The downside of sexual restraint : sexual frequency, frustration, and stress
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Individuals in passionate love often experience a strong desire to engage in sexual intercourse with their partners. In a previous study (Crockett, Wright, & Loving, under review), individuals who were engaging in less (vs. more) sexual intercourse during the early stages of their romantic relationship were more likely to experience acute elevations in cortisol in response to a passionate love prime. In the present study, I examined whether sexual frustration mediates any association between sexual frequency and cortisol. Subjects underwent the same passionate love prime employed in Crockett et al.’s study, and completed measures of sexual intercourse frequency and feelings of sexual frustration. Salivary cortisol samples were collected before and after the prime. Sexual frequency was significantly correlated with sexual frustration, such that individuals who were engaging in less sex experienced more sexual frustration. However, sexual frequency and sexual frustration both failed to predict cortisol reactivity to the prime. I discuss the possible methodological issues that may account for these null effects and offer suggestions for future studies that examine the physiological consequences of sexual frequency and frustration.