The phrase, “battle of the sexes,” implies a yawning chasm between men’s and women’s sexual sensibilities. The implication is that lesbian/gay couples have less of a “battle.” Because they are members of the same gender, they are more likely to appreciate their lover’s feelings, including feelings about sex. But is this really true? Are same-sex couples sexually more compatible than heterosexual couples?

It’s amazing how little research has focused on this. I found just two studies (1983 and 1991), and they provide only a cursory look at comparative gay/straight sexual satisfaction. Fortunately, Canadian psychologists recently published a more comprehensive study (Journal of Sex Research, 2009, 46:57). They surveyed 423 people in couples, ages 18 to 58, 322 women, 101 men, 253 in mixed-sex and 170 in same-sex relationships.

This survey has strengths. Participants were recruited from the Internet. They came from across North America. The survey was anonymous, so answers were presumably more honest than they might have been in face-to-face interviews. The sex questions represented only a small fraction of the total survey, which dealt with social support, so participants had no idea they were participating in a “sex survey.”

But the survey also has weaknesses: Compared with the population, participants were more white (91%) and more college educated (53%). As a result, the findings cannot be considered definitive. Nonetheless, they are intriguing.

Sexual desire. On average, men feel more desire than women (no surprise), so we would expect men in gay couples to feel the most desire, and women in lesbian couples the least, with the men in mixed-sex couples expressing more libido than the women. But in the survey, sexual desire was pretty much the same for all couples, with gay men and lesbians expressing slightly more desire than heterosexuals.

Sexual communication. Similarity breeds comfort, so we would expect people in lesbian and gay couples to feel more satisfied with their sexual communication than people in heterosexual couples. But in the survey, satisfaction with sexual communication was “virtually identical” for all groups.

Sexual activities. “All groups displayed very similar sexual repertoires.” The only difference was that gay men were more likely to engage in anal play. (Of course, lesbians don’t have penis intercourse, but they can enjoy insertive vaginal play using fingers and dildos.)

Satisfaction with sexual activities. Satisfaction was remarkably similar for all groups. Women, both lesbian and straight, felt more satisfied with nongenital caresesses than men, both gay and straight, presumably because compared with women, men tend to be more genital-focused. But all groups expressed very similar levels of satisfaction with their lovemaking.

Satisfaction with orgasm. All groups enjoyed the same satisfaction.

Of course, this study has limitations—modest numbers and a sample that’s not truly representative. But as sex surveys go, this one appears to be reasonably well done—and persuasive.

Bottom line: People in lesbian, gay male, and mixed-gender couples have their differences. But contrary to the conventional wisdom, in terms of sexual desire, communication, and satisfaction, gay/lesbian and straight sexual relationships are much more similar than different.

More great, useful sex information from Michael Castleman, the world’s most popular sexuality writer.

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