The context within which sexual experiences occur is critically important in deter­mining whether they are positive for individuals and relationships. Author and sex therapist Wendy Maltz developed a model of sexual expression that describes levels of constructive and destructive sexual experiences (Maltz, 2001). Maltz sees sexual energy as a neutral force; however, the intent and consequences of sexual behavior can lead in negative or positive directions. For example, marital intercourse may be intensely passionate; alternatively, it may be spousal rape.

The three positive levels of sexual interaction are built on mutual choice, caring, respect, and safety. As shown in I Figure 8.3, Level +1 (Positive Role Fulfillment) reflects well-defined gender roles, established by social or religious custom, in which (in heterosexual relationships) the man is the initiator and the woman is the receiver. Sexual interactions at this level are characterized by mutual respect, a lack of coercion and resentment, and a strong sense of safety and predictability. Pregnancy and reduc­tion of sexual tension are common goals for sex.

Sexual Behaviors

■ TABLE 8.3 Frequency of Sex in Selected Countries

Country

Frequency of Sex per Year

Greece

138

Croatia

134

Bulgaria

127

United States

113

South Africa

109

Canada

108

Germany

104

China

96

India

75

Japan

45

SOURCE: Global Sex Survey, 2005.

experience has a greater variety of sexual behaviors, research finds that it is more likely for the woman to experience orgasm (Herbenick et al., 2010a). ■ Table 8.4 compares sexual behaviors and responses of lesbians and heterosexual women.

■ TABLE 8.4 Comparison of Lesbians’ and Heterosexual Women’s Last

Experience During Last Sexual Contact

Lesbians (%)

Heterosexual Women (%)

Had more than one orgasm

32

19

Received oral sex

48

20

Lasted 15 minutes or less

4

14

Lasted more than 1 hour

39

15

Sources: Lesbian statistics from Advocate magazine survey (Lever, 1994); heterosexual statistics from the National Health and Social Life Survey (Laumann et al., 1994).