Study suggests feeling sexually wanted by your partner is more important to men than we think
Gender norms in heterosexual relationships dictate that men are responsible for the desire of women and that they initiate sex while feeling wanted themselves is relatively unimportant. But according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual and Marriage Therapy, the overwhelming majority of men (95%) say feeling wanted by their partner is important to their sexual experiences, and 88% say there are things their partners can do to help them feel more wanted .
Many studies have shown that the feeling of being wanted is important for sexual arousal in women. But sexual desire has been much less studied in men, and few studies have explored men’s feelings about being wanted by their female partners.
âI started my career researching women’s sexual desire. Partly that’s because I’m a female (cis-gender) and knew how many factors can impact women’s sexuality. But it’s also because when I first started studying sexual desire, researchers were only studying female sexual desire, âsaid study author Sarah Hunter Murray, a licensed marriage and family therapist who wrote the book “Not Always in the Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex and Relationships.”
âWhile I didn’t question this early in my career, over time I have come to wonder why we are completely ignoring the topic of men’s sexual desire. The assumptions seemed to be: there is nothing to study about the desire of men because the desire of men is simple, direct and superficial. And I realized that I needed to speak directly to men to examine this widely held hypothesis.
In light of this research gap, study authors Murray and his co-author Lori Brotto asked a sample of 300 men in heterosexual relationships to answer open ended questions about their sexual desirability.
The men were between the ages of 18 and 65, and the length of their romantic relationships ranged from 7 months to 45 years. In an online questionnaire, men were asked how important it is to them to be wanted by their partner. They were then asked to describe the things their partner is currently doing to make them feel wanted, and if there were other things their partner could do to help them feel wanted.
The study authors coded the men’s responses and identified common themes. Almost all men (95%) said feeling wanted by their partner was important to them. Men have used different words to express the importance of feeling wanted. Most of them (58%) said it was âvery importantâ to them, 20% said it was âextremely importantâ and 8% used even stronger terms like âparamountâ.
When asked what their partners are currently doing to make them feel wanted, 41% described the ways their partners expressed their attraction verbally, 34% mentioned that their partners initiate physical contact, 28% said mentioned that their partners initiate physical activity and 19% described their partners being enthusiastic / aroused during sex.
Next, 88% of men said there were things their partners could do to make them feel more wanted. Almost half of the men (49%) suggested that they wanted their partners to be more assertive / dominant during sex. Additionally, 17% wanted their partners to initiate sex more often, 15% wanted their partners to clearly communicate their sexual needs and desires, and 14% simply wanted more sexual interest from their partners.
Interestingly, when describing things their partners might do to show their desire for sex, many men described actions that were romantic rather than sexual. For example, 18% of men wanted more romance from their partners, 16% wanted more non-sexual touching, and 19% implied they wanted more flirtation / teasing from their partners.
âAlthough we tend to believe that men are the ones who ‘get the desire’ and are the ones who pursue sexual activity and show desire for their partners, men also want to be wanted in return. The men in my study described that they didn’t just want their partner to initiate more sexual activity, they wanted to be romantic, âMurray told PsyPost.
âFor example, asking their partner to rub their feet, give them a passing kiss, snuggle up to them on the couch, or tell them they were cute or sexy. The implications for this are, in my opinion, quite significant. This not only describes a softer and more responsive side of male sexuality than what we usually talk about, it also suggests that we can be wrong about men’s sexual desire and that we should think more critically about the sexuality of men. men rather than relying on potentially outdated and harmful assumptions.
The results contradict the idea that feeling sexually wanted is not important to men’s sexual experiences. Indeed, only 5% said that feeling wanted was not particularly important to them. Themes in the men’s responses also suggested that they wished to feel more wanted by their partners and that they wanted their partners to take more initiative during sex. The results may be evidence of a men’s desire for more equal sexual experiences where women and men demonstrate desire, initiative and enthusiasm for sex.
âSocial norms about men and women are so pervasive. We are saturated with very specific messages from an early age and they reinforce themselves throughout our teenage years and adulthood. While we can criticize these standards as being narrow and outdated, breaking with the standard still takes time and is not always as easy as we would like, âMurray said. “However, I think it can be very rewarding for us to consider whether the messages we have received about our sexuality in the past are working for us and our relationships now in order to express ourselves more honestly and authentically.”
The study authors noted that their findings are limited to the experiences of heterosexual men, and that it would be useful for future studies to examine similarities or differences in how men of different sexualities experience sexual desirability.
âI was particularly interested in how those of us who have been raised and identify as men interact with those of us who have been raised and identify as women when it comes to sex. It’s because men and women continue to receive very gender-specific sexual messages and I think it’s fascinating to examine what happens when these very different messages collide, âMurray explained.
“However, that means the results of this study may not apply to men who either don’t date women or who do so but don’t identify as heterosexual. I’m interested to see if we can expand the research. on sexual desire to include more sexual orientations as well as trans men.
The study, “I Want You To Want Me: A Qualitative Analysis of Straight Men’s Desire to Feel Wanted in Intimate Relationships,” was written by Sarah Hunter Murray and Lori Brotto.