Equality in relationships is associated with greater relationship satisfaction, which in turn predicts higher sexual desire among women, according to a new study. The findings, published in The Journal of Sex Research, shed new light on the relational contexts that influence female sexual desire.
“Exploring the issue of female sexual desire is fascinating given its complexity and how neglected this area has been,” said Simone Buzwell, a senior lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology and corresponding author of the new study.
“I decided to explore the issue of low female sexual desire specifically as it is commonly reported in clinical settings and is strongly resistant to treatment. While a lack of desire is not an issue for all women, a lack of sexual desire does cause significant distress for a substantial number and their intimate partners. However, given the deficit of research in this area, the factors that contribute to low female sexual desire are not understood and how these factors impact women’s well-being has rarely been examined.”
“My decision to start examining this area was stimulated when I read Cherkasskaya & Rosario’s (2019) Relational and Bodily Experiences Theory of female sexual desire, which proposes that female desire is multidimensional, with solo and dyadic components,” Buzwell explained. “I wanted to know if this theory would be useful when exploring the factors contributing to low female sexual desire and would provide important suggestions for clinicians working with women in this space.”
In the study, 299 Australian women aged 18 to 39 years were asked to think about their current relationship over the past year and respond to a variety of questions, such as “Who was more aware of the other’s feelings?”, “Who got to use their time the way he/she wanted to?”, and “Who altered their habits and ways of doing things more to assist or please the other?” The participants scored their responses on a 5-point scale from mostly my partner, to equal, to mostly me.
The researchers found that participants who mostly answered “equal” were more likely to agree with statements such as “My relationship with my partner brings me much happiness” compared to those in unequal relationships. Women with greater relationship satisfaction, in turn, reported a higher level of sexual desire in a partnered context.
The results highlight “that the low female sexual desire is likely to be a problem that both people in the relationship can solve together,” Buzwell told PsyPost. “It is not the ‘fault’ of one individual, and it would be useful to consider factors beyond the sexual realm that may be contributing to the problem.”
Sexual desire in a solitary context, in contrast, was not significantly associated with relationship equality or satisfaction. “This signifies that the quality of women’s relationships has little bearing on their experience of solitary desire and highlights the distinction between contexts of desire,” the researchers said.
“It will be exciting to see future research which explores if making changes to the equity in intimate relationships results in more sexually fulfilling partnerships,” Buzwell said. “That is, our research showed there is a link between relationship equity and desire — now we need to examine if changing relationship dynamics can resolve the issue of low female desire.”
“The area of female sexual desire has been neglected for far too long and we hope that it can be recognized that fairer sex can lead to better sex for all,” she added.
The study, “Fairer Sex: The Role of Relationship Equity in Female Sexual Desire“, was authored by Eva Johansen, Astrid Harkin, Fionna Keating, Amelia Sanchez, and Simone Buzwell.