POLL: American Sex Survey

Similarly, couples who sometimes "wear something sexy" are more likely, by 12 to 16 points, to enjoy sex a great deal, to be very satisfied with it and to call it very exciting. Talking about fantasies and watching explicit videos are related to more excitement in sexual relationships, but less so to satisfaction or enjoyment.

Satisfaction, in particular, matters: People who are satisfied with their sex lives are considerably more likely in turn to be satisfied with their overall relationship.

Specifically, among those who are very satisfied with the sex, 90 percent are also very satisfied with their marriage or committed relationship overall. Among those who are just somewhat satisfied with their sex lives, fewer, 71 percent, are very satisfied with their relationship. And among those who aren't satisfied with the sex, fewer still -- 53 percent -- are very satisfied with their marriage or partnership.

Moreover, people who aren't satisfied with their sexual relationship are by far the most likely to cheat on their spouse or partner. Thirty-six percent have done so.


All told, 16 percent of adults say they've strayed from a committed relationship, including 14 percent who've had sex outside of that relationship, and two percent who've had sexual activity but not intercourse. Twenty-one percent of men say they've cheated, as have 11 percent of women.

As noted, people who are not satisfied with their sex lives are most likely to have strayed, as are single men over 30 (that includes divorced, separated and widowed men, as well as never-marrieds). People 50 and older in general are more likely than younger adults to have cheated.

Cheaters by Age
Age Cheated
18-29 8%
30-39 11
40-49 15
50+ 21

There's a division in motivation among cheaters: Forty-five percent (mostly men) say it was mainly to fulfill a physical desire, while 33 percent (more apt to be women) say it was mainly to fulfill an emotional need.

Nearly seven in 10 cheaters say they stepped out with a friend; 39 percent with someone they just met, 37 percent with a co-worker and 15 percent with a neighbor (multiple answers were accepted). Men and women have cheated with a friend about equally; men are more apt to have cheated with a co-worker or someone they'd just met.

Cheaters are busy: They've had an average of 29 sex partners in their lifetimes (and a median of 12). They're more uninhibited and more permissive -- more likely to have watched sexually explicit videos, to have paid for sex, and to have had revenge or rebound sex; and more apt to approve of premarital sex and to say it's OK to have sex without an emotional relationship (45 percent of cheaters say so, compared with 19 percent of others).

Cheating: Who's Done It
All 16%
Men 21
Women 11
No children under 18 19
Dissatisfied w/ sex life 34
Single men 30+ 42

In terms of their sexual adventurousness, more than two-thirds of cheaters have had sex outdoors, three in 10 have had sex at work (more than double the overall rate), three in 10 report having had sex in a threesome (twice the rate for all adults) and another quarter have fantasized about it. Also, half of cheaters say they've had "an unexpected sexual encounter with someone new," double the rate among all adults -- suggesting that some cheating may be spontaneous rather than planned.

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