We thus use the terms “sex” and “sexual intimacy” to refer to this broader range of sexual behaviors – from a casual but intimate touch or glance to sexual intercourse. A nationally representative survey of the sex lives of Americans found that married people are quite sexually active and, relative to other marital status groups, report the highest level of satisfaction with their sex lives (Michael et al., 1994). Marital satisfaction is significantly and positively associated with sexual satisfaction (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Henderson-King & Veroff, 1994), although causal order between these variables is difficult to assess. Most studies find that the frequency of sex within marriage declines over time. Sexual frequency declines precipitously during the first year of marriage with a slow but steady decline thereafter, net of the effect of the presence of children (Call, Sprecher, & Schwartz, 1995). ) and that, with increasing marital duration, ). But past research reveals little about the meanings that married people attach to sex, the typical decline in sexual activity over time, or the gendered dynamics of sex in the context of long-term marriage.
Researchers have speculated that the decline in frequency of marital sex is a result of habituation (Call et al
Americans are now more likely than ever before to enter into marriage with a full history of sexual experimentation and with high aspirations for sexual pleasure (Giddens, 1992; Rubin, 1990). As ideas about marriage have changed and as sex has become separated from reproduction, within marriage, sexual activity is increasingly seen as desirable, if not mandatory, to ensure marital harmony, and a goal for many couples is to become sexual equals (Giddens; Rubin). Rubin, for example, in her study of the sex lives of nearly 1,000 Americans, found that married men say they want sexual equality and married women expect to receive as well as to give sexual pleasure. Read More