Sex also referred to as sexual intercourse of mating is the act and process whereby partners physically and emotionally get attached in the closest possible way, especially involving the direct interaction of the genitals. In direct interaction of the genitals, I mean penetration of the male organ into the female genital organ.
Biologically, sex is the physical process that will eventually lead to the introduction of the male gametes (sperm) into the female genital organ (vagina) from where they can migrate to another part of the female genital organ called the fallopian tube for fertilization - which is the fusion of both male and female gametes to form a zygote (later develops into a baby).
I'm quite sure you understand that quite well, don't you? Conventionally, this is how sexual intercourse is defined, however, different variations have recently arisen due to the introduction of newer sexual practices and sex orientations but these are beyond the scope of this article.
Sex is one of the ingredients that bind marriages together. The quality of love felt by most partners in any marriage is heavily affected by how much time they spend together and how much sex they have.
According to a research paper published by John DeLamater, a sizeable number of older men and women agreed that sex is a key part of their wellbeing and relationship with their partner. This goes on to show how important sex is to any union.
But can we extrapolate this into pre-marital relationships? On this ground, several schools of thought have emerged. The first emphasizes that sex is beneficial to the survival of any relationship be it marital and premarital, and stresses that this demand must be met. The other indirectly refutes the former saying that sex is only required for married couples or at least people who are old enough because the risks outweigh the benefits if is not done properly and safely.
Religious beliefs have also weighed in on the matter stating that sex is a sacred union that must be carried out only after marriage. This belief is supported by the saying that sex is not the only thing required to sustain a relationship and of course, the least important factor early in the relationship before marriage.
Do not make sex the centre of your relationship. Rather focus on building other compatibilities in your relationship because the moment you put sex into the picture, everything gets skewed and your judgment becomes biased. This is true because sex is one of the most pleasurable activities ever known to man.
Now, what are some real benefits of sex? After this, I will talk more about sex in a relationship, the do's don'ts and precautions surrounding it.
10 Benefits of Sex For Partners
Before I talked about the benefits of sexual intercourse here, it is important I first define what partners mean in this context.
Partners in the context refer to any two consensual individuals (that is, mutually agrees to the act) and involving people of opposite sexes. Some of these benefits may also apply to other forms of sexual behaviours but the research done in this paper covers only heterosexual intercourse - between people of the opposite sex.
Let's now see the benefits of sex for partners.
- Health of sex to physical health
- Emotional benefits of sex
- Benefits of sex to mental health
- Physical benefits of sex
- Benefits of sex for the union
- Benefits of sex to self-worth
- Sex benefits to the immune system
- Sex protection against prostate cancer
Benefits of Sex to Physical Health
Several scientific research has stated the potential health benefits of sexual intercourse on one or both of the partners. According to an article published by the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, regular sexual foreplay, stimulation and intercourse benefits promote cardiovascular health.
Sex, in this regard, is considered a form of mild to moderate physical exercise that not only helps improve the heart function but also improve blood flow to body organs through the release of eNOS (endothelium-derived Nitric Oxide Synthase), thus reducing the incidence of hypertension and other heart diseases.
Improved Sleep Quality
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sexual activity can contribute to better sleep quality. After an orgasm, the body releases hormones like oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones induce a feeling of extreme relaxation, such that the partners fall asleep afterwards. The hormones not only induce relaxing feelings but also help to relieve stress and the stress hormone levels (cortisol and catecholamines) that may hamper sleep.
Studies indicate that these hormonal changes caused by orgasm can occur with partnered sex as well as from self-masturbation. Around 50% of both men and women say that an orgasm achieved using any method helps them fall asleep easily and help improve their sleep quality.
In heterosexual partners, the sleep-inducing effects of sex and orgasm have been shown to be greater in men than in women, which aligns with the popular social conception that men quickly asleep after sex.
The relationship between sleep and sex is bidirectional. As already stated above, sleep is enhanced by adequate sex. On the other hand, poor quality of sleep and sleep deprivation can lead to poor sexual arousal and desire in females and erectile dysfunction in men.
Emotional Benefits of Sex
Sex has also been shown to reduce stress and emotional distress in partners. Normally, stressful activities and events including emotional traumas cause the use up of body glucose. This triggers the body to produce stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline).
The overall effect of these hormones is the increased stimulation of the heart, thus increased work output and strain on the heart. Also, the blood vessels also constrict/become narrower and this increases the blood pressure. All of these reactions are components of the "flight and fright" response when you come in face to face with a stressful event.
Sexual activity and orgasm are associated with increased production of oxytocin and dopamine (the dopamine rush). These neurohormones are responsible for the intense pleasure derived from sexual intercourse. These hormones are anti-stress hormones and can produce an elevated mood that may persist for some time even after the act.
Also, when stressed, a partner can get some emotional relief merely by thinking about the last sexual experience and how pleasurable it was, thus implying that the benefits of adequate and regular sexual intercourse to partners cannot be over-emphasized.
Benefits of Sex to Mental Health
The incidence of common mental health conditions like anxiety disorders and depression can be reduced by regular sexual activity. This may be due to the same reasons described above under 'emotional benefits of sex'. Emotional trauma and physical stressors have been linked to the development of mental conditions, and by protecting you against these, sexual intercourse also protects you from developing mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and others.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the increased incidence of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. However, according to a research article carried out during the lockdown and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2021, it was shown that anxiety and depression scores were significantly lower in subjects sexually active during the lockdown.
Just to veer off a little bit, orgasm in women can be achieved in two major ways.
- Clittoral stimulation
- Penile penetration
Studies have shown that women who achieve orgasm from penile penetration of the vagina (vaginal orgasm) have greater satisfaction with sex life, mental health, relationships with partners and friends, and life in general than those who achieve orgasm only from clitoral stimulation. Thus, placing specific emphasis on the superiority of partnered sex to masturbation or other forms of sexual orientations.
Benefits of Sex for the Union
Sexual intercourse is one of the best ingredients that create more intimacy and union between the partners. Sex not only represent a biological process of reproduction but also expresses that both partners belong to each other. Like I mentioned earlier, sex is one of the most intimate sexual acts with others being curdling, kissing, etc, such that the intimacy is so deep that there is absolutely nothing between the partners physically, emotionally and spiritually.
By engaging in regular sexual intercourse with your partner, you continuously remind yourselves that you belong to each other, and this helps to foster a stronger unity, love and bond between you both.
Oxytocin has been shown to play a role in this bond produced during sex in the same mechanism it enhances the mother-child bond during breastfeeding.
Benefits of Sex to Self-worth
According to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2018, results indicated that individuals who perceived higher romantic relationship quality and achieved greater sexual satisfaction had a more positive body image than those who did not get enough sexual satisfaction.
Also, the dopamine rush which describes a state of increased release of body dopamine during the act of sex gives the individual a feeling of high and improved self-worth. Many of us have a degree of personal insecurity about our bodies and sometimes ask questions like, "Do I look good?", "Do I have a good backside?", "Where is my masculinity?" and other related questions.
During sex, foreplay and its sequelae, both partners experience what it is for someone to value your body as they both play with each other's body. This goes on to give you some validation about your perception of self-worth and in turn, improves your self-confidence.
Sex Benefits to the Immune System
Amongst many other benefits of sex, research has also shown that sex helps to improve immune system function. A study done in 2004 revealed that college students who had frequent sex, that is one to two times a week, had significantly higher levels of salivary Immunoglobin A (IgA). These values were compared against those who do not have sex, those who had sex infrequently (less than once a week) and very frequent (three or more times a week).
IgA is an immunoglobulin or antibody that is secreted into mucosal secretions in the body. It can be found in the salivary secretions, nasal, vagina, rectal and gastrointestinal mucosal secretions. This immunoglobulin confers innate protection against foreign substances and infections that attempt to invade the mucosa into the body.
Insufficient research has been done to concretely establish the relationship between sexual exposure and immunoglobulin A levels and scientists anticipate that newer studies might yield different results.
Sex Protection Against Prostate Cancer
Finally, sexual intercourse and ejaculation have been shown to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer in men.
The exact mechanisms for this are not fully understood but a study done in 2016 showed that frequency of ejaculation, correlating with the frequency of sex, plays a beneficial role in the protection against prostate cancer in men.
Questions Surrounding Sex in a Relationship
In this next section, I am going to provide some answers to common questions concerning sexual intercourse in partners in a relationship.
How often should married couples have sex a week?
There is no exact answer to this question but married couples should have sex at least once every week. This is also dependent upon their reproductive needs. Couples seeking a child are advised to have sex at least three times every week.
Is sex recommended for people who are not yet married?
No doubt, sex can help create a great bond between unmarried partners who are in a relationship. If you are asked what you are looking for in a partner, what would you say first? I am sure you will not mention sex in the top three of the list.
However, the bond and satisfaction that sex produces can cloud your judgment about what you desire in your partner, only to advance the relationship to deep levels only to encounter that you have been incompatible all along.
The dangers associated with premarital sex like STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and other emotional traumas that follow an eventual breakup far outweigh the benefits at this time. This is why abstinence remains on the top of the list in the preventive strategies for STIs (the ABC's of STI prevention which has been shown to result in a decline in HIV infection), where A, is abstinence; B is, be faithful; and C is, use condom/contraceptive. "D" can also be added, where it may stand for drugs as post-exposure prophylaxis.
What are some precautions to take before having sex?
Sex is classified as high-risk behaviour. This means that it is potentially dangerous to overall health and wellbeing, including social and financial wellbeing.
Abstinence is possible and achievable, and this is what is universally advocated. However, if for some reason you cannot abstain from premarital sex, there are some precautions you must observe.
First, be faithful to one partner who should also be faithful to you. This way, you reduce the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
Next, use a condom. Condoms are barrier contraceptive methods the prevent direct contact between the male genitals (penis) and the vagina of the female. It prevents contact with the potentially infectious fluids secreted during the sexual process including semen, which has the consequent outcome of preventing pregnancy.
You have now seen the benefits of sexual intercourse for a relationship. Several scientific pieces of evidence back up these claims about the benefits of sex for partners in a relationship.
You also found learnt that, even though sex has great benefits for any relationship, it is not recommended as first-line for a pre-marital relationship because of the associated risks when practised in unsafe ways as you would find in that category of sexual partners.
In any case, following the universal precautions of ABC's, you will surely be within the minimum radar circumference of safety, with abstinence being the best ever form of precaution.