Interview With a Sex Researcher: Dr. John Beiter
There are a lot of people conducting sex research, but most of us only hear about them when they make headlines. So I decided to take a look behind the scenes so you can hear about sex research from someone who’s actually doing it. Dr. John Beiter has been giving people his test as a way to both gather information and help them discover new things about themselves. But instead of summarizing his work, why don’t I let you hear what he has to say?
Tell us a little about your background and your interest in this area.
My name is John Beiter, Ph.D. and I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology later in life than most. I had been working in the corporate world in treasury & finance and decided after reading Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled that my calling in life was to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a psychologist. After graduating in 2007, I still had not decided what to specialize in until I had a serendipitous encounter with another therapist who inquired about my interest in becoming a certified sex therapist and connected me to Dr. Shirley Kurtz who not only became my supervisor but mentor as well. Anecdotally, my interest in sex therapy goes back to my High School days. In 10th grade I presented a controversial lecture on the school system’s blatant lack of preparing students for sexual relationships concluding with the following attention getter, stating that “as High School students we are going to learn very quickly that there is a lot more to sexual intercourse than a man sticking his penis into a woman’s vagina! As far as the teacher was concerned my lecture was over and the seeds for the sex therapist were planted.
What prompted you to develop this particular survey? Did you base it on previous research?
I developed this survey in response to my clients’ struggles of finding ways to comfortably discuss their sexuality. Since I grew up in the corporate world and was familiar with many of the instruments available to help individuals improve and develop in many different aspects, especially communications “ I naturally looked in this area for ideas. In other words, what communication tools in the corporate world could give me ideas, structures and frameworks to build in the clinical world? One thing that struck me as rather odd was that there was no one ideal instrument out there to apply to my practice, so this motivated me to create the Beiter Sexuality Preference Indicator.
Can you tell us a little about how you’ve found participants? How many people have taken it? Any interesting patterns among the demographics?
I started administering the BSPI to my clients and manually captured the data into a spreadsheet. The client response early on was overwhelmingly positive. One couple was so excited after having taken the instrument that they stated, “I wish you would have had this [BSPI] when we first started seeing you, it would have made our communication around sexuality so easy! From there it started to grow. Based on those positive comments, I decided to socially administer it to friends and family. Again, I received an incredible amount of positive acceptance. My girlfriend, Renee had been behind me the whole way and decided that we should think about the BSPI in a much larger way. So we decided to create a website devoted to the BSPI and create a logo to brand it. Renee started using social media to market the BSPI and was able to get the Playboy Radio Channel interested. As a result of her incredible efforts, I was interviewed by Tiffany Granath the day the website was launched. Within hours of that radio spot the number of visitors to our website increased by hundreds. By the end of the first week of being launched on June 10, 2009 “ 1,000 people had taken the BSPI. My goal is to reach an unprecedented 100,000 from peoples all over the world. To date, over 3,000 people have taken the survey and the numbers grow daily. I continue to participate in radio shows throughout the country, and am in talks with various newspapers and magazine. I am also expanding traffic to my Facebook and Twitter site @DrJohnB to connect with more people involved in the sexual community, with relationships, and intimacy.
Some of the patterns that have emerged include the following:
¢ To date, more men have taken the BSPI [60% vs 40%]
¢ Women are more likely to be satisfied in their sexual relationships with 3 out of every 4 women reporting satisfaction
¢ Women as well as men prefer to be the Dominant partner “ meaning that they like to initiate sex with their partner and both prefer an adventurous approach to their sexual activities.
What have you seen in the data? What trends have you noticed? What about differences based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race, etc.?
Some of the trends that are starting to emerge indicate that when men are reporting not being satisfied, it is because they have not been able to connect physically while women report the lack of an emotional connection. When it comes to sexual activity most people regardless of gender want to take an active role in initiating. One surprising trend is that does not seem to be any major differences in overall preferences when looking over the various ages, which may lead one to believe that our sexual preferences do not change all that much over time. Men tend to spike around three distinct sets of preferences while women spiked around six sets, leading one to think that women are able to encompass broader roles sexually while men tend to limit themselves. There is not enough data to report on race at this time as most of the data to data is from Caucasians. As the data pool grows the trends will become more evident.
I have started to analyze individual questions where there is a significant difference between men and women and have found it to be very interesting.
- Prefer lights on vs. lights off M- 76% W- 36% – What does this say about a woman’s self esteem?
- Prefer Romantic partners vs. express excitement through touch M- 18% W- 45% – Are men missing something here?
- Always have fun in sex vs. sometimes get bored M-67% W-53% – Why are almost half of the women bored with sex?
- Prefer to masturbate vs. initiate sex on partner M- 60% W-47% – Why do so many of us prefer to masturbate?
How have your results informed your professional practice? How do you think other people could use your results?
I use the instrument in my clinical practice. After explaining the instrument, I ask my clients to guess what they know about their own sexuality. Some people have guessed wrong and then when reviewing the results have had an ˜aha’ moment claiming that it makes sense to understand it that way. When I use it on couples, it is surprising just how little partners really know about each other. I have created some standard questions to ask couples after taking the test with the goal of increasing communications around their sexuality. For example, I will ask – What surprised you most about your partner and what surprised you most about yourself?
Many couples, especially in the age group of 21 “ 30 years old, have stated that the instrument made it easier and more comfortable to talk about sex. Additionally, as a result of feeling more comfortable communicating about their sexuality some individuals had also been able to more thoroughly explore their sexual needs from a pleasure base rather than an orgasm/performance base. Instead of viewing sex as a performance where the main actors are an erection and two [or more] supporting orgasms, I am working with couples to tailor their sexual activity to focus on pleasure, fun and intimacy. It is not the intention to deny or avoid intercourse and orgasm, but to experience many other aspects of sexual activity to enjoy.
What kinds of feedback have you received from participants?
The feedback remains incredibly positive. I have received so many letters of support and encouragement as many have indicated that my work is critical and important for the advancement and understanding of human sexuality. Many people that have taken the BSPI thus far have stated that while they felt it was important to be aware of their own preferences, they stated it was equally if not more important to know their partners preferences in order to better relate and respond to their partner’s sexual needs, wishes and desires.
There are assumptions that have been made before understanding preferences. One couple reported that because the wife had more sexual experience with many different partners before the marriage and he had not, the assumption was made that she knew what she wanted and would prefer to be the Dominant partner, when in fact she clearly enjoyed being the Submissive. Another assumption that has been teased out between married couples is the expectation that the male is expected to prefer the Dominant role and the woman the Submissive. The research does not support that assumption and demonstrates it as an individual choice regardless of gender orientation.
What’s your vision for this project?
The vision of my project is for the BSPI to become the standard instrument for all people to use world wide in learning about their sexuality. I want to capture over 100,000 respondents and publish a book on the results so that we can understand the differences between people from various parts of the world, different sexual orientation, gender, age, etc. I see the results informing our educational leaders in promoting a sexuality that is based on pleasure replacing the outdated and harmful performance based one that too many of us have adopted.