Do you have a sexual happiness routine? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “no.” So where do you even begin to figure it out?
For starters, it would be helpful to know what the baseline of sexual happiness looks like for everyone else.
Lovehoney, a sexual pleasure company known as “the sexual happiness people,” conducted a study on what sexual happiness means to a variety of people.
The study reinforced the importance of defining pleasure for ourselves and claiming ownership of it — beyond orgasms and trying new positions.
To explore what sexual happiness really looked like for its audience, Lovehoney surveyed 3,000 people across the United States, the U.K., and Australia. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 65+ and represented a variety of “genders, ethnicities, relationship statuses, and sexual orientations.”
“This study was important to us to really get to know what our customers want in the bedroom and what’s stopping them from having a truly fulfilling sex life in 2019,” says Sammi Cole, Lovehoney’s sex and relationships writer.
Most of the participants identified as mostly monogamous individuals in a long-term relationship and as monosexual (i.e., straight or gay), so some specific trends arose when they answered the question “What does sexual happiness look like for you?”
With that in mind, here’s what the survey found:
Two-thirds of the participants believed sex played an “important role in their overall happiness,” and half felt that the biggest benefit of sex was a stronger relationship.
Other benefits included:
- improved mood
- management of stress and tension
- better sleep
- improved mental health
- more confidence
- improved physical health
- something to look forward to
Many participants also mentioned sex toys as an element of their sexual happiness. In fact, 63 percent of women and 54 percent of men surveyed said they used toys to “enhance their pleasure.”
Nine out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women reported that they orgasm during sex.
This isn’t surprising if we look at the research done on the orgasm gap across genders: Another recent survey had similar results, and a 2017 study on orgasm representation in pornography found that men’s orgasms are depicted about four times more often than women’s.
Across the board, trans and nonbinary folks are excluded from the conversation about orgasm equality — something the sexuality field needs to do better with.
When asked about sex and well-being, survey participants did connect orgasm to their pleasure, with “…around three-fifths [about 60%] selecting this as the most enjoyable part of pleasure. Interestingly, this rose to 65% for the over-65s.”
These results highlight the pressure that comes from thinking of orgasm as the pinnacle of the sexual experience. Placing a lot of value on feeling pleasure during sex, or on whether or not you orgasmed or “gave” your partner an orgasm, may cause feelings of shame and guilt. That’s a fault of orgasm- and not pleasure-based sexuality.
Research has also hinted at the perception gap — a mismatch in the number of men who assume their female partner has orgasmed and the number of women who actually report orgasms.
In the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 85 percent of men reported that their partners had an orgasm, while only 64 percent of women reported having one.
The survey results challenged the common belief that sexual happiness declines with age. Only 23 percent of participants ages 65 and older reported that they were not physically satisfied in their sex lives, which suggests that the remaining 77 percent were satisfied.
It’s largely assumed that after a certain age, people stop being sexual. But the survey results prove that age isn’t necessarily an indication of someone’s drive or desire to engage in sex.
In fact, age may bring a greater likelihood of satisfaction: While 32 percent of participants ages 18 to 24 said they had never been sexually satisfied, only 5 percent of those over 55 reported the same.
Sex is also a vital aspect of emotional intimacy in relationships as people age. Three-quarters of participants in their 60s said that connecting emotionally was one of the best parts of sex.
These findings present a great opportunity to explore what sex can look like as we go through the life cycle and how it can be adapted for any age.
Despite what the majority may say, there’s no universal definition of sexual happiness — and that’s a good thing. If sexual happiness means something different for everyone, anyone can achieve it in their own way, whether they’re single, partnered, or somewhere in between.
Sure, some similar themes may come up, but it’s interesting to see how the definition changes depending on who is asked. For some people it may mean having a variety of toys at arm’s reach, and for others, being completely mindful and not reaching for your phone immediately after sex.
And just because the topic is sexual awareness doesn’t mean we have to limit the conversation solely to the act of having sex.
There’s so much variation in what sexual happiness can look like that it might feel overwhelming to think about happiness in places other than the bed.
It’s important — even healthy — that we broaden our definitions.
“[Sexual happiness is] what makes our sex lives more joyful, and indeed, how joyful our sex lives can make us,” writes journalist and broadcaster Bibi Lynch in the foreword to the study.
What comes up for you when you think of sex? Are you including masturbation or solo sex, or do you count only partnered sex?
Breaking away from strict definitions and assumptions of what other people think can help us begin to define sexual happiness for ourselves. Expanding the definition can only increase the number of people who identify sexual happiness in their lives, regardless of their relationship status or sexual orientation.
Knowing your love language — the way you prefer to receive care and affection — is a good indicator that you’re ready to unpack what sexual happiness means for you. If you enjoy touch, maybe exploring ways you can receive and give intentional touch outside of sex could be a good boost to your sexual happiness.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. The survey supported this idea when it dove deep and encouraged people to define exactly what sexual happiness meant to them.
Ultimately, anyone can find sexual happiness, and it isn’t determined solely by what goes on in the bedroom. After all, so much of sex is about what makes us feel good and not about engaging in it out of a sense of obligation.
You’re in charge of defining your own sexual happiness. Don’t forget that.
Cameron Glover is a writer, sex educator, and digital superhero. You can connect with her on Twitter.