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.” 

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