A few months ago I threw some questions around to some sex researchers ( Kristen P. Mark, Amy Muise and Jocelyn Wentland) on the topic of… wait for it… SEX! I asked them the same questions and got some pretty amazing answers. I know, I know I'm not terribly innovative here. But when you have an opportunity to ask sex related questions to three gorgeous women, you don't bat an eyelash and you sure as hell don't back down from the topic! I posed these questions to three different researchers. I'll be posting their answers in three different articles, this being the first of those. So take a moment to read through it all and drop us a line. Kristen P. Mark is our first researcher to take on my questions and let me tell you, she makes minced meat out of em. See what I do for you, kids?
Alex – In the US, we're in a bit of a recession. As sex researchers, what trends do you see during economic hardship? Be as graphic and/or perverted as possible… Please. =)
Kristen Mark – As a professional in this field, you aren't going to get super “perverted” from me, because we are already perceived to be that way to begin with! Gotta save our profession's face on that front. In my area of research, I've seen trends that are quite polar opposite from themselves. I have a (not scientifically proven) theory about this such that if you are really in love with your partner, passionate, you look to each other for support in tough economic times, and therefore your sex life improves as a result of economic hardship (because sex with your partner doesn't cost anything…it is a lot cheaper than going out to dinner, yet offers a level of intimacy). Those who aren't as happy in their relationships however, may become bitter toward their partner and not look to them for support, but rather allow the relationship to create even more stress. This really isn't my area of research, so I'm not sure my opinion on this is the best one to take!
Sex has to be a priority, or you'll end up in a relationship with nothing that distinguishes it from a roommate or a friendship.
Alex – What are some interesting facts about sexuality you've run across in your studying of sex?
Kristen – People often ask me to tell them something interesting about what I study. And I think that the most useful piece of advice I can give people (those in monogamous relationships, anyway) is to sometimes give in to sex with your partner even if you don't really feel like it. Desire works in a very interesting way with arousal. Once you are aroused, it will feed into desire, and vice versa. So although you might not feel like sex at first…the intimate touch of your partner can feed into the feeling of wantedness.
Alex – Who's wanting to “do it” more? Men or women?
Kristen – I think there is as much variation within the genders as there is between the genders. The important thing to do is to find a partner who wants to “do it” as much as you do. Even when you do find a compatible partner, you will find that it will ebb and flow...but at least you'll have a similar baseline to work with. There is a huge stereotype in our society that men are always hard and ready for sex but women are always subdued, which I think is a really unfortunate misconception. And this misconception is what feeds into the sexual double standard of “man as stud, woman as slut” when it comes to having a high sex drive.
Alex – Why do couples lose that lustful “jack rabbit” sex drive? Do they get complacent? How can they overcome it?
Kristen – This is the golden question that a lot of people want the answer to. When couples first get together, they've got a surge of hormones that make them want to touch each other and have sex all the time. Once the relationship is established, these hormones even out. The novelty of the beginning of the relationship was hiding each of your natural sex drives. You can overcome complacency by agreeing to meet each other in the middle and making a commitment to your sex lives. So many couples allow sex to disappear in their relationship; they don't make it a priority. Sex has to be a priority, or you'll end up in a relationship with nothing that distinguishes it from a roommate or a friendship.
Alex – Are you all single? Regardless of your answer can we all date… At the same time? Also, how have your significant others felt about your research? Does it make things weird for them?
Kristen – I'm going to answer both of these questions together in one response, because they are related. I have found (and this has been confirmed from other sex researcher friends of mine) that it takes a certain type of person to be okay with dating someone who studies sex. I'm very cautious when I first meet someone because I need to make the assessment of whether they will be able to handle it or not. I wouldn't ever be with someone who couldn't handle it, so if I make that assessment, then I know it isn't going to go anywhere. There have been a lot of people who haven't handled it well, and you get comments like “are you studying me right now?” or “can I be a part of your fieldwork?” or “you must have sex allllll the time if you study it!” or “did you have a fucked up sexual childhood and now you're hypersexual?” – the list goes on…and on…and on…it is really quite ridiculous (not to mention, annoying).
There are times when I tell people that I study “the dynamics of romantic relationships” if I don't think they will understand or appreciate that sex has science behind it and that it is an important part of human development (e.g., my ex's nun aunt). And that is fine, not everyone is as comfortable with sex and sexuality as I am. I just wouldn't be able to date someone who wasn't comfortable with it, that's all. In general, I find that any relationships I've been in, the sex researcher component has been a nice bonus (and certainly a hit at cocktail parties), but it hasn't weighed heavily into the dynamics of the relationship. At the end of the day, although I might be better equipped to handle the sexual aspect of the relationship than the next girl, I'm still human.