What Eloisa, a housewife whose name we've changed, likes best of all is sex with her partner. "I love his body, his smell - I still find him madly attractive after sixteen years. He ca excite me just with a look," she says. She says she buys her underclothes with him in mind, and as a way of being provocative. She adds that over the years she has become less inhibited. "I have a real sexual life," she says. "My fantasies have stopped being just that and have become a real part of my daily life. My husband sometimes complains that two daily 'assaults' can be too many, but I have no trouble starting him up again - it's like a game. For me, sex is where I feel secure, strong and fulfilled. What I don't like much is bringing tenderness to bed. There are other times for that ... sex is sex," says Eloisa. Jorge (also a fictitious name), 46, is of a different opinion, though. "For me, sex is important PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ITEMS SUCH AS THIS MAY BE SUBJECT TO SUBSCRIPTION IN THE FUTURE but you can make a donation NOW, too! Please click here for more information on how to help us continue.>>>
and I value it as part of a relationship. I like her to take the initiative sometimes because it makes me feel she values me. It also raises my self-esteem. I see it as a demonstration of love. I like sex but I think I put more value on cuddles and hugs from my wife. I sometimes need clear demonstrations of tenderness, rather than pure sex." These two opinions seem to swim against the current of public conceptions. Or at the set of stereotypes regarding male or femal attitudes towards sex.
Sex for over-40s
She wants sex, he wants cuddles. This, at any rate, is the way the over-40s see things, according to Julia Heiman, who heads the Sex, Gender and Reproduction Department of the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana and is the principal author of the report. "The study presents new questions about what makes people happy with their relationships, and what role sex plays in them," says Dr. Heiman. "Contrary to what we have always believed, we realized that men appear to feel happier with their partners if these show more tenderness, while women express their happiness through sex."
In an established relationship, men get three times more satisfaction -in terms of contentment- out of tenderness (cuddles, hugs, kisses, caresses, etc.) than women. This contributes to the relationship's stability, especially in those that are long term, averaging 25 years. What is more, the study shows that women enjoy sex more as the years go by rather than at the beginning of a relationship. "This," adds Dr. Heiman, "could be because expectations change as time goes on, or because there are lifestyle changes as children grow up. But it could also mean that they are able to express their needs more clearly because they have come to know their bodies better."
The Kinsey report is based on studies made in five countries (Brazil, Germany, Japan, USA and Spain), where extensive interviews were carried out with a total of 1,009 couples. Of these, 200 were in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia and Vigo).
Javier Gómez-Zapiain heads the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatrment of the Basque Country University. He leads current research on the inter-action between sexual desire and affectionate bonding in Spain. "Julia Heiman is a world renown scientist. I'm delighted that her conclusions, within a theoretical framework, are very close to our own," he says. "To obtain a sense of well-being every human being needs to satisfy his or her own basic necessities. The most important of these is undoubtedly the affectionate bonding, or the bond in an affectionate relationship. The person who we choose as our partner plays two roles in our lives: he or she offers a sense of security and a port in the storms of precarious emotions and rocky physical and psychological situations ... All the way through life we need to feel loved and have someone to love - as well as to have our erotic and sexual needs satisfied.
The importance and priorities of these needs change over the years. In terms of survival, that is, of emotional stability, sexual desire is placed at the service of other needs, such as the erotic, and vice-versa," says Gómez-Zapiain. For all of that, the Basque researcher believes that Heiman's report underlines the reality of the fact that "women can feel very sexually satisfied, of course, not only because of the physical aspect of the experience but also as the result of the emotional quality that surrounds it. On the other hand, men could de-mystify sexual efficiency, making it somewhat more realistic, giving it an importance that is closer to their needs in terms of emotional security."
"I am surprised by the new Kinsey report," says Miren Larrazábal, President of the Federation of Sexology and Psycholgy clinics of Spain. "It confirms scientifically that when one of the two partners are not satisfied in any one of the three aspects of the sexual system (attachment, sexuality and caring, as demonstrated by the research of Gómez-Zapiain), problems soon follow. If the partnership is long term, then passion comes through intimacy, in other words, long lasting partnerships usually have a high quality of sexual relationship."
Rosario Castaño, sexologist at the Sexual Disfunction Unit of the Palacios Institute for Women's Health and Medicine, who also leads an important investigation into the menopause, says, "Pleasure happens when neither partner renounces anything, which leads to, and preserves, spontaneity in sexual encounters. These can be enhanced over time because a woman gets to know her body better and takes responsibility for her own pleasure and excitement." However, when the opposite happens, when "one of the two feels that the other takes control and connects only with his or her pleasure, sex becomes boring and mechanical."
Castaño likes the coherence of the new Kinsey material. "That women like sex less than men is an old concept. It is also untrue. What happens is that there are still numerous social and cultural barriers. When a man wants sex he will seek it out - and the concept is accepted. But when a woman does so, her behaviour is viewed as reproachable. We haven't yet achieved equality in our intimacy."
The new report, the first to look at the sexual parameters and the relationships among the middle-aged, or over (the men had an average age of 55 and the women, 52), with children (99% had descendants), was carried out with a questionnaire. A total of 125 questions covered such things as sexual satisfaction, state of health, frequency of intimate contact (i.e. kisses, caresses, hugs, etc.), the importance of orgasm, happiness within the relationship and sexual frequency, among others.
Other interesting conclusions
The report says that those who have had many relationships throughout their lives, enjoy their sexual lives the least. There are also considerable differences among countries. The study concludes that Japanese men and women enjoy sex the most, which also applies to Brazilian women. "We don't know why these differences exist," says Dr. Heiman, "but we now know that contentment with the sexual life and life in a relationship are up to certain point, two separate things that impact men and women differently."
No study gives a definitive answer to a complex series of questions about the key issues of excitement and desire, "but it is quite clear that certain myths tend to disappear. Especially the one that says that men only want sex, and women only want love. A long term relationship does not mean less sex and less pleasure," concludes Rosario Castaño.