Gender stereotypes dictate that, when it comes to monogamous long-term relationships, men are the ones who are more likely to get bored of going to bed with the same woman every night. The assumption has its roots in evolutionary science, which posits that men are hardwired to sire as much offspring is possible, while women are motivated to keep the father of their child close by so that he can provide for them. Much as we may still be influenced by our more primitive emotions, however, we’re also not cavemen and women anymore, and an increasing body of research on female s*xuality has actually found that women—not men—are more likely to feel stifled by the long-term monogamy they were raised to want.
Or so claims Wednesday Martin, the author of the recently released book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free.
Martin, who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale, has quite a bit of research to support her case. In a recent article she published in The Atlantic, she cited a 2012 study of 170 undergraduate men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 years, which found that “that women’s s*xual desire was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and s*xual satisfaction,” while “men’s s*xual desire… was not significantly affected by the duration of their romantic relationships.”
She also cited two German longitudinal studies that found that a woman’s s*xual desire drops dramatically over the course of the first seven years of a monogamous relationship, while a man’s seems to hold steady. Many of these studies hypothesized that the decreased interest in monogamous s*x for a women may be linked to having children, but when a 2016 Finnish studied controlled for that factor, they found it didn’t impact the results.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of research cited by Wednesday Martin, however, was a 2017 study of 4,839 British men and 6,669 women aged 16 to 74, which found that 34 percent of the women surveyed reported a loss of interest in s*x, compared to just 15 percent of men. One of the study’s most important—and sobering—findings was just how quickly these women lost interest in sleeping with the same partner.
Compared to those who had been in a relationship for less than a year, women who had been with the same partner for one to five years were 45 percent more likely to have lost interest in s*x. Women who have been in a relationship for five to fifteen years were 137 percent more likely to have lost interest in s*x. But, curiously, women in a relationship for 15 years were 131 percent less likely to lose interest in s*x. This makes sense, given that experts have long said that the passionate stage of your relationship tends to last for the first 18 months, after which, if you’re lucky, you transition into a deeper, companionate form of love down the road.
What’s not quite as clear yet is why, even when controlling for kids, women are the ones who are more likely to feel s*xually stifled by long-term monogamy.