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Science Tells Us How to Have Great Sex (It's Easier Than You Think)

Dan Savage has urged people to be "game for anything -- within reason." New research says that means happier relationships


Five years ago, sex columnist Dan Savage  suggested that, when it comes to sex, we should all aim to be GGG (“good, giving, and game … Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure’ and ‘game for anything – within reason’”). Long embraced by his readers, the GGG approach now has support from a  new scientific study published in the Journal of Sex Research.

Of course, we’ve known for years that technique (for example, clitoral stimulation for women, incorporating  certain sexual behaviors for either sex) matters to couples. And certainly inequitable pleasure is never a good thing, even though it persists (as I discussed in  last week’s column, research shows that women are particularly prone to getting shafted in the orgasm department during hookup sex).

What this new study from researchers at the University of Arizona and Hanover College adds, at least from my perspective, is the additional layer of understanding of how being “game for anything – within reason” contributes to intimacy and satisfaction.

To be fair, the researchers didn’t actually examine the GGG phenomenon. They didn’t use the term “GGG,” nor did they use the phrase “game for anything” anywhere in their research paper. Rather, they studied what they call “sexual transformations” – sexual changes that people make for the sake of their partner or their relationship. But as a scientist myself, I’m going to go out on a limb and pronounce the term “sexual transformations” to be the nerdier first cousin to the slightly cooler third G in the trifecta: “being game for anything – within reason.”

In examining sexual transformations, the researchers recruited 96 couples (all male-female) and asked them questions about changes they had made for their partner in terms of how often they have sex, the kinds of sexual activities they engage in, communicating about sex and intimacy. They also asked participants how they felt about these changes and how often they engaged in affectionate behaviors with each other, such as hugging, cuddling and kissing.

So what did they find? Interestingly enough, participants’ own sexual transformations weren’t linked to their relationship satisfaction. In other words, being game yourself wasn’t the key to your own satisfaction. Rather, women and men reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction when their partners said they’d made more “sexual transformations” (when their partners had been game for more- or less-frequent sex, trying new sexual activities, etc). I’m going to guess that, at least in part, this may be because when one’s partner adapts to your needs, you’re likely to feel heard, special, rewarded, valued, or – at the very least — you get to do the things you want to do, sexually.

Feelings about sexual transformations mattered, too. Men and women who felt more positive about the sexual changes they made generally reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. To me, this aspect of people’s feelings about their changes goes back to being game – after all, being “game” for switching up one’s sex life isn’t about begrudgingly going down on someone or role-playing with a bored look on one’s face. Being game is about being willing to give something a whirl, and happily so. It’s about bringing your A-game to bed, about not knowing how you’ll end up feeling about it but being willing to give it your best shot, with an open mind and heart.

The researchers also found that women and men in the study who reported engaging in more intimate behaviors – that is, warm, tingly stuff like hugs, kisses, cuddles and massages – reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. This lines up well with  other recent research that has found kissing, cuddling and touching to be linked with sexual satisfaction.

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