Researchers stray from the usual heteronormative parameters in a new take on determining the relationship between love and sex.  They collected data from an Internet-based survey of almost 25,000 gay and bisexual men residing in the United States who were members of online websites facilitating social or sexual interactions with men. 

The survey results determined that nearly all (92.6 percent) of the men whose most recent sexual event occurred with a relationship partner indicated being in love with the partner at the time they had sex. So experiences of love among people are far more similar than different, regardless of sexual orientation.  

"Given the recent political shifts around the Defense of Marriage Act and same-sex marriage in the United States, these findings highlight the prevalence and value of loving feelings within same same-sex relationships," said lead investigator Joshua G. Rosenberger, a professor at George Mason's College of Health and Human Services.

Co-author Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University and one of the study co-authors, added, "This study is important because of myths and misunderstandings that separate men from love, even though the capacity to love and to want to be loved in return is a human capacity and is not limited by gender or sexual orientation."

Joshua G. Rosenberger, Ph.D., a professor at George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services and Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., a research assistant at Indiana University's School of Public Health in Bloomington. Credit to their respective institutions.

Key findings:

  • Nearly all men in the study, 91.2 percent, were "matched" when it came to their feelings of love and their perceptions of their partner's feelings of love.
  • With regard to age, having been in love with their sexual partner during their sexual event was experienced most commonly by men age 30-39 years. Uncertainty of love for a sexual partner was less frequent in older cohorts, with a greater proportion of young men reporting they were unsure if they loved their sexual partner or if their sexual partner loved them.
  • Men in love with their partners were significantly more likely to endorse the experience as being extremely or quite a bit pleasurable, compared to sexual events in which the participant was not in love.

"We found it particularly interesting that the vast majority of men reported sex with someone they felt "matched" with in terms of love, meaning that most people who were in love had sex with the person they loved, but that there were also a number of men who had sex in the absence of love," said Herbenick. "Very few people had sex with someone they loved if that person didn't love them back. This 'matching' aspect of love has not been well explored in previous research, regardless of sexual orientation."

Published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “Special Section: Sexual Health in Gay and Bisexual Couples.”