Wondering how to take your sex life from good to toe-curling, life-altering amazingness?
A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association pinpointed the secret ingredient for this kind of bedroom action, and it just might surprise you.
For the study, Penn State Abington sociologist Beth Montemurro, Ph.D., interviewed 95 women between the ages of 20 and 68 about relationships, sex, and love. The women’s prevailing opinion: That love made sex emotionally and physically more pleasurable.
What’s love got to do with it? Well, study participants who loved their sexual partners said they felt less inhibited and more able explore their sexuality.
“Women feel a sense of trust and respect from a partner when they feel loved,” says Montemurro, who writes about these and other findings in Deserving Desire: Women’s Stories of Sexual Evolution.
“Many of the women I spoke with noted that trust was critical in feeling good about their sexual encounters. They didn’t want to feel they were being used.”
However, Montemurro says another theory is that love may make women a little more comfortable having sex. “Women are still shamed or stigmatized for having sex outside of committed relationships.
Women are also socialized to see love as validating their desirability,” she says. “When women have sex in a loving relationship, in most circumstances, they do not have to grapple with societal messages that tell them that they are doing something wrong.
When women have sexual encounters without love involved—even if they personally don’t feel doing so is wrong—they likely know they are susceptible to being branded as a slut.”
In fact, only 18 of the 95 women interviewed for the study were adamant that love was not necessary in a sexual relationship. And even those who said it didn’t have to be a part of their bedroom festivities said that it definitely improved them.
As one 31-year-old said in her interview, “I still am able to separate love and sex—a lot of people wrap them up together and put a bow on it and call it a day.
I don’t—I think that you can totally have sex without love and I don’t think that just because you have sex with somebody that you’ll fall in love with that person…
I think that if I had that strong emotional connection that the sex is better for me. But at the same time, like I said, I mean I’ve had sex with lots of—like some of my friends, and I like them, they’re good people, and the sex is good.
It just doesn’t feel the same as if I was really connected to you on an emotional level and had something vested in you on an emotional level.”
So is love a must-have for good sex? Not necesarily. Obviously, this study only looked at a small sample of 95 women; and these participants may have felt compelled to answer in a certain way based on the exact reasoning Montemurro explains above:
They might have thought they should feel a certain way about love and sex. And clearly, what makes sex amazing for one person may not be the same thing that makes it phenomenonal for another person.
That said, it’s interesting that most of the women in this sample said that love made sex physically—and not just emotionally—more satisfying.
What do you think? Do you need to be in love to have sex? Do you think love makes sex better? Tell us in the comments below.