A study focusing on young men in Florida found that they experienced heightened feelings of masculinity when imagining their partners achieving orgasm through intercourse or manual/oral stimulation they performed, compared to when they imagined their partners orgasming from the use of a vibrator. The paper was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Sexual activities hold great importance for many individuals. From a biological standpoint, sex is essential for reproduction and species continuation. Psychologically, it can reinforce emotional connections and intimacy between partners, thereby contributing to mental well-being and relationship satisfaction. Socially, sex plays a vital role in human relationships and cultural practices, deeply entwined with personal identity, social norms, and values.
An orgasm represents the climax of sexual pleasure, characterized by intense physical and emotional sensations, often accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions and a heightened sense of euphoria. Many view it as a hallmark of successful sexual encounters. Research indicates that men often perceive a woman’s orgasm as a gift provided by the man. Young adult men report feelings of confidence and achievement when their female partner experiences pleasure and orgasm with them. Conversely, if their partner does not achieve orgasm, some men may feel disappointed and view the sexual encounter as unsuccessful.
Study author Milan C. Savoury and his colleagues wanted to build on previous studies and examine whether men’s feelings of masculinity, sexual esteem, and accomplishment were influenced by the method by which their female partner experienced orgasm. They organized a study in which young adult men were asked to imagine their sexual partner orgasming in different ways – in an intercourse with them, as a consequence of their oral /manual stimulation of the partner’s clitoris, or that they orgasmed due to their use of a clitoral vibrator on the partner.
The study involved 193 male students, taking an introductory psychology course at a major university in the southeastern United States, who participated for partial course credit. All participants identified as heterosexual men and were assigned the male sex at birth. Their ages primarily ranged from 18 to 24 years, with 6% being older than 24.
Participants completed an assessment of dysfunctional sexual beliefs (the Sexual Dysfunctional Beliefs Questionnaire) and of knowledge about the female clitoris (the Clitoral Knowledge Questionnaire). They were then randomly assigned to one of three experimental scenarios (vignettes) instructing them to imagine their partner achieving orgasm through different means: sexual intercourse with them, manual/oral stimulation, or vibrator use.
After reading their assigned vignette, participants completed assessments of the feelings of masculinity (the Affect and Arousal Scale) and of sexual esteem (the Sexuality Scale).
The results showed that those who imagined their partner orgasming from intercourse or their manual/oral stimulation reported feeling more masculine and a greater sense of accomplishment compared to those envisioning orgasm from vibrator use. Notably, individuals with more extensive clitoral knowledge felt more masculine when imagining their partner orgasming from their oral/manual stimulation, but this was not the case in the other scenarios.
Overall, the men participating in the study had moderately high levels of dysfunctional sexual beliefs. Their knowledge of the clitoris was also relatively accurate, but there were some common mistakes. For example, 40% of participants believed that the clitoris was on the front wall of the vaginal canal.
“The results of this study indicate that young adult college men view women’s orgasms as an accomplishment and a reflection of their masculinity. Because this type of performance pressure has been noted to interfere with men’s sexual functioning, these results bode for better sex education to help men separate their partner’s orgasms and their feelings about themselves,” the study authors concluded.
The study sheds light on the perceptions of sexual intercourse by young men. However, it also has limitations that need to be taken into account. Notably, all the participants were university students and sexual activities were only imagined. Studies on individuals of different age or demographics might not yield equal results. Additionally, some of the deficiencies in participants’ clitoral knowledge might be due to issues of translating practical knowledge into written language.
The study, “Feelings of Masculinity and Accomplishment in Response to Penetrative versus Non‑Penetrative Orgasms”, was authored by Milan C. Savoury, Eliyabeth A. Mahar, and Laurie B. Mintz.