Getting Sexually Rejected Sucks for Men and Women


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People want to be wanted.

It’s not terribly surprising, but this principle has a profound effect on our relationships.

“To get a peek into the bedrooms of 115 heterosexual couples (participants were aged between 19 and 64), Kiersten Dobson from the University of Western Ontario and colleagues asked them all to keep sex diaries. Every day for 3 weeks, both partners independently logged whether they or their partner had made a sexual advance, and if so, whether that led to sexual activity. They also recorded their daily levels of satisfaction with their sexual relationship, as well as their relationship generally, answering questions such as “How good is your relationship compared to most?”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found that accepting a sexual advance, or having an advance accepted by the partner, resulted in an increase in both sexual and relationship satisfaction that day compared to other days. 

On the other hand, being rejected decreased sexual satisfaction. But intriguingly, if the participant themselves was the rejecter – that is, if they shunned an advance from their partner – their sexual satisfaction still increased. (Neither being rejected nor being the rejecter had any effect on general relationship satisfaction.)”

It’s not shocking that sex leads to mutual satisfaction.

It’s not shocking that being rejected decreases sexual satisfaction.

It is really shocking that people get a perverse thrill out of rejecting their partner.

It is really shocking that people get a perverse thrill out of rejecting their partner. Of course, that’s not what the study actually suggests:

“Rather than reflecting some pleasure derived from rejecting someone, the researchers suggest that being approached for sex leaves a person feeling desired, so enhances sexual satisfaction even when no actual sex ends up happening. The team found that the boost in satisfaction from having an advance accepted persisted for 24 hours, with the slump of being rejected lasting twice as long. And the gratification that came from being either an acceptor or a rejecter lasted a remarkable 72 hours.

This paragraph effectively illustrates two issues that men and women fail to acknowledge about each other.

  1. It’s really risky and scary for men to approach women. It’s debilitating to say hi to women and get ignored, buy drinks and get ignored, write to women online and get ignored, and make a first move and get rejected. Women don’t experience this nearly as much and, in my experience as a coach, tend to lack empathy and understanding for what men have to go through. Most of my clients want to quit online dating if some guy doesn’t write back.
  2. Conversely, within a relationship (which is what this study is about), sexual rejection is really corrosive to both men and women. When the person who has chosen you seems actively disinterested in sex, it is hard not to internalize that. And it is not just women rejecting their horny husbands. Lots of women have boyfriends who criticize their bodies, prefer sleep, gaming or porn, and reject sexual advances outright.

It’s a bit of a trick to make someone you’ve been with for a long time feel desirable, but it’s vital to the health of the relationship. Sex with a monogamous partner will rarely feel “new” but it can – and should be – mutually satisfying, no matter how long you’re together.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.




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