Move over big houses, evenly distributed fake tans, gleaming clavicles, and whatever other thing you were chasing as proof of your bona fides of having enviably arrived. A new study says all you need is love. Well, sex. OK technically all you need is more sex than everyone you know.
Tim Wadsworth, a name which kills me because you know, wads and the shooting of them, but, heh, not distracted: Tim Wadsworth is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder where I'm sure everyone's getting laid like gangbusters.
Looking over some old national survey data from 1993 to 2006 that asked some 15,000 people about their sex frequency, he found an initial no-duh of all the moons of the universe of the times across all the lands: The more people got laid, the happier they were. Even after controlling for other factors like health, education, marital status, etc., it turned out that people who got it on a few times a month were 33% happier than the people who hadn't. And exponentially so: Once-a-week boners were more like 44% happier. And two to three times a week? Slap me silly and call me ecstatic: 55% more likely to report a higher level of happiness.
I know what you're thinking, can we top this out at 100% maximum happy? What if you have sex like every day? Twice a day? Sorry, humanoid. I'm sure it starts working against you, because then you're forgetting to pay the mortgage and missing Game of Thrones. (Wait, I guess GoT is the perfect boning pre-game.)
BUT THAT'S NOT EVEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THIS:
But he also found that even after controlling for their own sexual frequency, people who believed they were having less sex than their peers were unhappier than those who believed they were having as much or more than their peers.
"There's an overall increase in sense of well-being that comes with engaging in sex more frequently, but there's also this relative aspect to it," he said. "Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier."
BOOYAH! Let me get this straight: I could be getting laid like prom night (which I am, of course) on the daily and that could make me pretty happy, but if I found out that my friends are doing it like, three times a day and still making the mortgage and watching Game of Thrones, I'm going to feel like my sex life is a desert of discontent?
Indeed. We are such competitive little jackanapes, no? It's not enough to get all the tail you can manage, you have to believe it's the most tail being gotten, or at least more tail than your friends, neighbors, boss, loved ones, postal carrier, guy who makes your bagel.
That's right: You have to out-fuck the guy who makes your bagel to be truly happy.
Of course barring the bagel guy being your neighbor in a thin-walled apartment building or your over-sharey best friend, how are you supposed to accurately judge the frequency of all this alleged high-octane thrusting everyone but you is up to?
Though sex is a private matter, the mass media and other sources of information provide clues. For instance, Wadsworth noted, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men's Health, Men's Journal and The AARP Magazine — with a combined circulation of 30 million — frequently report the results of their own or others' sex surveys.
Television and film depictions might also play a role, and, Wadsworth writes, "there is plenty of evidence that information concerning normative sexual behavior is learned through discussions within peer groups and friendship networks."
As a result of this knowledge, if members of a peer group are having sex two to three times a month but believe their peers are on a once-weekly schedule, their probability of reporting a higher level of happiness falls by about 14 percent, Wadsworth found.
That's 14% worth of blue balls. So I guess we won't shut up about all the sex we're having (or not having). The problem, Wadsworth says, is our methods of social comparison are innately designed to make us feel like no-tail getting mutants.
"We're usually not looking down and therefore thinking of ourselves as better off, but we're usually looking up and therefore feeling insufficient and inadequate."
And therein lies the oh-so-instrumental rub. Feeling good apparently can't happen in a vacuum (was NOT making a suction joke on purp), it hinges entirely on comparison.
Your sense of how rich or laid you are depends entirely on how much stuff or laid-voids other people have, or as Wadsworth puts it "…we can only be wealthy if others are poor, or sexually active if others are inactive."
Is this not one of the weirdest things ever about being alive? That at any point in your life you could feel totally content, so long as you never see a more affluent or easy version of your life to covet? Must fight urge to mock, because I distinctly remember thinking my 2002 Nokia cell phone was the shit until I saw the Razr.
But before we all go cruelly tossing our perfectly decent lovers out of bed for only being super satisfying up to five minutes ago, I think we have to remember one thing: Everyone is a big repressed pathological gargoyle liar.
Studies about how often you do things people say you're supposed to do (give money, give a shit, have sex, say nice things to your children) or about how often you don't do the things you know you aren't supposed to (steal, lie, do drugs, have unprotected sex) are notoriously unreliable. We are notoriously unreliable.
We all want so badly to seem totally in line with however it is we're supposed to be or not be. The frequent sex-pervasive culture we inhabit is part Internet anonymity — finally, a looky box we can looky into semi-privately — but part backlash for how long we've all had to pretend that we didn't want to do or know about all the weird human things we are obviously totally obsessed with. (Googling dendrophilia now.)
Wouldn't it be funny if we were all mostly having perfectly Goldilocks levels of sex that made us all feel totally taken care of, but in this frenzied rampant comparison-insecurity, we feel the need to inflate our numbers, thereby creating the illusion that we fuck more than we do, more interestingly than we do, leaving us all feeling bad and not fucked enough?
Whatever we are chasing, we are dumb. But, alas, human.
There's one other way to look at this: As the best thing ever. If having gotten some is the new status symbol, if high-frequency sex is the new black, then finally, there is something we could all pretend to have that virtually no one can really call us on. I see your $300 selvedge jeans and raise you one dewy fresh illuminated glow, which may or may not be courtesy of NARS. Go ahead and try to call me on it. Dare you.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.