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4 surprising things about men and sex

The stereotype: Men have a high and constant sex drive.

Murray's finding: Sex drive ebbs and flows for men.

Research has shown that male sexual desire is high and constant. But consider that particular study was done with university students in relationships and the results become questionable. Murray's own research found that the stereotype doesn't ring true for most guys. “Some men feel they need to always be interested, because those are the cultural scripts,” Murray says, but she also points out that anything from having a fight with a partner, stress, and body changes (like gaining weight after an injury, for example) can all affect men’s desire. “I found men struggled with this. They wanted to turn sex down, but also felt pressure to have it,” Murray says. “We need to normalize that men may not be in the mood.”

The stereotype: Men have higher sex drives than women.

Murray's finding: Numerous studies indicate that men and women are just as likely to be the person in the relationship with the higher sex drive.

“We say men have higher desire or should have higher desire than their female partner,” says Murray. “But that is just not accurate.” According to research, the man has higher desire in about a third of mixed-sex couples, the woman in about another third, and the last third have roughly equal desire.

The stereotype: Men should initiate sex and romance. 

Murray's finding: Men want to feel desired, too.

“Men said they tell women they look beautiful, they initiate sex,” says Murray. But on the flip side, men rarely got the same in return—which sometimes affected their mood. “Men told me how important feeling sexually desired was to their sexuality,” says Murray. “They knew they were supposed to be the ones doing the desiring, but they really liked when their female partner complimented them or initiated romantic touch or sex.”

The stereotype: Sex is mostly about physical pleasure. 

Murray's finding: Sex is also emotional.

“We often assume that men’s desire is mainly physical in nature, that it’s about getting off—having an orgasm, the pleasure side alone,” she says. “Men say so much more of their sexuality is about emotional connection with a partner as a way to feel close.” This is why the sting of rejection hurts, according to Murray: “They wanted that emotional connection, and didn’t get it. Men will think, are you rejecting sex or are you rejecting me?” She stresses this is not a point that’s supposed to make anyone agree to sex they don’t want to have. “It’s about understanding where our partner is coming from, not about feeling guilty,” she says.