Tech + Health

01.18.14

Why Do Rich Women Have Better Sex Lives?

Money may not buy you love, but it can buy you good sex. And not in the way you think.

Mo’ money, mo’ sex?

A recent analysis of the first Spanish National Sexual Health Survey found an interesting conclusion: socioeconomic factors are directly correlated to higher sexual satisfaction.

This stunning result comes our way after researchers from the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) surveyed 9,850 participants during in-depth face-to-face interviews in participants’ homes in 2009. After reviewing the resulting data, they concluded that like so much else in life (though not everything!), it’s better when you’re rich.

“People of a lower socioeconomic status claim to be less satisfied sexually,” said Dolores Ruiz, the main author of the study, who noted “it especially applies to women who seem to be more influenced by these factors.”

The study stratified responses by level of education and whether the participant grew up in a developed or developing country to reveal potential critical socioeconomic differences.

92.96 percent of women with a university education, for example, said they were generally satisfied with their sexual life, while only 81.98 percent of women with less than primary education agreed. Clearly, both groups reflect high levels of satisfaction, but the difference is significant.

The disparity widens when it comes to the matter of contraception. 62.01 percent of women with less than a primary education used contraception within the past year, which jumps up to 81.17 percent for women who have attended university. Among women from developed versus developing countries, 78.50 percent of the former use contraception compared to 67.06 percent of the latter.

While contraception may not initially seem related to levels of sexual enjoyment, for many people, especially women, the use of contraception makes sex a less stressful experience, because it reduces their concerns about pregnancies and STDs.

“When we’re too turned or worried or in a bad mood as a result of extra stress in our lives, it’s harder to have enjoyable, satisfying sex.”

And, as the authors of the study note, the fact that women of higher socioeconomic standing tend to use contraception more frequently could indicate a “greater awareness of their own needs and a greater ability to develop their sexuality with a greater degree of control.” 

Just think about sex in your own life.

Isn’t it more enjoyable when you aren’t worried about an unwanted pregnancy or the health risks a partner may be exposing you to? Alleviating concerns like these is a critical part of being relaxed and enjoying the sexual experience for many others too, it turns out.

Perhaps even more importantly, rates of sexual abuse also showed a strong disparity among women based on their levels of education. 4.03 percent of women with a university education had suffered sexual abuse, compared to 13.65 percent of women with less than primary education. Unsurprisingly, a history of sexual abuse can negatively affect a person’s levels of sexual satisfaction as adult, as well as other related issues regarding romance and intimacy.

Last year, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that exposure to sexual abuse at a young age was “specifically associated with pronounced cortical thinning in the genital representation field in the somatosensory cortex.” And what that could mean is that those regions “would be associated with a lowered pain threshold,” said Dr. Jens Pruessner of the University of Montreal. “so you would more easily perceive pain instead of touch from that area.” 

So, sex can potentially feel physically different, namely worse, for people who suffered sexual abuse, further explaining the differences between women of higher and lower socioeconomic status (based on the 9% difference).

But there are other more subtle factors that may be at play affecting differences in life sexual satisfaction, especially the role of stress. In many studies comparing women of varying socioeconomic statuses, it is easy to forget that their disparate financial and social burdens can dramatically increase their respective levels of general stress.

A woman with minimal education, a large family to support, and low-paying job may very well face greater daily stress than a highly educated woman with a smaller family or more child care support and a high-paying job that she has greater scheduling and control over.

And in turn, stress (or lack thereof) can have a strong effect on sexual satisfaction. People who are stressed tend to produce higher amounts of the hormone Cortisol, and when it is produced in large amounts for an extended period, it can lower one’s libido.

Plus: When we’re too turned or worried or in a bad mood as a result of extra stress in our lives, it’s harder to have enjoyable, satisfying sex.

So, despite the sensationalist headlines, like “The Rich Have It All, Including Better Sex”, it’s not that wealthier or educated people have better sex.

What this study really shows us is that sex is yet another way socioeconomic privilege can extend into every aspect of a person’s life.

Higher socioeconomic background affords certain privileges and protections that can make for a more satisfying sexual life.

But that, we should hope, can change. Enjoyable sex should be a luxury for everyone.