Sex 400% better with partner?

couple_kiss.jpgAs recently noted by Christian, news broke last week of a study claiming that orgasm is “400% better” with a partner than with masturbation, based on measures of the neurohormone prolactin.

A couple of critiques have now appeared on the web that examine the experiment, its conclusions and the media handling of the story.

Petra Boyton tackles many of the unmentioned details of the study while Cory Silverberg notes that the study’s conclusions might be overgeneralised given the relatively limited activites that were recorded.

Just like in any other area of science, knowing the details of a sex study is crucially important for understanding its implications.

Unlike other areas of science, however, the details in these studies are, by their very nature, sexually explicit. This can mean that the popular media shys away from giving the crucial information and prefers to focus on the unqualified general conclusions, leaving the public misled both about sexual chemistry and sex research.

Perhaps with sex research, more than for other areas of science, tracking down the original research reports allows for a more critical insight into the researchers’ (or anyone else’s) conclusions.

Link to study abstract in the journal Biological Psychology.
Link to study summary from New Scientist.
Link to ‘Is sex with a partner truly 400% better?’ by Petra Boyton.
Link to ‘Orgasm Study Offers Status Quo and Universal Generalizations’ from Cory Silverberg.

One Comment

  1. Brian
    Posted March 1, 2006 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    The one thing that really raised my eyebrow was the supposed claim that because prolactin levels are 4 times higher after sex than after masturbation, the former must be 4 times ‘better’ than the latter. In order to make this claim one would have to show that there is a roughly one-to-one linear relationship between prolactin levels and subjective indeces of sexual satiety (at least for the levels of prolactin measured in this study). And it would be pretty incredible, in my eyes at least, to find that the level of a single hormone could so tightly and directly correlate with one’s subjective experience of sexual satisfaction.
    I was skeptical that such a direct correlation existed, so I took a quick look through the paper. Perhaps I’m overlooking something, but it seems to me that in fact, Brody and Kruger do *not* make the claim that sex is 4 times more satisfying than masturbation in this paper. Rather, they seem to make the much more conservative inference that sex is more satisfying than masturbation, without explicitly quantifying how much more. It seems the more dubious “400% better” claim has arisen from a poor media overgeneralization.


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