Gender Differences in Getting Sexually Adventurous

In our survey on sexual adventurousness of 3100 people (1731 men and 1369 women), we found that women engaged in significantly more sexually adventurous behaviors than men. I thought this was a really interesting finding considering how much women are constructed to be the member of a heterosexual couple with lower sexual desire, and constructed to be less sexual than their male counterparts. So I’d like to take this post to break down the gender differences by each activity we assessed using chi square tests, which are used to statistically test the difference between two groups (here, men and women) on a particular variable of interest (here, whether they engaged in each sexual behavior or not).

First though, I think it is important to break down how we defined “sexually adventurous” – we started with a very long list of a number of behaviors that were on the outskirts of what one might refer to as “vanilla sex”. Then this list was reviewed by a panel of experts and a panel of sexually active non-experts who determined which activities stayed and which ones were thrown out. We wanted a range of sexually adventurous activities, with milder activities such as talking dirty or having sex with the lights on at one end of the spectrum and more risque activities such as threesomes at the other end of the spectrum. The reviewers rated the activities and when there wasn’t 90% agreement (assessed using Kappa coefficients), the activity was removed from the list. We began with 35 activities and ended up with 22 sexually adventurous activities in the final list.

Women were significantly more likely than men to engage in: 
Talking dirty during foreplay during sex

  • 76.1% of women engaged in this and 63.2% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Sharing fantasies verbally

  • 63.9% of women engaged in this and 50.5% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Keeping the lights on during sex

  • 92.2% of the women engaged in this and 89.9% of the men engaged in this, p < .05

Exhibitionist sexual behavior with a partner (e.g., masturbating for your partner)

  • 66.4% of women engaged in this and 49.0% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Having sex with a chance of being seen/overheard (e.g., in a friend/family member’s home)

  • 68.2% of women engaged in this and 54.7% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Stripping for a partner

  • 44.6% of women engaged in this and 33.4% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Wearing sexy lingerie or underwear

  • 89.4% of women engaged in this and 44.4% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Anal sex (penetrative or receptive)

  • 48.9% of women engaged in this and 38.4% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Some form of light kinky behavior with a partner (e.g., handcuffing a partner)

  • 53.0% of women engaged in this and 40.5% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Sex with more than just the two of them within the context of their relationship (e.g., threesome, group sex)

  • 9.6% of women engaged in this and 6.4% of men engaged in this, p < .01

Using technology to have long-distance sex (e.g., sexting/skype sex/phone sex)

  • 55.7% of women engaged in this and 37.0% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Role playing (e.g., acting out a scenario, using props/costumes)

  • 22.9% of women engaged in this and 16.5% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Spanking during sex

  • 67.7% of women engaged in this and 43.8% of men engaged in this, p < .001

Men were significantly more likely than women to engage in:
Using lubricants during sex

  • 81.9% of men engaged in this and 77.9% of women engaged in this, p < .01


There was no significant gender difference in having engaged in:
Reading erotica together

  • 19.8% of men engaged in this and 17.8% of women engaged in this, p = .17

Watching pornography together

  • 48.5% of the men engaged in this and 50.9% of the women engaged in this, p = .19

Incorporating a sex toy (such as a vibrator) into partnered sex

  • 62.2% of the men engaged in this and 60.1% of the women engaged in this, p = .23

Using intimacy enhancers (e.g., arousal gel or cream) during partnered sex

  • 32.3% of the men engaged in this and 30.2% of the women engaged in this, p = .22

Voyeuristic sexual behavior with a partner (e.g., watching your partner masturbate or shower)

  • 61.9% of the men engaged in this and 63.6% of the women engaged in this, p = .32

Having sex in the home but outside of the bedroom (e.g., in the kitchen, in the bathroom)

  • 82.7% of men engaged in this and 85.2% of women engaged in this, p = .06

Making a sex tape with a sex partner

  • 20.9% of men engaged in this and 21.3% of women engaged in this, p = .82

Engaged in the exploration of a fetish (e.g., foot fetish, rubber fetish)

  • 11.1% of men engaged in this and 11.8% of women engaged in this, p = .60


Important things to consider

There are a few things to consider in the context of these results. First, this is a self-reported heterosexual sample and it is certainly possible that results may differ with a non-heterosexual sample. Second, some of these behaviors (e.g., stripping for a partner, wearing sexy lingerie or underwear) are more stereotypically performed by women than by men, potentially contributing to women reporting engaging in them more often. Third, previous research has found that there is often as much variation in sexual behavior within each gender as there is between the two genders. So just because a lot of women in this sample engaged in some of these behaviors doesn’t automatically mean all women have.

Talking to your partner about getting sexually adventurous is the first step to actually doing it. By making that talk part of the foreplay, you can really integrate the important communication into the sexy time! Take a look at these activities and determine whether you are interested in them or not, and move forward from there. And remember, women don’t always have lower sexual desire than their partner. Women aren’t prudes. And women can be just as, if not more, sexually adventurous as men!

This post was originally on Good in Bed

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