Lesbians May Have Sex Less Often, But When They Do It, They Make It Count

September 12, 2014 by Justin Lehmiller

Over the past 30 years, much has been said and written about “lesbian bed death,” or the idea that long-term romantic relationships between women tend to be characterized by rather inactive sex lives. This originally stemmed from an observation in national survey data that female same-sex couples have a lower sexual frequency than both mixed-sex (male-female) couples and male same-sex couples [1], a finding that has been replicated many times since. However, some scholars have been critical of using these results to support the existence of “lesbian bed death” because they fail to take into account how much time women in same-sex relationships actually spend on each sexual event. Is it possible that lower sexual frequency in female-female relationships might be offset by a longer duration of sexual activity? A new study published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality suggests that this might just be the case [2].

In this study, 822 individuals aged 18-79 completed a survey about their sex lives. All participants were currently involved in a romantic relationship, and just over half of those relationships (51.8%) involved a same-sex partner. Participants were asked questions about how often they have sex, how long they typically spend having sex, and how sexually satisfied they are.

Consistent with past research, women in same-sex relationships reported having sex significantly less often than persons in both mixed-sex and male same-sex relationships. However, women in same-sex relationships reported significantly longer durations of sexual activity than all other groups.

Consider this: for women in same-sex relationships, the median (50th percentile) time spent on sex was 30-45 minutes; in comparison, the median for everyone else was 15-30 minutes. It is also worth noting about 20% of women in same-sex relationships reported spending an hour or more on sex, while durations of this length were far less common among the other types of couples studied.

It is also worth noting that there were no differences in sexual satisfaction across couple types. This suggests that the group differences in sexual frequency were counterbalanced by the group differences in sexual duration.

These findings are another nail in the coffin for the notion of “lesbian bed death.” Although women in same-sex relationships may be having sex less often than other types of couples, they appear to make their time count and seem to be just as sexually satisfied as everyone else.

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[1] Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1983). American couples: Money, work, sex. New York: Morrow.

[2] Blair, K. L., & Pukall, C. F. (2014). Can less be more? Comparing duration vs. frequency of sexual encounters in same-sex and mixed-sex relationships. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23(2), 123-136.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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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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