More than 50 years on from The Rolling Stones’ hit tune ‘Satisfaction’, the question remains – what is sexual satisfaction and how can it be measured?
Now researchers from Southern Cross University have taken up the challenge of creating a fair measure for the elusive and fascinating subject of satisfaction in the bedroom.
Project supervisor Dr Desirée Kozlowski and psychology Honours student Doug Williams have developed a new sexual satisfaction online questionnaire and are inviting people over 18 years of age from all walks of life to complete it anonymously.
Dr Kozlowski said the issue with the way sexual satisfaction was measured currently was that people with very low expectations and low experiences could score higher than someone with very high expectations who doesn’t quite meet them.
‘We are trying to develop a new, more nuanced instrument to measure people’s attitudes around sexual experiences as well as their levels of satisfaction, feelings of closeness and intimacy and enjoyment, and deliver a snapshot of sexual satisfaction in a general sample.’
The questionnaire focuses on the overall satisfaction of the participants’ sex lives rather than the mechanics of sex, with the purpose of producing a better understanding of sexual satisfaction in the community which could eventually be used in clinical settings.
‘With these types of studies there is a risk of only getting responses from people who are interested in sexual activity, but we want a full representative sample of the diverse population, and encouraging anyone from age 18 to the elderly and from all walks of life to take part.
Dr Kozlowski said the benefits of sexual activity shouldn’t be understated.
‘Although people can be happy and healthy without having sex, for many of us having a satisfying sexual life is an important and valuable aspect of our wellbeing and intimately related to quality of life. Sex offers has a range of benefits for health and wellbeing as it can reduce stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels and boost immunity,’ she said.
‘For people in later stages of life the positive payoffs of sexual activity include higher vitality, psychological wellbeing, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, and looking younger.’
Dr Kozlowski said this study will inform future development of the instrument and studies around the topic and, in the tradition of the pioneering sexuality research of Masters and Johnson, the new measure could eventually be used in clinical settings to assist people to improve their quality of life.
‘There was a fascinating study recently released by the Heart Foundation which showed very few GPs regularly raise sexual life questions with survivors of heart attack, even though the patients themselves report it as a big concern. Sex is an area of life that is under-examined, under-discussed and that we are often slightly ashamed of.
‘I believe sex should be part of our conversations around health and happiness. Hopefully this research will get people thinking about it and perhaps by filling in the survey people can decide what they value and start some conversations that lead to richer relationships.’
To take part in the survey anonymously, visit scu.edu.au/survey
Doug Williams will present the results of the study at the Psychology Honours Research Conference at Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour campus in October.