Close Relationships and Sexuality

Sex Drive: Conceptualization and meta-analysis of gender differences
Few spheres in life are as universally relevant to (almost) all individuals past puberty as sexuality. People vary in their intrinsic motivation to seek out sexual activity and satisfaction, typically referred to as sex drive. Several recent projects revolved around this concept. Past research varied in how it conceptualized sex drive. In one project, we offered a theory-driven conceptualization of sex drive as the density distribution of state sex drive, where state sex drive is defined as momentary sexual motivation that manifests in sexual cognition, affect, and behavior (Frankenbach, Weber, Loschelder, Kilger, & Friese, 2022). Based on this conceptualization, we conducted a meta-analysis of gender differences in sex drive. Past research typically reported stronger sex drive in men compared to women (Baumeister et al., 2001), but some authors argued that the respective reports may have questionable validity due to biased responding by both genders (Conley et al., 2011). In our meta-analysis, we found a medium-to-large gender difference in sex drive indicating a stronger sex drive in men compared to women. When trying to control for biased responding by taking into account response bias on items that logically cannot reveal appreciable gender differences, the meta-analytic effect was medium in size.

Sex Drive Measurement
Based on the theory-driven conceptualization of sex drive, we developed a brief scale to validly and efficiently assess the construct, the Trait Sexual Motivation Scale (TSMS, Weber, Reis, & Friese, 2023). In four preregistered studies, the TSMS was found to be an economical, reliable, and valid measure of sexual motivation independent of gender and relationship status.

Sex Drive in Everyday Life
Although research on sex drive has become more and more popular, its characteristics and importance in the daily life of young and healthy people is still poorly understood. Aiming to address this gap, we conducted an experience-sampling study to examine (a) characteristics (“How frequently do sexual events occur?”), (b) antecedents (e.g., self-control, presence of the partner) and (c) consequences (e.g., distraction, relationship quality) of sex drive in everyday life. Results suggest that sexual events are prevalent and frequent (e.g., several fantasies a day on average), that momentary sex drive is higher when partners are present, and that higher levels of sex drive are associated with higher relationship quality (Weber, Frankenbach, Hofmann, & Friese, unpublished manuscript).

Extradyadic Sexual Fantasies
Past research suggests that for those who are in a (sexually exclusive) relationship, having fantasies about a person other than the partner (i.e., extradyadic sexual fantasies) can cause moral emotions like shame and guilt (Yarab & Allgeier, 1998). Ongoing projects started to extend this line of research in two ways by asking: 1) Do extradyadic sexual fantasies have a negative effect on participants’ relationship? 2) Do fantasy-induced feelings of shame and guilt have different implications for the relationship (i.e., approach/avoidance motivation and behavior)? Preliminary results suggest that fantasy-induced feelings of guilt and shame are highly correlated (r > .7). Consequently, it is not surprising that we found no clear evidence for differential effects of guilt and shame.