But is the average American ready to turn up the heat in the bedroom this Feb. 14? The folks at Sexualwellbeing.com decided to find out, and conducted a national survey that asked about their sex lives, their sexual styles, the sexual styles of their mates and far more.
Dr. Sandra Scantling, a licensed sex therapist, visited The Early Show to talk about the results.
Americans appear obsessed with sexuality - be it in movies, advertising or on the fashion runways. However overall, Scantling says, Americans are relatively tame in the bedroom and give themselves a grade of "C" for their sexual prowess, according to the survey. They rate themselves as only average lovers, giving themselves an average of 7 on a scale from 1-10.
Scantling says the Americans rate themselves as "average" in bed because they may be comparing themselves to pop culture icons that portray unrealistic images. She says the images of sexually happy celebrities sets us up for failure. Scantling says we have to appreciate who we are, what our lives are and what our desires are. She says we should not compare ourselves to what we think we should be like.
When Americans were asked to describe their "sexual style," 85 percent gave positive answers. They described sex as: "Romantic and loving" (37 percent), "Attentive and Patient" (26 percent), "Wild and Adventurous" (22 percent). Scantling says only 15 percent described themselves as "Predictable and Boring."
When asked to describe their personal sexual styles versus those of their partner, respondents rated themselves more favorably than their partners, describing themselves as "romantic and loving" (37 percent), while more than a quarter (27 percent) rated their partners as "predictable and boring."
Married Sex in America: Mild or Wild?
The survey indicates it may be time for some to spice up married sex. Married people are more likely to describe their partner's sexual style as "predictable and boring" (32 percent), and less likely to use "wild and adventurous" as a sexual moniker (only 13 percent).
Scantling says she thinks people see themselves more creative than their partners. And when you're married and sleeping with the same person year in and year out, chances are, things can get a bit boring. So what do you do then? Scantling says you can add some spice by trying something new, going out on a limb and tasting something different for more flavors with your partner.
Scantling says she isn't advocating anything outrageous, but she does says to experiment a little. She advises couples to go a little outside their realm of comfort, because once things get comfortable, they get really boring. And that's what you've got to stop, she says.
Americans are Fantasizing - But About What?
Seven in 10 Americans admit to having fantasies (68 percent of women, 71 percent of men) ranging from swinging with other couples to having sex in public places and role playing. However, 30 percent say they are not fantasizing at all.
Scantling says many Americans don't see themselves wanting to be naughty or risky. She says if you broaden your definition of "fantasy" (it doesn't have to be about swinging or having sex in public places), chances are you'll be able to accept it more. Again, having mild fantasies doesn't necessarily mean that you're "naughty." Scantling says it just means opening your mind up to new things and allowing yourself to be a bit more mentally free.
Stop the Presses! Men Want to Cuddle More Than Women!
Despite stereotypes, men are more likely (62 percent) than women (56 percent) to describe a "good" sexual experience as one that ends in "laying in each other's arms." Scantling says there are tons of sensitive men. She explains that all of the sensitive men have had this macho ideal pounded into their heads, and they think it's bad to be sensitive. She explains that it's tough for men who want to be physically intimate without sex. She says it's about talking more, communicating more, and being open about your feelings with your partner so that you can both get everything you want.
What Would Make Sex Better?
When asked what would improve their sex lives, Americans volunteered that they think a better body (37 percent), more leisure time (29 percent), a better "bedroom atmosphere" (18 percent), and more sexual knowledge/know-how (17 percent) would be beneficial. Scantling says it's a myth that if we have that fabulous J-Lo body, sex will be better. She says beauty does not equate to great sex.
Scantling says cuddling with your partner could be the best medicine if you're stressed. It has nothing to do with the quantity of time spent, it's the quality. She says we need to stop thinking of sex or intimacy as a marathon. Scantling says she see it as more of a buffet. Have a little appetizer, have a little dessert. You don't need to have everything in sight for a pleasurable experience.
Who Wants "It" More?
Close to half of the men surveyed (44 percent) say they want more sex than their partner does. Scantling says this would be news to many women, since nearly 1/3 say they are a perfect match with their partner when it comes to sex drive!
She says if people started thinking about and appreciating all the other stuff aside from the physical act itself - the intimacy, the closeness, the deep bond - those numbers would be far different. Because sex, when it's good, she says, is not about the physical act. It's about the bond between two people.
Leflein Associates conducted the online survey of 502 adults over 18 years old. Responses were accepted from Wednesday January 15 to Sunday, January 19, 2003. The online panel surveyed was balanced to the U.S. population 18 years of age or older. The survey was commissioned by Sexualwellbeing.com.