Perceived emotional and sexual satisfaction across sexual relationship contexts: Gender and sexual orientation differences and similarities

Kristen P. Mark, Justin R. Garcia, Helen E. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Despite general perceptions of committed romantic relationships as the most satisfying context with which to engage in sexual activity, acceptance of casual sexual contexts has increased in recent years. Yet little research has examined sexual and emotional satisfaction outside of the committed relationship context. Further, most satisfaction research has focused exclusively on heterosexual samples. The present study aimed to investigate sexual and emotional satisfaction derived from seven sexual relationship contexts and note similarities or differences based on gender and sexual orientation. Data were drawn from an online survey of 6,955 sexually diverse participants. Sexual satisfaction was stronger than emotional satisfaction within casual sex contexts (one night stand, first date, sex with a friend, and hookups) than within more committed contexts (married, living together, committed unmarried relationship). Men found all contexts except for sex in a committed unmarried relationship significantly more sexually and emotionally satisfying than women. Emotional and sexual satisfaction were significantly different across sexual orientation groups in casual sexual relationship contexts but not in more committed relationship contexts. Gay men reported gaining the most sexual and emotional satisfaction out of casual sex contexts, with lesbian women reporting the least out of casual sexual contexts. Overall, this research found that a wide variety of relationship contexts, including casual sexual contexts, can be a source of both sexual and emotional satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-130
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Human Sexuality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Casual sex
  • Committed sex
  • Emotional satisfaction
  • Gender differences
  • Gender similarities
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual satisfaction


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