Sex is, no doubt, a key part of most romantic relationships. The average Briton has sex around 86 times a year, according to recent numbers, and yet more than half of those surveyed at the time rated their partner’s sexual performance as average or below average. But that was over four years ago, and much about society could have changed since then.

We set out to better understand the sexual dynamics between modern-day partners – how happy they are with their sex lives, how truthful they are about their partner’s sexual performance, and whether their most intimate desires are being satisfied. In the process, we surveyed 515 U.K. residents and 501 U.S. residents aged 18 to 73 about what’s going on in the bedroom. Read on to learn more about the state of honesty in American and British sex lives and to explore the complex reasoning behind partners’ intimate decisions.

Truth be Told

Here’s the hard truth: Everyone lies. In fact, the average person aged 18 to 44 lies around two times a day. Most of those lies are “white lies,” meaning they’re small and fairly inconsequential. But when it comes to discussing sexual satisfaction with a partner, one has to wonder: How honest are people really being?

Our survey data suggest that most people claim to be honest about their sexual satisfaction with their partners. In fact, men were slightly more honest about it than women. We found that many crave honesty as far as their sexual performance goes. About 87 percent of respondents said they wanted their partners to be honest about sexual topics, even if it might hurt their feelings. At the same time, 84.5 percent said they’d be upset if their partner admitted to being sexually dissatisfied.

Sexual Satisfaction

Communication is key: People who are honest about their sexual satisfaction seem to be more sexually satisfied as a result. In fact, roughly 89 percent of women and over 91 percent of men who said they were honest about their sexual satisfaction ultimately claimed to be sexually satisfied. On the flip side, those who said they were dishonest about their sexual satisfaction wound up the most sexually dissatisfied: around 62 percent of women and 59 percent of men.

Sexual Secrets

Certainly, some subjects are tougher to be honest about than others. Our data clearly suggests men and women are more comfortable being honest about certain sex-related topics, such as their sexual health (STIs/STDs), satisfaction with the appearance of their partner’s genitals, and their favourite sexual position. 

However, a significant portion of survey respondents – around 41 percent of women and 46 percent of men – struggled to be honest about their sexual fantasies. 35 percent of women and nearly 34 percent of men also reported having a hard time expressing their sexual needs, and more than a third of men found it difficult to be honest about their fetishes.

Acting Aroused

But despite all of the intercourse happening, achieving sexual pleasure is often complex and, quite frankly, mystifying (entire studies cover how women achieve orgasms, for example). We asked 1,016 men and women about the legendary “faked orgasm” and how they’d feel if they found out their partner had to pretend from time to time.

Our results confirmed conventional thought: More than half of women said they had faked an orgasm, compared to just 16.4 percent of men. Meanwhile, around 79 percent of women and 70 percent of men said they’d be upset if they learned their partner faked an orgasm. Both genders reported protecting their partner’s feelings as a top reason for why they faked it. About 44 percent of women who faked an orgasm also said they did it to end sex sooner, and oral sex was the most reported activity for which sexual pleasure was simulated for both genders.

When the Truth Hurts

Sometimes, the truth hurts too much, and partners would rather hear a lie. We asked partners which lies they’d like to hear – and what types of judgement would be serious deal breakers for their relationship.

Women and men most preferred to hear lies about their body’s appearance (if they had to hear any lies at all). When it came to being honest, about 17 percent of women and nearly 13 percent of men said they’d break up with their partner for judging their sexual health history. Meanwhile, about 15 percent of women said they’d end the relationship if their partner judged how many sexual partners they’d had.

Delicate Discussions

Clearly, sex in relationships is far from perfect – but what can partners do to delicately improve their intimacy and strive towards greater honesty? More than half of both genders said having their sexual needs listened to and understood was important. 55 percent of men and nearly 45 percent of women suggested their partners let them know about their sexual needs, and more than 41 percent of both genders also highly rated honesty as a key component.

Among those who were sexually satisfied, keeping an open mind and talking about sex outside of the bedroom were highly rated suggestions. More than a third of both genders also found talking about their physical insecurities important to achieving a satisfied sex life.

Conclusion

As the idiom often goes, “communication is key” when it comes to having a successful relationship. That conventional wisdom, it appears, can also be applied to couples’ sex lives. Our survey took a deep dive into sexual honesty in U.K. and U.S. relationships, and our results suggest most people want honesty when it comes to their partner’s sexual satisfaction. However, that honesty doesn’t always come easy.

The insight provided by these 1,016 survey respondents has the potential to be incredibly useful for understanding our own relationships, the state of intimacy at large, and what can be done to lead happier, healthier sex lives. To learn about how you can improve your sexual health, please visit Superdrug Online Doctor.

Methodology and Limitations

For this project, we surveyed 515 residents of the U.K. and 501 U.S. residents, who were in relationships or married, about sexual honesty and dishonesty with their partners. With more respondents, it is possible we could have gained even better insight into the population of both countries. The data rely on self-reporting by respondents, so no statistical testing was performed. 581 of the respondents identified as women, and 434 identified as men. One respondent identified as gender nonbinary but had to be excluded from the results due to small sample size. The respondents ranged in age from 18 to 73 with an average age of 36.6 and a standard deviation of 10.8.

Fair Use Statement

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