Smart girls have better sex lives!

"Intelligent women have better sex”, claimed a UK newspaper, the Daily Mail, in May 2009. Now, there's a provocative headline! They claimed that research had demonstrated there was a correlation between intelligence as measured by IQ and a woman's ability to achieve orgasm during sex with her partner.

Now, there are several things that are very interesting about this report.

First and foremost is the sheer inaccuracy of the reporting which in fact constructed a much more interesting link between intelligence and sexual pleasure than the link that was actually investigated by the research scientists, who were actually investigating the correlation between emotional intelligence and sexual pleasure.

Emotional intelligence can be broadly defined as a personaI ability to identify what they are feeling and to manage their own emotions, and in addition having the ability to interpret other people's emotions accurately.

It may not be very surprising to you that the more emotionally intelligent a woman is, the more she enjoys her sex life (as measured by her orgasmic frequency, that is).

We all know women are supposed to be the more emotionally literate sex; we also know that women find sex much more pleasing and enter into it with more commitment, more emotional investment, and greater sexual arousal when they are with a partner whom they trust and love.

So why the research project then?

One cynical answer to that is that there are too many social scientist with not enough to do, but leaving that cynicism aside one has to admit that we'd all benefit from understanding why women do not have the ability to achieve orgasm with the degree of fluidity known to most men.

So by turning this reasoning on its head and asking why women do achieve orgasm, we may get some clues as to how to make it easier for them to enjoy sex -- assuming, of course, that an orgasm is a necessary part of a woman's sexual enjoyment.

There are probably plenty of women who would take issue with that point of view, saying that they gain pleasure and enjoyment from sex just because of the connection with their loved partner.

The research study in question  looked at the connection between emotional intelligence and orgasm frequency in a group of over 2000 women in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the link was not especially strong.

Does this study therefore tell us anything? Well, possibly.

For one thing, the women involved in the study did not have any sexual disorder, nor was there any known reason why they might not achieve orgasm during sex. Neither did the study suggest any ways in which anorgasmia in women might be tackled, but  it certainly represents a starting point for further research into the female orgasm.

The original research was carried out by Andrea V Burri and her colleagues from King's College London. Funding was obtained form various sources, including the Wellcome Trust, the Chronic Disease Research Foundation and the National Institute for Health Research. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The study took the form of a cross sectional investigation into the connection between emotional intelligence and/or custom frequency in the female population of the United Kingdom.

The study appears to have been based on a theory that differences in emotional intelligence between individual women would undoubtedly influence how any particular woman was able to express her desires and wishes to her partner, and this would in turn obviously affect her sexual functioning within the relationship.

There's a useful database in the United Kingdom of twins, so they were able to send out survey questionnaires to over 8400 women aged between 18 and 83. The questionnaire did not include personal details like name and address so in theory the women would have been able to complete it without fear of their answers becoming more widely known.

The questionnaire included all sorts of questions about the women's flat sexual function and behavior, and in particular asked about the frequency with which a woman achieved orgasm either through masturbation by herself or during sexual intercourse with a partner.

The researchers used a seven point scale of answers to this question: never, between 0 and 24% of the time, between 25 and 49% of the time, about half of all the occasions on which the woman was sexually active, between 51 and 75% of the time, over 75% of the time but not all the time, and every time.

One of the weak points of the study was the women who were not sexually active were asked to rate from memory the achievement of orgasm when they were sexually active -- a rather dubious methodological practice, in my opinion.

Another questionnaire followed up the answers which the women gave to the first one:  this questionnaire was designed to investigate the womanI level of emotional intelligence, and used a standard set of 30 questions called, not surprisingly, the emotional intelligence questionnaire.

Interestingly only about 24% of the women who started this process actually completed the emotional intelligence questionnaire, which means that the respondents on  whom the survey results were based were a self selected group, and may not therefore be typical of the UK population in general.

Of these women, about two thirds were married,  about 6% were single, about 13% were in a relationship but not married, and the rest were divorced or widowed.

This data reflects the high average age of these women which was in fact over 50 years old and again this leads me to question the validity of the survey since the younger women might be much better sexually informed, and therefore possibly much more likely to experience orgasm on a regular basis.

However, if we take the results of this questionnaire as having a degree of validity then we should note that the researchers also try to establish correlation between a woman's orgasmic frequency and other characteristics such as her age and level of education, her body mass index, sexual abuse that may have happened in the past, and even whether or not she had passed through her menopause.

The first finding is broadly in line with other work that we know of: there are many women who have never achieved orgasm during intercourse -- in this case of the total respondents had never achieved orgasm during intercourse.

Additionally, a mere 9% of women report that they always achieve orgasm during sexual intercourse with their partner.

It would be extremely interesting to establish the link between degree of sexual experience and ability to reach orgasm during intercourse, and also whether or not a woman's ability to reach orgasm during intercourse is associated with any partner or just one particular partner.

It's certainly likely that a man's ability to control his progress towards orgasm, in other words how quickly he ejaculates, or how much degree of control he has over his ejaculation will have some impact on a woman's ability to reach orgasm during intercourse.

So of course will many other factors, including, as we said above, her level of sexual literacy and any inhibitions around sexual activity.

An astonishingly high 24 percent of the women said they had never achieved orgasm during masturbation, a figure which is in no way whatsoever in line with our own survey results, and probably reflects the bias in this group of women towards the older demographic.

Equally questionable is the finding that 30% of women report that they were able to reach orgasm on every occasion on which they masturbated.

The research results demonstrated no link whatsoever between a woman's level of emotional intelligence  and her age, level of educational attainment  and the other factors mentioned above.

However, there was a correlation between emotional intelligence and orgasm frequency: the higher a woman's apparent emotional intelligence, the higher the frequency of orgasm during both coitus and self pleasuring.

In practice women in the lowest 25% of EI scores featured in the groups of women who had  infrequent orgasms twice as often as the women in the highest 25% of EI scores. (more specifically: Intercourse: odds ratio 2.3, 95% confidence interval 1.4 to 3.9; masturbation: odds ratio 1.8, 95% confidence interval 1.3 to 2.5).

So what does all this mean in reality?

Well, fairly obviously, that the more sensitive woman is to her emotions and those partner the more likely she is to achieve orgasm during sex!

The value of this conclusion lies in what you do with the information -- in this case where a woman is experiencing difficulty in reaching orgasm it may be that an appropriate course of  counseling would include training in emotional sensitivity. 

And furthermore, the conclusion which most newspapers drew, i.e., that the more intelligent a woman is, the more likely she is to have good sex, is simply not relevant to this study. That assertion may be true, or it may not, but nothing in this study reveals whether it is or it isn't. 

The limitations of the study include the following points:

  • since the study was conducted on women who did not have any recorded form of sexual disorder, it may be inappropriate to extrapolate the results to women who are experiencing anorgasmia

  • the correlation between emotional intelligence and number of orgasms during sexual intercourse is actually rather low at 0.13; The correlation between emotional intelligence and orgasm during masturbation is also low - only 0.23.

  • This means many other factors will be affecting a woman's ability to enjoy orgasms in the situations investigated. 

  • as we have already observed only a quarter of the women who filled in the first questionnaire completed the second one and this raises serious questions about  whether or not the women involved are truly representative of the UK population as a whole.

  • there are potentially many other factors affecting a woman's sexual responsibility which the study did not examine.

  • the design of the study does not allow us to definitely state whether emotional intelligence causes higher orgasm frequency or is simply associated with it.

  • and some of the women in the survey were not sexually active,  which in itself may have led to changes in their emotional intelligence; additionally women may not have been able to recall accurately how often they did experience orgasm during sex or masturbation when they were sexually active.

  • As far as conclusions around orgasm frequency are concerned, directly reported qualitative data may be more reliable. This is especially true when the survey is conducted in internet forums which offer privacy and anonymity. We have ourselves conducted several surveys and found that the results differ significantly from those reported in the research described above.

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Updated: January 10 2019