,” she said.

“But all I can say to that is, ‘Maybe you’ve never loved somebody the way that I love my husband.’ There are just too many good things here for me to throw it all away and go looking for something I might never find. And again, I can see people saying ‘That’s a very fearful attitude on your part,’ but I don’t think it’s fear. I don’t want to go. I want to be with him.”

Complete Article HERE!