Why you should care
Man or woman, your partner probably knows when you’re just faking it.
If your partner just doesn’t do it for you between the sheets, you might resort to faking it. But he or she can probably hear right through those overly drawn-out moans.
At least that’s the case for committed hetero relationships, according to scientists at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Their study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in April, identified sexual communication — when partners tell each other what turns them on or off — and the ability to read emotions as crucial factors for predicting how accurately people can tell whether their partners really are feeling it in the bedroom.
The upshot: The better you communicate with your partner in the boudoir, the better you are at gauging that person’s sexual satisfaction. We suspect you’ll have better luck faking it in a one-night stand. Perhaps more surprisingly, the study also shook up the stereotype that men suck at telling a fake orgasm from the real deal. The scientists found that:
Men and women are equally adept at determining their partners’ level of sexual satisfaction.
The researchers split up 84 married or live-in heterosexual couples and asked them to complete questionnaires about their levels of sexual satisfaction and those of their partners. Both men’s and women’s predictions of their partners’ sexual satisfaction matched up pretty closely with their partners’ reported levels of satisfaction.
Specifically, the correlation was 0.67 when men did the predicting and a nearly identical 0.66 when women did. Neither is that far off from a perfect correlation of 1.00, suggesting that both sexes are equally accurate at determining whether they’re truly pleasing their partners, and that men might be ever so slightly better.
But the researchers saw large variations among individual participants: Some couples were very good at predicting their partners’ satisfaction, while others were awful at it. Investigating those variations, they found that people who reported better sexual communication with their partners could more accurately tell whether those noises were for real. And “even if sexual communication was lacking, a person could still be fairly accurate in gauging his or her partner’s sexual satisfaction if he or she was able to read emotions well,” said Erin Fallis, a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo and the study’s lead author.
Her research challenges earlier findings suggesting that people overestimate their partners’ satisfaction. In a study reported in the 1994 book The Social Organization of Sexuality, 43.5 percent of men said that their primary partners always climaxed with them, but only 28.6 percent of women responded that they actually did.
Orgasm is only one slice of the sexual satisfaction pie, which also includes factors like self-esteem and stress levels.
A Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy study published in 2000 found that women were less perceptive: 78.2 percent believed their partners were satisfied, while only 69.9 percent of men reported being legitimately satisfied. Meanwhile, 82.9 percent of men said their partners were satisfied, close to the 79.5 percent of women who reported satisfaction.
But it’s “difficult to extract firm conclusions about the accuracy of people’s judgments of their partners’ sexual satisfaction from these studies,” Fallis and her colleagues wrote. The older studies looked at individuals instead of couples, and the first focused solely on orgasm — only one slice of the sexual satisfaction pie, which also includes factors like self-esteem and stress levels.
Couples tend to follow what’s known as a “sexual script” — certain patterns and routines — especially in long-term relationships, Fallis said. She hypothesizes that partners who accurately rate each other’s sexual satisfaction can better decide whether to stick to the script or spice it up.
But does being on the same page as your partner necessarily mean hotter sex? To find out, stay tuned for the researchers’ next study, which will investigate just how much the couples they surveyed actually steamed up the sack.
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