Sex Q&A

Sex Question Friday: Multiple Orgasms, Sex on the Beach, and the Link Between Sex and Happiness

February 24, 2012 by Justin Lehmiller

Every Friday on the blog, I answer a few burning sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re going to talk about whether people really can have back-to-back orgasms, whether it’s a good idea to have sex on the beach (actual sex, not the cocktail), and the association between sex and personal happiness.

Are multiple orgasms a myth?

This one is actually not a myth. Multiple orgasms are real and were first documented by scientists several decades ago. However, experiencing several orgasms within a single sexual encounter is a much more common experience for women than it is for men. For instance, in one study of over 800 female college graduates, nearly 43% of them reported having had multiple orgasms [1]. In contrast, studies of men have found few guys with this ability. The reason for this likely has something to do with the fact that men typically experience a refractory period after orgasm, where no amount of additional stimulation will lead to climax until a certain amount of time has passed. Depending upon the guy, this could be minutes or hours. Some studies have suggested that the refractory period is related to neurological and hormonal changes that occur after the male orgasm. However, we do not fully understand it. All we know is that a refractory period is common in men, but uncommon in women, which helps to explain the observed sex difference in ability to have multiple orgasms.

Is it safe to have sex on the beach?

From a legal standpoint, sex on the beach isn’t particularly safe. Because most people don’t own their own beach, the only beaches available for sexual purposes would be public property, in which case you would most likely be legally prohibited from having sex. This is likely to be the case even if it’s technically a “nude” beach (just because clothing is optional doesn’t mean it is permissible or acceptable to have a sex party). Thus, you would need to ask yourself whether it’s worth fulfilling this fantasy at the potential cost of being arrested. Of course, keep in mind that beaches are also full of sand, salt water, and broken sea shells. While those things never seem like an issue in the movies or on television, they might make sex on the beach less than ideal in reality.

How is sexual activity related to happiness?

Several studies have found that people who have more sex tend to report greater happiness [2]. However, virtually all of this research is correlational in nature, meaning that we cannot say whether sex truly causes people to be happier. It could just as plausibly be the case that happy people tend to engage in sex more often (and this also makes a lot of sense). Thus, although there is indeed an association between sex and happiness, we don’t know for sure which one comes first.

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[1] Darling, C. A., Davidson, J. K., & Jennings, D. A. (1991). The female sexual response revisited: Understanding the multiorgasmic experience in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 527-540. doi: 10.1007/BF01550952

[2] Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2004). Money, sex and happiness: An empirical study. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 106, 393-415. doi: 10.1111/j.0347-0520.2004.00369.x

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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