Sex without desire: characteristics of occasions of sexual compliance in young adults' committed relationships

J Sex Res. 2010 Sep;47(5):429-39. doi: 10.1080/00224490903132051.


Sexual compliance (i.e., willingly engaging in sexual activity that one does not desire) is a common behavior among young people. Little is known about the characteristics of occasions of sexual compliance in the context of a committed relationship. This study used both a diary method and in-depth interviews to assess occasions of sexual compliance, as well as types of sexual activity, condom use, pleasure, and feelings of pressure and control. Participants included 63 young adults (18-24 years old) in committed, heterosexual relationships. Seventeen percent of all sexual activity was rated as sexually compliant. Occasions of sexual compliance were rated as less enjoyable and more unexpected. In-depth interviews revealed four key themes including endorsement of an implicit contract between partners, partner awareness of low desire, past experience of pressure, and justification for reporting low desire. Future research should evaluate the long-term impact of sexual compliance on a relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Pleasure
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Young Adult