Lesbian Sexual Frequency and Relationship Satisfaction

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.



Does sexual frequency correlate with satisfaction among lesbians? The research involved in this paper is designed to determine the correlation between the frequency with which lesbians are having sex and their relationship satisfaction. This researcher hypothesizes that there is not a strong correlation between sexual frequency and relationship satisfaction. In order to determine this, several questions must be answered.

The areas of inquiry in this study include the following: the sexual frequency of lesbian couples in the twenty-first century, a contemporary definition of lesbian sex according to lesbians themselves, identification of the sexual behaviors in which lesbians regularly engage, and relationship satisfaction as it relates to sexual frequency.

Research on lesbian sexuality is outdated. The most commonly cited references to lesbian sexual frequency are from research conducted in 1983 by Schwartz and Blumstein, authors of American Couples. In their research, lesbians are compared to other couple dyads (heterosexual married couples, unmarried cohabitating heterosexuals, and gay males), and the sexual frequencies of all four different couple pairings were conflated. Lesbians were identified as the least sexually active dyad, and they were highlighted as the couple pair that experienced the most dramatic decline in sexual frequency over the course of their relationship.

Shortly after the research from American Couples was made public, the phrase lesbian bed death was born. In three short words, this phrase summed up the research in American Couples that described lesbians as non-sexual. A negative connotation accompanied this status, suggesting that lesbian sexuality was somehow defective or, as the phrase suggested, even “dead.” This study will include an exploration of the etymology of lesbian bed death, and explore the history of the cultural phenomenon surrounding this phrase.

To say that lesbian sexuality is misunderstood is an understatement. Lesbians are consistently examined through the lens of heterosexuality, and compared to other couple pairs (gay male couples and heterosexual dyads). This comparison is unhelpful because there are significant differences between the cultural and biological influences on male and female sexuality. Unlike the other couple pairs (gay male and heterosexual dyads), lesbian sex does not include a male influence. Thus the comparison of male-inclusive couple dyads to lesbian couples is ineffective in creating an understanding of lesbian sexuality.

The goal of this research is to shine a light on the truth about lesbian sexuality as it really exists, without the filter of relational paradigms that include males. Lesbian sexuality will be examined as an experience in and of itself, as it is defined and experienced by lesbians. The norm for lesbian sexuality in this research will be established based solely on the behaviors of lesbians.

The purpose of this study is to reveal the sexual frequency of lesbian couples, assess the relationship satisfaction reported by lesbian couples, and identify the correlation between these variables. The questions to be answered by this research are the following: “How do lesbians define sex?”; “What are contemporary lesbians doing sexually?”; “How frequently are lesbians actually having sex?” and, “How satisfied are lesbians with their relationships?”

This research primarily benefits lesbians, and also offers helpful insights about what is going on in relationships between women. The scarcity of information available to lesbians about their sexual health and relationships creates uncertainty for lesbians about what is normal or typical in lesbian sexual behavior. The results of this study will provide an updated picture of lesbian sexuality, and this research will also offer lesbians greater understanding and clarity about their own sexuality. Sex and relationship therapists who provide relationship and sexual counseling for lesbians will also benefit from this research.

Another benefit of this research is that it has potential to highlight the uniquely female aspects of sexuality without the influence of a male’s sexual identity, needs, or behaviors. To study lesbian sexuality is to study purely female sexuality. In many ways, it may be possible to learn more about female (not just lesbian) sexuality through the study of lesbians than through the study of heterosexual women alone. Therefore, this research stands to offer new discoveries about female sexuality.

Lastly, this researcher hopes to reclaim a healthy, positive perspective on lesbian sexuality as it naturally exists. Among the few studies which have included lesbian sexuality, many have highlighted the infrequency of sexual activity as a problematic or dysfunctional aspect of lesbian relationships. The negative images of lesbian sexuality have also been perpetuated through the widespread use of the disparaging idea of lesbian bed death. Lesbian sexuality has been viewed through the lens of heterosexual standards for sexual activity, causing a distorted and inaccurate understanding of sex between women. The only way to find out what is healthy sexuality for lesbians is to find out what satisfied lesbians are thinking, feeling, and doing in their sexual relationships. That is the goal of this paper.

Read Chapter Two