By: Megan Gannon, News Editor
Published: 10/01/2012 12:34 PM EDT on LiveScience
Sticking to traditional gender roles could make you less comfortable and less safe in the bedroom. In a new study, young adults who assumed that men should take charge during sex were less likely to feel confident in sexual situations and less receptive to using female condoms.
The study, published online Sept. 25 in the journal Sex Roles, involved 357 women and 126 men (ages 18-29) from a public university in the Northeast, all heterosexual and sexually active. The researchers, led by Lisa Rosenthal from Yale University, gave the students a survey to measure their sexual confidence, asking them how assertive they were about getting sexual satisfaction from a partner, using a condom and taking precautions for safer sex.
They also examined the students' support for social power inequalities and hierarchies based on their agreement with statements such as: "It’s OK if some groups have more of a chance in life than others;" and "The man should be the one who dictates what happens during sex." (The endorsement of such power dynamics has been linked to sexism, negative attitudes toward women's rights and a greater tolerance of sexual harassment.)
In the private cubicle where the students filled out their survey, there was a bowl of female condoms with a sign that read: "Protect yourself and your partner. Please take some! FREE FEMALE CONDOMS." There were small pamphlets next to the bowl about how to use female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina before sex.
The more men and women endorsed hierarchical power dynamics, the more likely they were to believe men should dominate during sex and the less likely they were to take the free female condoms and report confidence in sexual situations, the researchers said.
"If men believe that men should dominate sexually, this may prevent them from feeling open or comfortable discussing sexual behavior and protection with their partners or asking questions about things they may not know," which could lead to reduced sexual confidence, wrote the researchers.
"For both women and men, the belief that men should dominate sexually could reduce interest in female condoms, because female condoms are meant to be a woman-centered source of protection and may be seen as violating the norm or belief that men should be in control of sexual situations," Rosenthal and her team explained.
Women in the study were generally less likely than men to believe that men should dominate in the bedroom, the study's authors noted. The researchers controlled for variables such as age, family income, number of sexual partners in the past month and perceived HIV/AIDS risk.
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1. Listen up
Sometimes the best way to get to your loins is through your ears. Getting in the mood is about turning on all of your senses. And for me, the sense that I love to activate first is my hearing. Yes, music turns me on. So create the perfect sex soundtrack. I've been doing this since I was in middle school. (Okay, so it wasn't about sex, per se, it was my soundtrack for making out, but same principle applies.) I like a musical backdrop and chances are, if I'm playing Heart's "Crazy on You" or Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," it is for a very particular reason. It's the same reason that I've already seen Rock of Ages three times (show once, film twice). There's just something about 80s hairbands. But I digress. Soundtracks can really set the stage for great sex. So what's on your playlist?
2. Read Erotica Now
Okay, so if you know anything about me, you know that I have spent a great deal of time talking (and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-logan-levkoff/fifty-shades-of-grey-bdsm_b_1318169.html" target="_hplink">writing</a>) about <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em>. While it has been a major pop culture phenomenon, it is certainly not the first piece of erotica ever written. How do I know this? Well, I was tasked by my bunkmates at my all-girls sleepaway camp with buying sex-filled books and magazines two decades ago. On my shopping list: <em>Nancy Friday</em>, <em>The Story of O</em> and, while it's not exactly erotica, <em>Forever</em> (the beautiful Judy Blume teen sex novel). I even bought <em>Playgirl</em> magazines. (Yes, <em>Playgirl</em>.) I loved those stories. Today, I still love them. Reading erotica is a great way to get in the mood and explore your fantasies (or create new ones), and reading it aloud with a partner can be... well, hot. So even though you may not be into <em>Fifty Shades</em>, there's a lot of good erotica out there. Check it out. What are your faves?
3. DIY Sex Accessories
Anyway, as it turns out, you don't need a sex shop in order to spice things up in your bedroom. If you watch <em>Mom Ed: In the Bedroom</em>, you'll see that Megan was kind enough to bring me a treasure trove of everyday items that can lead a double life: stockings, bobby pins, spatulas, basting brushes and so on. (You'll have to watch the episode to see how they're used.) But here's a freebie: the base of an electric toothbrush can double a a vibrator, too. So your next trip to a mass retailer can be far more interesting when you know that you're secretly shopping for sex products. What products in your home have led a secret life as a sex-cessory?
Think I'm kidding? I'm not. When was the last time you kissed your partner? No, I'm not talking about those little kisses on the cheek or lips. Ehh. I'm asking when was the last time you really made out with a partner. I'm talking about that tangle of tongues, hands on faces, hands on hair, it-feels-so-good-you-don't-know-what's-going-to-happen-next type of kiss. Yeah, I thought so. Once we start having sex (of any kind), kissing sort of goes out the window. Which is sad, because kissing can cause that rush of blood that flows throughout our bodies and directly into our genitals. Pecks on the cheeks rarely do that. Start acting like a hormonal teenager and make out.
5. Location. Location. Location
Now I know what some of your are thinking: This is not novel advice. Point taken. For the rest of you reading this, a change of scenery can be great for your sex life. Sex can get pretty routine. Many of us have sex in the same place in the same way, and it gets pretty mundane. When you switch up the setting, you wind up changing a lot more than location. Think about it: if you're the bathroom or the kitchen or your kid's bedroom, you're probably not using a bed. You're probably not lying down. That means a new sex position, a different view of your partner and his or her body and the potential for a different type of pleasure.