This is a dissertation by Michele O'Mara, PhD on the topic of Sexual Frequency and Relationship Satisfaction Among Lesbians.  Tap here to read the entire dissertation in a pdf format.

CHAPTER THREE

INTRODUCTION TO STUDY

Sex between women has not been well researched, and consequently it has not been well understood. This study represents a very narrow examination of one aspect of lesbian sexuality, that of sexual frequency. Does sexual frequency correlate with relationship satisfaction? That is the question this research is designed to answer. This chapter will discuss the research method, participant recruitment strategies, and an overview of the collected sample.

Research Method

The research method used in this study was an online survey. The survey was designed with internet-based software available at surveygizmo.com, and is titled Lesbian Sex: Frequency vs. Satisfaction. Twenty-five questions were included in the survey. The survey software estimated this task would take roughly nine minutes to complete. Twenty of the questions were multiple choice answers, and four of these multiple choice questions allowed participants to type in their own answer when they chose “other.” Two questions were fill-in-the-blank, and three were matrix questions that utilized a rating scale for different variables.

While there is only one survey, there are two versions of this survey that depend on how participants answer question number three. This question asks, “What is the length of your current or most recent relationship?” If women report that they have never had a relationship, the survey automatically jumps from question three to question thirteen. These nine questions are skipped because they are all related to intimate partnerships with women, and as such are not applicable to women who have never had an intimate partnership.

The survey begins with an inquiry about how lesbians define sex. This question was placed first in an attempt to pique the interest of the survey participant, creating curiosity about what else the survey will ask. Question one lists the most commonly reported sexually related practices among lesbians, and asks the survey participant to select all of the behaviors on the list that she considers to be sex. The development of this question was based on two contemporary books about lesbian sex. The first book is Felice Newman’s The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us, which details a long list of what she refers to as “erotic play.” The second book is The New Lesbian Sex Book by Wendy Caster which is another extensive overview of the sexual activity of contemporary lesbians.

The next three questions cover sexual orientation, length of relationship, and whether or not the relationship is open to outside partners. Strategically placed to instill confidence that the survey will be easy and quick to complete, these questions require little thought, and can be quickly answered. The survey starts to get more personal with questions five and six. Question five asks the participant how she characterizes her need, or lack thereof, to have sex with her partner. Question six inquires about the perceived pleasure associated with sex with her partner. These questions will likely cause the survey participant some pause as she evaluates her feelings.

The survey’s most time consuming question is question number seven, which is designed to reveal the specific sexual behaviors of lesbians, as well as the frequency with which they engage in these behaviors. Like question number one, this question was developed by reading contemporary books on lesbian sex. Fourteen different behaviors were assessed to determine how regularly, if ever, lesbians engage in these behaviors. Included in the options are kissing, finger sex, foreplay, oral sex, penetration/vibrator use, humping or tribadism, multiple orgasms, mutual masturbation, use of erotica or porn, anal sex, fisting, phone or internet sex, adding a third person, and sadomasochism (S & M)/ bondage.

Questions eight through twelve are all about sexual frequency. Questions eight and nine are-fill-in-the-blank questions. A fill-in-the-blank question encourages participants to reflect more diligently before they answer. In question eight, the participant provides the number of times she had sex with her partner in the last six months. In question nine, she enters the number of times she desired to have sex with her partner in the last six months. This allowed for a very thorough comparison between how much sex each woman is having and how much sex she would like to be having. Also related to sexual frequency is question nine, which targets the frequency of sex with people outside of her relationship. Completing the inquiry regarding sexual frequency are questions eleven and twelve, which address changes in sexual frequency over the course of the relationship.

Attention turns to the characteristics of a relationship that lesbians consider important. Question thirteen is presented in a matrix format, and asks participants to rate the importance of eight key relationship components which include physical/sexual connection, emotional connection, intellectual compatibility, spiritual connection, social compatibility, sexual frequency, physical pleasure during sex, and time spent during sexual encounters, as well as overall relationship satisfaction.

The next six questions address a variety of issues. Fourteen through sixteen gather facts about masturbation, orgasms, and the length of time spent engaged in sexual activity with one’s partner. Question seventeen inquires about relationship satisfaction, using the same ratings and categories of satisfaction that were used when rating the importance of these relationship characteristics in question thirteen. Question eighteen inquires about the perception of importance in sexual frequency to lesbians in general, asking if participants think that most lesbians view sexual frequency as an important part of a satisfying relationship. This question is designed to assess the cultural imprint among women as it relates to what they think is going on with other lesbians when it comes to the importance of sexual frequency. Number nineteen asks whether one of her relationships has ever ended because of sexual issues. This was designed to gain insight about whether or not sexual conflicts are a significant cause of lesbian relationships ending.

The survey winds down with questions twenty through twenty-five. All of these questions are demographic in nature, asking about each woman’s living situation, home country, home state, age, race, and how she heard about the survey. All of these are quick and easy multiple choice questions.

Recruitment

The survey was made available for public view on September 26, 2011. This researcher used three key sources to recruit lesbians to take the survey. The sources used for outreach were email, Facebook, and word of mouth. A deadline of one month was established to gather all survey responses.

On September 26th, this researcher composed an email (see Appendix A) to be sent to roughly 3,000 of her professional contacts which included followers of her blog, clients, friends of clients, and anyone else who registered to receive her free monthly newsletter. The email started with the question, “Are lesbian couples who have frequent sex more satisfied with their relationship than those who have sex less often, or never?” This question was followed by a brief explanation that this researcher was conducting a study on this topic and a request for women to participate. Women were also encouraged to share information about this survey with other women that identify as lesbian. The email included a link to the internet address which allowed readers to go directly to the online survey. The survey was available online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for one month between September 26 and October 26, 2011.

After launching the email, recruitment efforts were directed to Facebook, a popular social networking site online, to spread the word even further. On the same day the email went out, this researcher posted information to her own Facebook page which had the potential to reach 500+ people known as “friends” on Facebook. The post read:

Do you think sexual frequency correlates with relationship satisfaction for lesbians? That’s my dissertation question and I would love to have your voice in my research. This 25 question anonymous survey takes approximately 9 minutes. Will you complete this and pass the link along to your lesbian friends? I hope so!

Thank you …

https://edu.surveygizmo.com/s3/591169/b5e2bf0027a4

 

All of the members of Facebook who saw this post were then able to follow a link directly to the survey, or to share the post with others via their own Facebook page by re-posting the link, which would lengthen the survey’s reach to include a whole new set of people. Facebook was instrumental in extending the survey to the friends of friends, widening the geographic reach.

The final recruitment method was word of mouth. This researcher requested the help of others, including professionals in the field such as sexologist and committee chair Dr. Charlayne Grenci, and committee chair members Dr. Joe Kort and Dr. Claudia Rieman. Word of mouth also included outreach to classmates from the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists who lived in other states as well as personal contacts and friends that were asked directly to help spread the word about the survey.

Initially, the goal was set to get a minimum of 300 completed survey responses. Upon further study, this researcher discovered that there is an error rate involved in survey validity that decreases with each survey accumulated. For example, if 300 respondents completed the survey, there is an error rate of 5.8 % (Dominowski and Bartholet 1997). This means that the conclusions drawn from the survey may be off by 5.8 percent in either direction the question swings. Consequently, the more surveys collected, the lower the rate of error. To reach an error rate of no more than five percent, this researcher adjusted the survey response goal to a minimum of 400 surveys, and set an ideal goal of 500 surveys.

The Sample

Word about the survey spread quickly. By day five (September 30, 2011) a total of 281 surveys were completed. On October 26, the survey closed with 498 completed responses. The deadline was established to insure adequate time to complete the study and analyze the results.

The age of participants ranges from age eighteen to sixty years and beyond. The majority of women who responded to the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey are between the ages of thirty-one and fifty. The sample is not racially diverse, as ninety percent of participants are Caucasian. The sample includes women whose current or most recent relationship length ranges from never having been in a relationship to partnerships lasting twenty-one years or more. The majority of women, sixty-four percent, have been in their current or most recent relationship between one and ten years. Sixty-seven percent of survey responses came from women who live with their partner, and roughly forty percent of these women also have children in the home.

Only fourteen (3%) of the 476 survey respondents who answered question twenty-one were from outside of the U.S. Of these fourteen, four were from the United Kingdom, three from Canada, two each from Australia and Brazil, and one each from Spain, France, and Afghanistan. Because the researcher is Indiana-based, and many of her contacts were local, and the majority of survey responses came from Indiana residents. Interestingly, of the fifty states (plus the District of Columbia), only nine are not represented by a survey. The states with no representation in this research are: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

This means that forty-one percent of the remaining surveys were scattered among forty-one additional states. Only six of the forty-one states had ten or more survey responses and these states are Florida (19 responses), Illinois (16), District of Columbia (11), Kentucky (11), Pennsylvania (11), and Ohio (10). Indiana is clearly over-represented; however, the remaining forty-percent of the responses offer significant geographic diversity.

 

Table 1.  Demographics of Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey Respondents

Number of Women

Percentage of Women

AgeBetween 18-21 Years

7

2%

Between 21-30

56

12%

Between 31-40

131

28%

Between 41-50

182

39%

Between 51-60

77

16%

Over 60

18

4%

RaceCaucasian

428

90%

Black/African-American

23

5%

Declined to Respond

13

3%

Other/Multi-Racial

7

2%

Hispanic

6

1%

Asian/Pacific Islander

1

< 1%

Length of Relationship   

 

 

 

Never Had Relationship with Woman

4

1%

Less than Six Months

47

10%

Six to Eleven Months

97

10%

One to Two Years

89

18%

Three to Five Years

126

26%

Six to Ten Years

51

20%

Eleven to Twenty Years

61

12%

Twenty One Years or More

18

4%

Living StatusLive with Partner, No Kids

177

37%

Live with Partner and Kids

104

22%

Have Own Place, Spend a Few Nights Per Week with Partner

55

12%

Long-Distance Relationship

32

7%

Have Own Place, Spend Most Nights Per Week with Partner

24

5%

Live with Ex-Girlfriend

4

1%

Do Not Have a Partner

79

17%

 

 

 

Table 2.  Countries Represented by a Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey

Country

Number of Surveys

Percentage of Surveys

United States

462

97%

United Kingdom

4

1%

Canada

3

< 1%

Australia

2

< 1%

Brazil

2

< 1%

Spain

1

< 1%

France

1

< 1%

Afghanistan

1

< 1%

 

Table 3.  Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey Responses by State

State

Number of
Surveys

Percentage of Surveys

Indiana

271

61%

Florida

19

4%

Illinois

16

4%

District of Columbia

11

2%

Pennsylvania

11

2%

Ohio

10

2%

Michigan

9

2%

California

8

2%

Massachusetts

7

2%

South Carolina

7

2%

Texas

6

1%

Maryland

5

1%

New York

5

1%

North Carolina

5

1%

Tennessee

5

1%

Colorado

4

1%

Louisiana

4

1%

Minnesota

4

1%

Connecticut

3

1%

 

State

Number of
Surveys

Percentage of Surveys

Nebraska

3

1%

Oregon

3

1%

Utah

3

1%

Washington

3

1%

Wisconsin

3

1%

Alabama

2

0%

Arizona

2

0%

Georgia

2

0%

Missouri

2

0%

New Mexico

2

0%

Rhode Island

2

0%

Vermont

2

0%

Wyoming

2

0%

Idaho

1

0%

Maine

1

0%

New Hampshire

1

0%

New Jersey

1

0%

South Dakota

1

0%

West Virginia

1

0%

 

 

Once the surveys were complete, the responses were run through a statistical analysis program called SPSS. With the assistance of Jennifer Bouchard, who holds a masters degree in research methodology, numerous reports were generated for analysis. The results of this analysis were divided into six sections, with one chapter dedicated to each of the six areas of concern for this study. The first area of concern is how lesbian sex is defined. This will be the focus of the next chapter.

 

Read Chapter Two

Read Chapter Four

X