New Research Busts The Myth Of Spontaneous Sex As Superior To Planned Sex

While being swept off your feet can feel exciting, sex does not feel any less pleasurable when you see coming either.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | August 5, 2023

A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research dismantles a commonly held belief in the Western imagination: sex is more satisfying when it is spontaneous. Implicitly, this belief assumes that planned or premeditated sex is less satisfying because both partners are aware of the context under which it will happen.

Spontaneous sex is depicted as more exciting and pleasurable in movies, pop culture, and even in literature. According to psychologist and lead author Katarina Kovacevic's new research findings, this might just be a case of life imitating art.

To investigate the truth about implicit sexual beliefs, Kovacevic's study first defined and categorized them.

"People hold lay beliefs (or implicit theories) about what makes for satisfying romantic relationships (i.e., implicit theories of relationships), which are associated with relationship outcomes, as well as what makes for a satisfying sex life, which have implications for both sexual and relationship satisfaction," the author states.

Kovacevic's study deals primarily with two implicit beliefs about sex:

  1. Spontaneous sex belief. Sex is satisfying when it "just happens."
  2. Planned sex belief. Discussing, planning or scheduling sex is satisfying.

The research was carried out in two phases. While the first study recorded the participants' beliefs about what kind of sex is more satisfying (spontaneous or planned) through open-ended questions, the second study observed the participants' sex lives and levels of sexual satisfaction over the course of 21 days to see if these beliefs were in any way associated with actual sexual satisfaction.

The study produced mixed results about what kind of sex can definitively lead to sexual satisfaction. However, what is remarkable is that positive spontaneous sex beliefs did not show any definitive or direct association with greater sexual satisfaction.

The study also found that when people viewed their last sexual encounter as planned, they were likely to report lower sexual satisfaction. However, this was not true in cases where people endorsed planned sex beliefs more strongly.

All in all, these results suggest that the sexual satisfaction we may derive from our latest sexual interaction may be influenced as much by our implicit sexual beliefs as it is by the actual quality of the sexual experience, busting the myth that planned sex is doomed to be inferior to spontaneous sex at all times.

But the question remains: why do we have such deeply-entrenched beliefs about spontaneous sex? The authors say that it might be because we form them as early as young adulthood.

"Sexual beliefs are intricately formed through the integration of multiple sources of messaging, such as from parents and peers. Growing evidence suggests that mass media most commonly portrays that sex 'just happens,' and that being 'swept away' is the natural way to have sex, which may influence people's attitudes, beliefs, and expectations about sex, particularly in younger audiences."

While these beliefs may seem harmless at first, affecting nothing but one's preference about the kind of sex they find more exciting, not questioning or challenging them can have real consequences for your love life and relationships.

For instance, another study published in The Journal of Sex Research explains that one's implicit sex beliefs influence the intensity with which they respond to a sexual challenge (e.g., a sex slump, unmet sexual needs, etc.) in a relationship.

It's not difficult to see how spontaneous sex beliefs can pose an obstacle in a relationship where sex "just happening" is unlikely, like in the case of working parents or in a long-distance relationship.


Kovacevic's study draws attention to an important aspect of our sexual lives that usually goes unnoticed: the inner scripts and arbitrary rules we follow sometimes have little to do with the reality of sexual satisfaction. Challenging these rules and approaching our sex lives with vulnerability and authenticity can help us experience sexual pleasure on our own terms.