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Accounting for Women's Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships

Publication Abstract

Armstrong, Elizabeth A., Paula England, and Alison C. K. Fogarty. 2012. "Accounting for Women's Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships." American Sociological Review, 77(3): 435-462.

This article investigates the determinants of orgasm and sexual enjoyment in hookup and relationship sex among heterosexual college women and seeks to explain why relationship sex is better for women in terms of orgasm and sexual enjoyment. We use data from women respondents to a large online survey of undergraduates at 21 U.S. colleges and universities and from 85 in-depth interviews at two universities. We identify four general views of the sources of orgasm and sexual enjoyment—technically competent genital stimulation, partner-specific learning, commitment, and gender equality. We find that women have orgasms more often in relationships than in hookups. Regression analyses reveal that specific sexual practices, experience with a particular partner, and commitment all predict women's orgasm and sexual enjoyment. The presence of more sexual practices conducive to women's orgasm in relationship sex explains some of why orgasm is more common in relationships. Qualitative analysis suggests a double standard also contributes to why relationship sex is better for women: both men and women question women's (but not men's) entitlement to pleasure in hookups but believe strongly in women's (as well as men's) entitlement to pleasure in relationships. More attention is thus given to producing female orgasm in relationships.

10.1177/0003122412445802

Country of focus: United States of America.

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