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She's satisfied, he wants more — and different

Women of all ages say they’re enjoying sex with their partner more now than they used to, according to results of the new ELLE/ Sex and Love Survey. For many men, however, giving up the thrill of the chase means giving up some thrills in the bedroom as well
Kim Carney /
/ Source:

Is monogamy hot or not? For many women, the answer is “yeah, baby!”

Women of all ages say they’re enjoying sex with their partner more now than they used to, according to results of the new ELLE/ Sex and Love Survey. For many men, however, giving up the thrill of the chase means giving up some thrills in the bedroom as well.

A record 77,895 adults took the online reader survey over two weeks in February, answering more than two dozen questions about what works and what doesn't in their sex lives. Nine out of 10 reported being in monogamous relationships.

Almost two-thirds of women participants, ranging from ages 18 up to 85, said they are satisfied or very satisfied with their sex life. They feel less sexually inhibited than they did early in their relationship and are having more multiple orgasms.

And despite the cliché of the elusive female Big O, two-thirds of women respondents said they usually or always climax during love-making. Adding to their pleasure, they’re enjoying cuddles and kisses along with plenty of “I love you’s” from their partners, the survey found.

“Women are getting as much sex as they need and they’re getting a lot of emotional satisfaction,” says Janet Lever, a sociologist at California State University at Los Angeles who helped develop the survey and is surprised by how satisfied female respondents said they were. "They’re having sex on their terms, as often as they want, and with fewer inhibitions.”

But while many women are reporting sizzling monogamy, the guys had a more lukewarm response.

Although men and women start with the same level of sexual satisfaction when they begin a relationship, after just a few years men claim to be less content, both physically and emotionally, than they were in the early days.

While 49 percent of men said they're satisfied or very satisfied with their sex life, almost twice as many guys as women reported being very dissatisfied (24 percent vs. 13 percent) with their bedroom activities.

Men were more likely to report less sexual frequency — 73 percent of men said there was more sex in the early days, compared with 65 percent of women.

“Men have a greater preference for different partners and variety,” says Sandra Leiblum, director of the Center for Sexual and Marital Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J., who was not involved in the survey. “It’s not surprising for men that being in a relationship may get boring. They feel tied down."

There seems to be a failure to communicate. While only 38 percent of women said they think their partner wants sex more often, a whopping 66 percent of men said they do want more (only 25 percent of women report wanting sex more often than their partner).

Part of the problem is that although men want more, the women don't see it. "For most of these women, there is a disconnect between what they want and what their partners want — and what they think their partners want," says Lever.

That disconnect can spell big trouble. Of men who cheated, the two main reasons were wanting more sex and more sexual variety.

Longing for the good old days
Guys also are bummed because they feel sexually unappreciated. Among men, 53 percent said they felt more desired by their partners in the early days of the relationship.

Even when they do make love, 41 percent of men said they wish it lasted longer. More than two-thirds of all participants said the average sex session lasts anywhere from 16 minutes to an hour, but for almost 20 percent making whoopee takes less than 15 minutes.

Men also reported getting more oral sex and having more multiple orgasms per session in the good old days. A third of men said their partner doesn’t like to give oral sex and never or only rarely performs it now.

Both men and women reported a drop-off in passion after two years together, but being together a long time doesn't necessarily mean the end of bedroom bliss, even if it means a little less quantity.

A key finding was that 97 percent of men and women who reported being very satisfied with their sex lives said they are happy with their partner overall.

Couples who reported good sexual communication and were open to trying new bedroom tricks reported being quite satisfied even decades after they met. Of couples who have been together six years or more, 34 percent said their passion is as strong as in the early days. Even after up to 20 years, one in three couples is still having a fabulous sex life.

Taking sex seriously
"Overall, the people who take their sex life seriously are the people who have the best sex," says Leiblum. "People who do the same old, same old are the ones who report that sex is boring."

The new survey’s positive picture of women’s sex lives seems to contradict the stereotype of the “hurried woman syndrome,” where overworked, stressed-out females collapse in bed on a regular basis, too tired to muster up an orgasm. Even still, 42 percent of women cited stress or being too busy as reasons why they didn't have sex at one point or another in the prior month.

One exception to the overall positive picture for women is the large group — nearly 25 percent — whose negative body image prevents them from feeling sexy. Only one in 20 guys said they felt that way, the survey found.

"It's not just that women feel bad about their bodies," says Lever. "It has a distinct carryover into their sex lives. Even if their partner finds them beautiful, the women still don’t feel attractive enough to take off their clothes and have sex."