A new study provides evidence that reading a book chapter about female sexuality can improve young heterosexual men’s sexual functioning. The findings have been published in the journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy.
“My area of interest is the orgasm gap, which is the inequality between women and men in the frequency of experiencing orgasm during partnered sexual activity, with heterosexual women less likely to reach orgasm with a partner than heterosexual men,” said study author Elizabeth A. Mahar, a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida.
“Before this study, I published a study showing that an educational intervention could enhance the sexual health and orgasm rate among young adult women. Because the orgasm gap exists in the context of heterosexual sexual encounters, I found it important to also look at the orgasm gap in terms of men’s socialization, especially since there is less scholarship regarding men and the orgasm gap.”
“Additionally, after colleagues from my research lab published a study showing that young women who read the book, Becoming Cliterate, improved their orgasm rate, sexual satisfaction, sexual assertion, and body-image, the next step naturally seemed to be to conduct a bibliotherapy study with men using this same book, particularly since it has a chapter summarizing the content for men,” Mahar explained.
In the study, 193 men were asked to complete surveys assessing their knowledge of female genitalia and sexual functioning, along with several other factors. The participants were then randomly assigned to either read the 35-page chapter “Cliteracy for Him” or to a wait-list control condition. About a week later, the participants completed the assessments again. To test for lasting effects, the participants completed the assessments yet again three weeks later.
The researchers found that reading the chapter was associated with a variety of benefits.
“Bibliotherapy can be helpful for sexual concerns. Specifically, this study indicates that young adult men who read a chapter in a book increased their knowledge about sexual anatomy/functioning and decreased their dysfunctional beliefs about sexuality. They also enhanced their sexual communication skills,” Mahar told PsyPost.
The dysfunctional beliefs that decreased included “macho” beliefs — such as the claim that “A real man is always ready for sex and must be capable of satisfying any woman” — along with beliefs about women’s sexual satisfaction — such as the incorrect assumption that “Penile erection is essential for a woman’s sexual satisfaction.”
“Ultimately, we hope that this research can help to reduce the orgasm gap and will encourage more sex-positive education and pleasure for everyone,” Mahar said.
However, reading the chapter was not associated with significant changes in sexual self-esteem. And the study — like all research — includes some caveats.
“Because the study’s participants were primarily relatively young, White, and middle-class men, the generalizability of these results is currently unknown. Furthermore, because we only assessed the shorter-term impact of the bibliotherapy intervention, future studies should examine whether these changes remain—over even increase—when using a longer-term follow-up (e.g., six months, one year),” Mahar said.
The study, “Cliteracy for him: effectiveness of bibliotherapy for heterosexual men’s sexual functioning“, was authored by Hannah Warshowsky, Elizabeth A. Mahar, and Laurie B. Mintz.