Roundups Sexual Health

Sexual Health Roundup: Waiting Longer May Lead to Happier Relationships and Size May Matter

Martha Kempner

There's a lot of new research this week including studies that show people who wait longer to have sex for the first time may have happier relationships in adulthood; dads who talk about sex can have a positive impact on their children's behavior, and size may actually matter. 

Does Waiting for Sex Until After 19 Lead to Happier Adult Relationships?

A new study out of the University of Texas at Austin suggests that young people who wait longer to have their first sexual experience may have more satisfying romantic relationships in adulthood. Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health on 1,659 same-sex sibling pairs. They classified each sibling as having had sex Early (younger than 15), On-Time (age 15 to 19), or Late (older than 19).  

The study found that among participants who were married or living with a partner, those who had their first sexual experience Late were more likely to say that “they were happy with the way their partners handled conflict, that their partners showed them love and affection, and that they enjoyed doing day-to-day things with their partners.”  This difference held up even when researchers took into account demographic factors such as education, income, and religion as well as personal factors such as body mass index and attractiveness.

The lead researcher explained this by saying that people who wait longer to have their first sexual experience may be “pickier” in choosing partners. She went on to say:

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“Individuals who first navigate intimate relationships in young adulthood, after they have accrued cognitive and emotional maturity, may learn more effective relationship skills than individuals who first learn scripts for intimate relationships while they are still teenagers.”

Still, the researcher was quick to say that this doesn’t mean that delaying sexual intercourse is always associated with positive outcomes or that abstinence is always “good” for teenagers. This same researcher conducted an earlier study that found that teenagers who were sexually active as part of a romantic relationship had less delinquent behavior. Instead, she reminds us that teenagers’ relationships are complex and there’s a lot we don’t know

“In the future, we are interested in looking at whether sexually active teens are more likely to have negative relationship experiences—like intimate partner violence—that may put them at risk for worse relationship outcomes later in life.”

Dads Count when it Comes to Talking to Kids About Sex

The story in my family is that one night when my sister was about six and I was four our mom had a meeting and we went to our dad with the following conversation starter, “Dad, now that mom’s out we want to ask you about something. We want to ask you about sex.” You see our mom would occasionally say things like “I’ll tell you when you’re older” but Dad just told it like it was. A new review of research suggests that other dads can take a lesson from him. Specifically, it finds that adolescents have less sex if their fathers talk to them more about sexual matters.

The authors reviewed 13 studies about the effect that fathers had on the sexual behavior of their kids. The studies seem to show that communication between fathers and children can be particularly influential—though, because of how the original studies were conducted, the authors of the review could not put a numeric value on this impact. The review looked at one study that found that daughters who were close with their fathers at the beginning of the study were less likely to start sex during the study year than peers who weren’t close with their dads. Another study looked at a father-son HIV-prevention program and found that increased communication about sex was linked to increased abstinence for the six-months that the study followed the sons.

Though there is still not enough research on this area, the author of the review says that it’s clear that fathers matter. He added:

“… in study after study, young people say that when it comes to these important decisions, it really matters what their parents think about these issues.”

New Research Says Size Matters, Sometimes

We’ve all heard it, and maybe even said it to reassure the men in our lives:“Don’t worry size doesn’t matter.” A new study, however, suggests that maybe it does, though only for some women. Researchers surveyed over 300 women and asked about their sexual behavior for the previous month, including the frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse, vaginal orgasm, and clitoral orgasm. They also asked women about the effects of a longer-than-average penis on their likelihood of orgasm from penile-vaginal intercourse and how important penile-vaginal intercourse and non-coital sex was to them. To help participants, who were mostly Scottish University students, assess the size of their partners’ penises, researchers suggested that an average penis was about the length of 20-pound bank note (or a U.S. 20 dollar bill). 

They found that women who have frequent vaginal orgasms (as opposed to clitoral orgasms) and women who said they prefer penile-vaginal intercourse over other types of sex were more likely than other women to say they climax more easily with men who have larger penises. In addition, women who reported the highest number of vaginal orgasms in the past month were most likely to say that longer was better.

The study’s author suggests that:

“Male anxiety about penis size may not reflect internalized, culturally arbitrary masculine stereotypes, but an accurate appreciation that size matters to many women….”    

Not all researchers agree with this assessment. In fact, not all sex researchers even agree that there is a difference between clitoral and vaginal intercourse.  Beverly Whipple, who has done research on the female G-Spot suggests that all of this may be too “goal oriented.”  Whipple said simply: 

“I recommend for women to learn about themselves, learn about their body, find what they find pleasurable and enjoy that, as long as it’s not exploiting another person.” 

Roundups Sexuality

This Week in Sex: Why Men Fake Orgasms and How Real Ones May Help Them Avoid Prostate Cancer

Martha Kempner

Many men pretend to have orgasms to make their partners feel better—and report higher levels of sexual satisfaction, at the same time. Another study suggests that the more ejaculation, the better if men want to reduce their prostate cancer risk. And there may be more help for women with sexual arousal problems.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

When Men “Fake It,” Their Motives Are Often Altruistic 

In the pilot episode of the TV show Masters of Sex, Dr. William Masters seems shocked to learn that women might fake orgasms. When he asks his new assistant, Virginia Johnson (who becomes his research partner and later his wife), why women might do such a thing, she replies: “To get a man to climax quickly. Usually so the woman can get back to whatever it is she’d rather be doing.”

Masters and Johnson, whose real-life work and relationship was fictionalized in that Showtime series, were pioneers of sex research in the 1950s and 1960s. Those who follow in their footsteps today are still trying to answer some of the same questions.

A new study from two Canadian researchers looks not at why women fake orgasms, but why men do—and what, if any, correlation there is between faking it and relationship satisfaction.

Researchers surveyed 230 young men between ages 18 and 29 who had admitted to faking an orgasm at least once in their current relationship. Using an online survey, they asked these men at what point in their relationship they began to fake orgasms, how often they did so, and why. They also measured sexual desire and relationship satisfaction.

On average, the men began faking orgasms 14 months into the relationship. On average, the men said they faked an orgasm in about 30 percent of their sexual encounters; 71 percent of participants reported having faked an orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse; 27 percent during oral sex; 22 percent during anal intercourse; 18 percent during manual stimulation by a partner; and 5 percent while being stimulated with a sex toy by a partner.

Many of the reasons the men gave for faking orgasm revolved around making their partners feel better—including giving their partner an ego boost, feigning simultaneous orgasms, or avoiding upsetting their partner.

Interestingly, men who faked it for these relationship reasons tended to report higher levels of sexual desire. The authors theorize, “It is possible that men feel good when giving a partner pleasure, either out of love and generosity, or because it provides indirect reassurance of their own sexual adequacy, leading them to associate this reward with sexual activity, further leading them to seek more sex (i.e., experience higher levels of sexual desire).”

Men who faked orgasms also had higher levels of relationship satisfaction, though the authors point out that pretending might not lead to relationship satisfaction; those who are already satisfied may be more likely to fake orgasms for the sake of their partner’s feelings.

While it’s reassuring to know that some men fake orgasms for altruistic reasons, we here at This Week in Sex are not big fans of the fake orgasm, regardless of the gender or the reason. Once in a while is understandable “to get back to whatever it is [you’d] rather be doing,” as Johnson said. But, for the most part, we think it’s better to talk to partners about why you didn’t have a real one this time and what could be different next time.

Is Frequent Ejaculation a Cancer Prevention Method? 

Another new study found that men who ejaculated more frequently were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Researchers followed about 32,000 men for almost 20 years, using the national Health Professionals Follow-up Study  at the Harvard School of Public Health. The men were all in their 20s when the study started in 1992 and therefore their 40s (or close to it) when it ended in 2010. They filled out questionnaires that asked about their sexual behavior (including masturbation), and researchers also looked at the men’s medical records.

During the course of the study, about 4,000 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. The researchers’ analysis showed that men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month in their 20s were 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who ejaculated no more than seven times a month at that age. Similarly, men who ejaculated more often in their 40s were 22 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer diagnosis.

There are some limitations of the study, including the possible inaccuracy of self-reported data on ejaculation and the lack of diversity among participants. In addition, one urologist who spoke to Reuters questioned the fact that the relationship between ejaculation and prostate cancer applied mostly to less invasive forms of the disease. Dr. Behfar Ehdaie of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who was not part of the study, noted: “If ejaculation frequency was truly a causal factor for prostate cancer development, we would expect to find the association across all prostate cancer risk categories.”

And, of course, correlation does not equal causation. There could be other reasons that men who ejaculate less often are more likely to get prostate cancer. Specifically, as study co-author Dr. Jennifer Rider points out, men who ejaculate less than three times a month may be suffering from other health issues.

Still, there could be a prevention strategy in the findings. Rider told Reuters in an email: “The results of our study suggest that ejaculation and safe sexual activity throughout adulthood could be a beneficial strategy for reducing the risk of prostate cancer.”

Given that ejaculation tends to be enjoyable, it seems like a pretty good idea to try even while more research into the correlation is being conducted.

Emerging Options for Women With Sexual Arousal Issues

When the drug Addyi was under development, people referred to it as “female Viagra” because it was intended to address women’s sexual dysfunction. But the two treatments actually work very differently. While Viagra causes an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis, Addyi (or flibanserin) works on chemicals in the brain to increase sexual desire.

Now, researchers are developing a new treatment for women that is actually much more similar to Viagra. A company called Creative Medical Technologies filed a patent last week for a treatment that uses regenerative stem cells to increase blood flow to the vagina. Unlike Addyi, this treatment is designed for women who desire sex but are having trouble becoming aroused. Increasing blood flow to the vagina can cause the clitoris to become erect and the vagina to lubricate, both of which are important parts of the arousal stage of sexual response.

The treatment still needs more research and, of course, FDA approval, which was a very controversial process for Addyi’s maker. Moreover, it’s not clear how big the market is for female sexual dysfunction treatment, as prescriptions for Addyi have been low since its market release last October.

News Violence

Texas Lawmaker Questions Number of ‘Pure, Sober’ Campus Sexual Assaults

Teddy Wilson

A recent report charges that campus sexual assaults involving alcohol or drugs are underreported due in part to "fear of disciplinary consequences."

Texas Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) said Tuesday during a house committee hearing about sexual assault in higher education that she wanted to know how often a “pure, sober sexual assault” occurred on college campuses.

The Texas House Higher Education Committee held the hearing on policies and initiatives to address the prevention and elimination of sexual assault at the state’s colleges and universities.

“I was listening for mention of drug or alcohol abuse and, you know, I think those two conversations are so intertwined,” Crownover said during the hearing. “I would be curious to see how many times a pure, sober sexual assault happened. And I think that’s something we need to talk about. The two are so intertwined, I don’t see talking about one without talking about the other.” 

“I come from a public health attitude, and everything you hear in public health has to do with drug abuse,” Crownover told the Dallas Morning News after the hearing. “You wonder, if nobody drank, what would happen to rape, car wrecks, all sorts of things.”

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The involvement of alcohol and drugs in campus sexual assaults was among the topics discussed during the committee hearing. According to a recent survey, 18.5 percent of the female undergraduates surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin who had experienced sexual assault since entering college reported that they were “incapacitated” at the time.

“blueprint” for campus police responding to sexual assault, published last month by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, noted that “the most common sexual assault at [institutions of higher education] are non-stranger cases that involve drug and alcohol use. Research shows that drinking alcohol increases the risk of assault, although alcohol consumption never causes or justifies sexual assault.”

The blueprint report charges that campus sexual assaults involving alcohol or drugs are underreported, due in part to “fear of disciplinary consequences.”

Around 9.2 percent of sexual assaults across the state of Texas are reported to police, according to the report.

Andrea Pino, co-founder and director of policy and support at End Rape on Campus, told Rewire that Crownover’s statements reinforce stigma about sexual assault. 

“These comments illustrate a damaging trend in officials knowing too little about the reality of sexual assault,” said Pino, whose colleague, Annie Clark, co-founder and executive director of End Rape on Campus, testified at the committee hearing. “Too many cases do involve alcohol, and incapacitation does not make an assault less legitimate, as some officials choose to believe.”

Crownover issued a statement to the Dallas Morning News after the hearing saying that her comments had been “taken out of context.” 

“Let me be clear, whether or not the victim of a sexual assault was intoxicated does not mitigate, condone, or excuse the actions of the other party,” Crownover said. “However, I do not think we can properly address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses without also discussing the role drugs and alcohol play in this important issue.”

The Texas legislature convenes once every two years, and during the interim years, committees hold hearings on a variety of subjects to prepare for the next legislative session. Leaders of both the house and state senate direct the committees on what topics and issues to study.

House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) issued a directive in November to the committee on higher education to research and make recommendations about how to stop sexual assault on campuses across the state. 

More than one in four women undergraduate college students were sexually assaulted through physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation during their time on campus, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU).

Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin were among the 27 universities that participated in the survey.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has investigated dozens of universities across the country for Title IX violations related to sexual assaults on campus. Among the universities investigated was Crownover’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University, which was found to have violated Title IX.