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New Survey Claims to Have Answers to What Women Want From Sex Lives

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WebMD Health News

Oct. 27, 2000 (Boston) -- Anyone else who makes phone calls to complete strangers to ask them about their sex lives would probably get arrested. But when you're with the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, surveying heterosexual women about their relationships is all in a day's work.

What Kinsey researchers found in a computerized telephone survey of about 1,000 heterosexual women is that mood, general well-being, and relationship factors seem to be the most important contributors to their sexual well-being, reports John Bancroft, MD, director of the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Ind. He presented the survey findings here this week at a meeting on female sexual function.

Bancroft and colleagues found that, in general, women say their partner's sexual satisfaction is more important to them than their own orgasms. Women also said that it was more important to them that they feel emotionally close to their partners and that they feel comfortable talking about sexual activities with their partners.

When he asked, "What do women want?" Sigmund Freud may have been crying out in frustration at his inability to understand women and their sexual and emotional needs. But Freud, unlike the Kinsey researchers, didn't have the advantage of computer technology and automated telephone dialing to help him find out.

The Kinsey researchers conducted a random telephone survey that eventually yielded 1,030 women who were willing to take part. The women were all between 20 and 65 years of age, and all had said they had been in heterosexual relationships with their current partners for at least six months. About two-thirds of the respondents were white, and one-third were black. Because survey participants needed to have English as their first language, there were not enough Hispanic women to be included in the study sample, Bancroft says.

According to the survey respondents, factors that primarily determined women's sexual well-being were, in order of importance:

  1. General well-being -- defined as having energy, being calm, and being in a good mood
  2. Subjective sexual experience -- emotional reactions during lovemaking
  3. Attractiveness of their partners
  4. Sexual response -- bodily changes, including orgasm, that occur during lovemaking
  5. Frequency of sexual activity with their partner
  6. Their partner's sensitivity to their needs
  7. Their own health
  8. Their partner's health

They also found some interesting but quite controversial differences when they analyzed survey responses along racial lines. They found that sexual response was the most important predictor for sexual well-being among all black women in the survey, but it was only seventh among all white respondents. "The black women were more likely to report feeling positive about their own sexuality. The white women attached considerable importance to 'feeling emotionally close' to their partner; the black women felt that 'feeling comfortable talking about sex" was more important to their sexual happiness," says Bancroft in a written statement.

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