Sexuality Within Female Same-gender Couples: Definitions of Sex, Sexual Frequency Norms, and Factors Associated with Sexual Satisfaction

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Female same-gender (FSG) relationships, Relationship factors, Sexual satisfaction, Sexual frequency


Despite a growing number of female same-gender (FSG) relationships, couples-based research and interventions have focused primarily on mixed-gender couples. Consequently, research has applied a heteronormative lens to understanding some relationship factors, including sexuality. The current study sought to provide descriptive data regarding frequency and conceptualizations of sex across partners in FSG relationships, as well as to analyze how relationship factors are associated with sexual satisfaction in this population. Participants (N = 206) were 103 adult FSG couples who had been together for at least 2 months. Individuals provided self-report data on how they conceptualized sex, and actor–partner models were utilized to assess relationship factors associated with sexual satisfaction. Findings indicated that women in FSG relationships hold broad definitions of sex, with the majority of behaviors conceptualized as sex, including acts that involved partnered genital touching. In dyadic actor–partner models, sexual satisfaction was predicted by several factors including sexual frequency, emotional intimacy, and sexual intimacy. Unexpectedly, higher desired sexual frequency was associated with lower sexual satisfaction; however, this finding only emerged after controlling for actual sexual frequency, suggesting that discrepancies between desired and actual sex frequency may be important for FSG couples. Implications for clinical practice with FSG couples are explored, including a strength-based focus on broad conceptualizations of sex within this population and targeting relationship factors associated with sexual satisfaction.

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