"It is possible that believing that one's sexual partner expects sex
to be perfect leads to sexual performance anxiety which may then
have a negative effect on a women's sexual function, causing
difficulties becoming aroused and lubricated during sexual
encounters," said study co-author Laura Harvey, a psychology
researcher at the University of Kent in the U.K.
"Another explanation is that women who believe that their partner
expects and puts pressure on them to be the perfect sexual partner
may experience negative feelings towards their partner, which may in
turn negatively affect their sexual function," Harvey added by
To understand how different types of sexual perfectionism may
influence women's experiences in bed, Harvey and co-author Joachim
Stoeber of the University of Kent surveyed 366 women aged 17-69
The survey included 230 students who were about 20 years old on
average as well 136 internet users who were typically around 30
They looked at what's known as sexual perfectionism that is
self-oriented, meaning the standards people impose on themselves;
partner-oriented, or the expectations people have for their
partners; partner-prescribed, or what people think their mate wants;
and socially-prescribed, or the standards people think they're
supposed to meet based on cultural norms.
Setting high standards wasn't necessarily bad when it was women
establishing these goals for themselves. This was linked to
increased desire, arousal and lubrication as well as higher
self-esteem, the study found.
By contrast, women who focused on sexual ideals imposed by society
tended to have lower self-esteem - just as low as the women who
thought their lovers demanded perfection.
Sexual anxiety ran higher for women who set high standards for their
partners, and even higher still when women thought their lovers
expected perfection from them.
After the initial survey, researchers followed up with a subset of
164 women three to six months later, asking the same questions about
Over time, partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism predicted
increases in sexual anxiety and decreases in sexual esteem, arousal
and lubrication, researchers report in the Archives of Sexual
One limitation of the study is that many women failed to complete
the second round of surveys, making it harder to draw firm
conclusions about how sexual dynamics might change over time, the
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In addition, one third of the women surveyed didn't have an ongoing
sexual relationship at the time of the first survey, and they
responded to questions based on their recollections of past
encounters. The attitudes about sex reflected by the relatively
young survey population may also not represent how women experience
sex and sexuality as they age.
Still, the findings highlight struggles that many people may
experience with sex, said Michael Aaron, a sex therapist in private
practice in New York who wasn't involved in the study.
"Our society is filled with sexual myths and misconceptions, mostly
stemming from a combination of our culture's puritanical roots, as
well as rampant consumerism, which feeds off individual insecurities
to sell unnecessary products," Aaron said by email.
Younger women are more susceptible to this kind of pressure than
older women, Aaron added.
By their 30s and 40s, women tend to know what they want in bed and
have no problem telling their partner about it, said Christian Joyal,
a psychology researcher at the University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres
who wasn't involved in the study.
Earlier in life, women may be less certain of their own desires or
less confident articulating what they want, Joyal said by email.
If they did speak to their partners, these women might find their
lovers actually didn't expect perfection.
Men, not just women, should understand this because it may hold the
secret to better sex.
"The key is communication," Joyal said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1SAqArd Archives of Sexual Behavior, online
March 28, 2016.
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