Orgasm: 400% More Satisfying With A Partner?

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What happens in your brain after intercourse, and how is it different from solo masturbation?

pottery

Photo: Mary Fisher

Larco Museum, Lima, Peru

A 2006 study found that the increase of prolactin is 400% greater for both men and women following orgasm achieved through intercourse, when compared with solitary masturbation. Why is this significant? The increase of prolactin after orgasm contributes to a reduction of sexual arousal, along with feelings of relief and a greater drop in sexual tension. The researchers suggested that factors such as more excitement during intercourse might contribute to the greater amounts of prolactin after orgasm. While prolactin isn’t the only factor in sexual satisfaction, the implications are important.

How was this study conducted?

The participants in the study were all heterosexual graduate students, with an average age of 26. They were divided into three groups in a laboratory setting: masturbation alone while watching an erotic film, no sexual activity while watching a documentary (the control group), and watching an erotic film with their partner followed by intercourse until the supine partner had achieved orgasm.

Partner Orgasm > Solitary Orgasm

In a 2011 study on psychological differences between partnered and solitary orgasm, results found that having an orgasm with a partner resulted in higher scores overall on the Orgasm Rating Scale (ORS), (click here for PDF) when compared to having an orgasm alone. While the majority of motivation for both solo masturbation and partnered sex came from the opportunity for physical pleasure, partnered sex was also motivated by relationship factors. Might the focus on another person, or being focused on by another, contribute to better orgasms? So, partner sex might not be 400% more satisfying, but research so far suggests that people experience it as more satisfying, and their prolactin levels tend to show the same thing.

Questions Remain

Despite the interesting findings regarding a greater increase in prolactin following intercourse, questions remain. How might the results be different without the use of an erotic film? Do erotic films per se have an effect on orgasm? What about masturbation with a partner, as well as with other methods for achieving orgasm?

Adam Fisher, M.A.

is a Ph.D. student in Counseling Psychology at Indiana University. Adam's professional interests include couple & sex therapy, parent education, and working with college students. His dissertation is investigating the effects of religious belief change on romantic relationships.
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Comments

  • Bill Pier

    The ORS link is to a “.doc” file, really?!
    Come on; PDF is an International standard format for document viewing.  Please replace this link to a proprietary document format so that everyone can view it.