Why Conservatives Have Better Sex Lives Than Liberals
A European survey suggests the people who promote abstinence-only sex-ed and repressive ideas about reproductive health are more satisfied in bed than those with left-wing politics. We asked conservatives about their sex lives to try to understand how...
Photo by Viktar Salomin via Stocksy
Right-wingers tend to be vocal about their opinions on sex and matters tangential. To varying degrees, they say: Same-sex marriage is bad; since young girls should remain "pure," abstinence only sex education is best; and if you get pregnant from sex (which you shouldn't have learned about, let alone done), you should definitely not have an abortion.
Less known are the nuances of how conservatives actually have sex, since they are generally so against it. Based on the sexual hangups their political affiliation tries to force on the rest of us, it seemed obvious to me that Republicans must be having a terrible time in bed. I don't know any people on the Right, personally, so I imagined they just felt crippling anxiety any time they thought about having sex in a "normal" way and thus acted out by having sex in insane, criminal ways, which certainly don't seem very satisfying.
I guess I was wrong and naive! A new survey of 19,000 people in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark reports those who identify as right-wing are more likely to be happier with their sex lives. The YouGov poll found that 71 percent of "very right-wing" people say they are satisfied sexually, compared to around 62 percent of those who are "very left-wing." My world view shattered along with my sense of what is just.
In an attempt to understand, I decided to seek out some real, live conservatives and ask them about how they have sex. Sebastian Sommer, a New York filmmaker who recently tried very hard to get Gawker to cover his new movie, is a recently self-identified Republican who told me that his sex life was "great/perfect." He said he is bisexual and currently dating a man and a woman. "[I have sex] around three-to-five times a week depending on how busy I am and how much work needs to get done," he explained. "I'm a workaholic and prioritize work over sex, so the number has been lower, but it's also been higher. I've had sex multiple times a day with a partner."
From this I learned I definitely need to retool my working conception of conservative sex, but I was really no closer to understanding why Republicans would be happier with their sex lives than Democrats. Surely they are not all bisexual New York filmmakers who like media attention (though a lot of them seem to really like media attention)?
A previous survey in the US alluded to the same phenomenon earlier this year. Carried out by a condom company, the poll asked more than 5,000 18- to 34-year-olds about their politics and sex lives. The results pointed to an interesting contradiction: Liberals were more likely than conservatives to have actually had intercourse in the past year, to use condoms, and masturbate, but while it would seem that people with politics that strayed to the Left would ultimately report more satisfaction in bed, the survey revealed that the right-wing is enjoying sex more than the left-wing. Forty-one percent of Republicans—compared to 38 percent of Democrats—said they were "happy with their sex lives," despite using protection less, having sex less, and finding less pleasure in self-pleasure.
Leftism is a narcissistic, materialist ideology, and selfish sex in which the flesh is treated merely as flesh is almost always unsatisfying.
These results are confusing. Joe Twyman, YouGov's head of political and social research, told Buzzfeed, "Being very right wing doesn't make you sexually satisfied, but...these results suggest it is, in contrast to at least some stereotypes popular in the political world, those on the very right of the political spectrum who enjoy their sex life the most." But I wasn't convinced that political preference couldn't factor in. Perhaps the measure of satisfaction itself can be linked to politics, especially taking into account that people on the Right aren't necessarily having better, safer, or more sex on the whole.
Research into the psychology of political affiliation has shown that conservatives and liberals could possibly be fundamentally different. Studies have shown that people on the Right have stronger physical reactions to threat than those on the Left, that conservatives own more cleaning and organizational items and liberals own more books, and that people leaning to either side of the spectrum could generally be categorized by personality type. There's a lot of research that suggests liberals are generally more open to new experiences and conservatives are not.
When I asked Kevin Smith, one of the authors of Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences, if there was a plausible explanation for why right-wingers say they are more satisfied with their sex lives than left-wingers, he said it's possible that it could be a function of their conservatism, though he said he hasn't done any formal research into the topic.
"I'd hazard it's possible that this difference might make sense in terms of tracking with other known differences between liberals and conservatives," Smith said. "For example, there's a quite a bit of evidence that in comparison to conservatives, liberals tend to be more attracted to and seek out novel experiences. So maybe liberals are not as satisfied as conservatives because they are more likely to be thinking about the next exciting possibility rather than what they already have. At least at first blush, that seems to make sense and fit with some of the other patterns we know of."
A former adolescent campaigner for Bob Dole whom I spoke with seemed to agree with that assessment, in somewhat different terms. "Conservatives tend to be more satisfied across all areas of life, so I'm not surprised that includes their sex lives," he wrote in an email. "Lefties are more often dissatisfied—they whine about *micro*-aggressions—and the reason for this is that conservatives' view of the world and human nature is closer to reality, whereas Leftist ideologies tend to be utopian, which inevitably disappoints."
He also suggested God might have something to do with it. "Leftism is a narcissistic, materialist ideology, and selfish sex in which the flesh is treated merely as flesh is almost always unsatisfying. Sex that is giving, concerned with the other person, and treats the body it ought to be, which is as a symbol of the soul, is far more gratifying."
Anyway, I guess the question of who is having better sex then becomes one of value, a subject on which, as we know, both sides have vastly different takes.