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Sexual Satisfaction: Quantity vs. Quality

Feb 27, 2013

How often do people have sex? How about married people, single people, or people of certain age groups?

You’ve probably seen TV news stories or magazine articles about the sex lives of “average” people. And it’s human nature to wonder how your sex life compares.

But the survey results don’t tell us whether all this sex is quality sex. Couples could be having sex twice a week, but if one partner isn’t enjoying the experience, it might not matter all that much.

Today, we’ll take a look at the quantity vs. quality dynamic in human sexuality.

Quantity of Sex - How Much Is Right?

If you’re not having the average amount of sex according to the latest report, does that mean there’s something wrong?

Not at all. The reported numbers are averages – some people are having more sex, some are having less.

It’s important to remember that sexual frequency varies over the lifespan of the person and the relationship. Couples at the beginning of a relationship may have sex more often than those whose relationship is more established. Older people may have sex less frequently than their younger counterparts.

Remember, too, that “sex” may be defined in many ways. For some, it’s intercourse. For others, activities like oral sex, genital stimulation, caressing, kissing, and cuddling are sexual activities, too, and count as “having sex.”

When people compare themselves to others, they run the risk of feeling inadequate. If everyone else is having more sex than they are, is there something wrong? Are they missing out on something?

Not necessarily. If both partners are happy with their sexual frequency, if their activities satisfy them, then there is no need to worry about what others are doing.

Now, let’s talk about quality.

Quality of Sexual Relations

After having sex with your partner, how do you feel? Satisfied? Connected?

Do you feel like something is missing? Could something be better?

If you’re not feeling satisfied, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Communication. Couples don’t always talk about their sexual relationship. They may have been having sex for years without a single conversation about it. Granted, it’s sometimes awkward, but being open about what pleases you – or doesn’t – can make sex more enjoyable for you both. Perhaps one partner is too tired to have sex at night. Would morning sex be better? Would oral sex be preferable or more exciting? Have fun with the conversation. What fantasies might you share? The discussion may lead to some explorations that bring you closer together as a couple.
  • Compromise. Within this discussion, there’s a chance one partner might want something the other doesn’t. This may be a change in frequency: one partner’s libido may be higher than the other’s. It could be trying new activities, such as anal sex or using sex toys. Be candid about what appeals to you. But be willing to compromise if your partner is not on board with your suggestion. This applies in reverse, too. If your partner suggests something you’re not keen about, state your feelings, but see if there’s a something similar that will satisfy you both. In the spirit of compromise, be gentle and caring. If your partner suggests something you don’t want, don’t dismiss it negatively. He or she mustered up some courage to mention it, a sign that he or she trusts you. Keep that trust strong.

What do you think? Is sexual frequency important to you? Do you find yourself comparing your situation to others? How have you and your partner improved the quality of your sexual relationship? Feel free to tell us in the comments.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Juraskova, Ilona, PhD, et al.

“Quantity vs. Quality: An Exploration of the Predictors of Posttreatment Sexual Adjustment for Women Affected by Early Stage Cervical and Endometrial Cancer”

(Full-text. First published online: July 30, 2012)

The New York Times

Parker-Pope, Tara

“Sex and the Long-Term Relationship”

(March 22, 2011)

Psychology Today

Herbenick, Debby, PhD, MPH

“How to Have Better Sex: Advice For Your Younger Self”

(November 28, 2009)

Muise, Amy, PhD

“The Ins and Outs of Sexual Frequency”

(June 8, 2012)


“How often do married people have sex?”

(March 6, 2010)