What is sexual satisfaction? Thematic analysis of lay people's definitions

J Sex Res. 2014;51(1):22-30. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2013.815149. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


Sexual satisfaction is an important indicator of sexual health and is strongly associated with relationship satisfaction. However, research exploring lay definitions of sexual satisfaction has been scarce. We present thematic analysis of written responses of 449 women and 311 men to the question "How would you define sexual satisfaction?" The participants were heterosexual individuals with a mean age of 36.05 years (SD = 8.34) involved in a committed exclusive relationship. In this exploratory study, two main themes were identified: personal sexual well-being and dyadic processes. The first theme focuses on the positive aspects of individual sexual experience, such as pleasure, positive feelings, arousal, sexual openness, and orgasm. The second theme emphasizes relational dimensions, such as mutuality, romance, expression of feelings, creativity, acting out desires, and frequency of sexual activity. Our results highlight that mutual pleasure is a crucial component of sexual satisfaction and that sexual satisfaction derives from positive sexual experiences and not from the absence of conflict or dysfunction. The findings support definitions and models of sexual satisfaction that focus on positive sexual outcomes and the use of measures that incorporate items linked to personal and dyadic sexual rewards for both men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Coitus
  • Courtship
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Libido / classification*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm / classification*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult