The Kinsey Institute recently published a study that claims that in long term relationships, men value kissing, cuddling and affection more than their female counterparts who more strongly value sexual satisfaction. The results of this study are intriguing because most people would have guessed the opposite to be true. The participants in the study - approximately 1,000 couples - have been in their relationships, on average, for twenty-five years. Maybe it's time to sweep aside conventional thinking on this subject.

A lot of the stereotypes of men and women in our culture seem to stem from bad relationships rather than happy ones. After all, there is that old saying that when people talk, it's to complain. Perhaps the archetypal horn dog male and glacial married female don't represent our natural states in a relationship. Instead they might represent widespread dysfunction, which isn't surprising.

While women do enjoy cuddling, the study suggests that for women it is associated with increased satisfaction in their sexual activity whereas for men it's more about... the actual cuddling and the benefits that touch brings to a relationship. One of the potential explanations of this is that while men hit their sexual prime in their teens, women don't have theirs until thirty. Having had a more recent sexual peak, it stands to reason that a forty year old woman might have a higher sex drive than a forty year old man. For a man, things like cuddling potentially become more important with age as spontaneous sexual desire wanes. We've always thought of the woman as the partner who needed to be "warmed up" and put in the mood for sex, but many older men don't achieve an erection like they did in their twenties. It takes a little more foreplay or manual stimulation to get things going.

Older women often have a stronger sense of themselves when they are older and in our largely patriarchal society (with puritan overtones) it can take women some time to freely express sexuality. The study speculates that older women in long term relationships have a strong sense of their "sexual rights," and that if their expectations are not met, it can upset them or even make them angry.

The important thing to take away from the study is that it's just the tip of the iceberg. It has brought to light certain things that we would have thought to be untrue. So we have the "how," but not the "why." Much of the explanations presented above are pure speculation, albeit by the Kinsey Institute. They are now designing other studies to delve deeper and start answering questions about our ever mysterious human sexuality.