Sexual Practices, Learning, and Love: Accounting for Women’s Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships

Paula S. England, Stanford University
Elizabeth Armstrong, University of Michigan
Alison Fogarty, Stanford University

This paper investigates the determinants of orgasm and sexual enjoyment in “hookup” and relationship sex among college women. We use data from an online survey of approximately 14,600 undergraduates at 19 colleges and universities, and from 60 in-depth interviews at two of the universities. We identify three general views of the sources of sexual satisfaction – competent genital stimulation, partner-specific learning, and love – and draw on gender theory to develop expectations about the gendered operation of these mechanisms. We find that women orgasm more often in relationships than in hookups. Regression analyses reveal that prior sexual experience, specific sexual practices, experience with a particular partner, and affection all predict orgasm and sexual enjoyment. Qualitative analysis provides insight into the gendered operation of these mechanisms and how they reinforce each other.

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Presented in Session 147: Sex and Sexuality