‘More focus on sexual pleasure’

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For her Master’s thesis in Youth Studies last year, Gwenny wondered whether the number of sexual partners of youths between 18 and 25 years old has an effect on how they rate the satisfaction with their sex lives. The subject had fascinated her since her Bachelor’s studies. “For my Bachelor’s thesis, I had also done research on youths and sexuality. I think my interest in the topic grew because there isn’t a lot of attention for it within my programme, and I think that it’s a very important subject in young people’s development.”

One of the results of the study was that women between 18-25 years old are more satisfied with their sex lives than men in the same age group. The level of satisfaction in both groups corresponds with the number of sexual partners they’ve had. Men are more satisfied when they’ve had more sexual partners, and women are more satisfied when they’ve had sex with fewer people.

Anouk (22) doesn’t like sleeping with someone for just one time. “In theory, I’d like to have sex more often, but only with a nice person. I don’t want to just have sex and then never see that person again.” She says it makes sense that women are more satisfied than men. “Men might feel pressure to have more sex. But you could reason it the other way around as well: perhaps women are more insecure about the sex they’re having, making them less satisfied.”

“Perhaps it’s linked to the fact that we expect men to perform and women to act more passively,” she says. “That it’s caused by our double standards in sexuality. Society labels us, and you act accordingly. For women, for instance, it’s seen as a bad thing to have a high number of sexual partners, while men are expected to have a lot of sexual partners.”

How do you get the ideal sexual relationship?
Those looking for ultimate satisfaction in their sex lives, are best off in a relationship, according to the study. Gwenny says that makes perfect sense. “A single person’s sex life consists of finding sexual partners. Generally speaking, sex is not always within reach. People in a relationship do have that, and they know each other better.”

Jelle (22) has a girlfriend, and that makes things easier, he says. “I have sex on a regular basis and we understand each other’s needs. I don’t have any complaints at the moment,” he says, satisfied. “I don’t have any points our sex life could improve upon.”

Asked whether there’s a formula for a happy sex life, she says the search for one is the essence. “You need to think about what you like. As long as you’re happy.” Sex education should also play a role in this. “There should be more focus on sexual pleasure. How do I get a satisfying sex life? Sex education about the risks of sex doesn’t have to change, but this has to be added.”

Gwenny tested the research results among her own friends as well. “They agreed with it mostly. Not all of my friends. Some of my girlfriends felt that the idea that women are happier when they have fewer sexual partners was wrong,” she laughs.

“In order to have a satisfying sex life, you do have to have sex every now and then. And of course, with someone you enjoy having sex with. There has to be a connection. I’d prefer not being single,” says Jelmer (23). “But I’m not ruling out ever getting a girlfriend.” Jelmer says he did sometimes feel like there was a standard he should be living up to. “In my day to day life, I don’t miss it, but when you have a friend who has a lot of sex, you sometimes think, oh yeah, I’d like that too.”

After her Master’s thesis, she would like to conduct more research. “I’d like to dive further into gender norms. Whether adhering to them actually explains the relationship between the number of sexual partners and sexual satisfaction. I’d also like to study why women are generally more satisfied with their sex lives than men.”

A list of Gwenny’s research outcomes:

-          Women are generally more satisfied with their sex lives than men
-          Women and men in romantic relationships are more satisfied than women and men who are single
-          Men are more satisfied when they’ve had a high number of sexual partners, and women are more satisfied when they’ve had fewer sexual partners

Students and their sex lives:

For her study, Gwenny used data from the Rutgers Institute. That institute also has data on students and sex. A few things at a glance:
-          Students masturbate more often and have more sex than youths who aren’t highly educated
-          Students use dating apps more often
-          Students send more sexual photos of themselves to lovers
-          Students use condoms less often when they have sex with someone
-          As a result, students get sexually transmitted infections more often
-          Students also get tested for STIs more often

Tags: sex