Sex & Dating | October 30, 2020 9:22 am

What Your Politics Say (Or Don’t Say) About Your Sexual Preferences

Who's kinkier? Dems or Republicans?

donkey and elephant in bed together
"Conservative" is a relative term — especially as regards the boudoir
Mike Falco for InsideHook

With the 2020 presidential election mere days away, you likely already know which way you’ll be casting your vote — if you haven’t done so already. What you may not know, however, is what that decision might say about your sex life.

When husband and wife Malcolm and Simone Collins, authors of The Pragmatist’s Guide to Sexuality, set out to find correlations between political views and sexual proclivities, they began their research with a theory: “We assumed conservatives would be more sexually conservative,” Malcolm tells InsideHook.

After all, conservatism reflects a history dating back to the 1940s and ’50s of very specific politics on sex — namely, opposition toward abortion, same-sex marriage, premarital sex and many forms of sex education, including the use of contraceptives — that intended to control what was then characterized as “uncontrolled sexual behavior … that would sap the nation’s strength,” writes history and American studies professor Joanne Meyerowitz in Gender and the Long Postwar: The United States and the Two Germanys, 1945-1989. (It’s important to note that the LGBTQ+ movement, casual sex and reproductive rights such as birth control are hardly regarded as potentially damaging behavior in the present day, although many conservatives today may maintain similar views.)

What the Collinses instead discovered is that conservatives actually have much higher libidos than their liberal counterparts and are just as kinky in the sack, if not more so. Their 2020 poll of 250 individuals (51 percent men) shows conservative males are more than twice as turned on by hitting and choking their partner, while liberal males prefer to be on the receiving end of those aggressive behaviors. Conversely, conservative women are nearly twice as aroused by choking and being choked, and more than twice as turned on by striking their partner than their liberal counterparts.

Conservative males and females alike are also more into what may be considered darker aspects of kink, including snuff, necrophilia, absorption and vore — which aligns with findings from a 2017 study, published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, that linked political conservatism with an increased responsiveness to negative stimuli.

Perhaps most surprising to the Collinses were the statistics their research unveiled surrounding rape fantasies. Both male and female conservatives report significantly higher rates of arousal regarding rape role play compared to liberals (38 vs. 8 percent for men; 38 vs. 16 percent for women), as well as the idea of real rape (25 vs. 2 percent for men; 23 vs. 5 percent for women).

What accounts for this radical discrepancy between what the Collinses’ hypothesis and their actual findings? According to Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a certified sex educator and TV personality who often discusses the role of sexuality in politics, “Someone’s public politics don’t necessarily correlate with what they do, don’t do or want to do in or out of the bedroom.”

This could help explain why it’s often shocking — or at least scandalous — when there’s word of sexual misconduct on the part of politicians. Just because a political figure preaches traditional views on marriage and sex doesn’t mean their behavior will follow suit. In fact, the exact opposite may be more likely.

“What it is that turns us on often stands in contradiction to what we think we’re supposed to do,” says Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of Tell Me What You Want.

Essentially, attempts to refrain from behavior considered inappropriate can often backfire. Thought suppression tends to have an inverse effect: whatever it is you try to convince yourself not to think about, you’ll end up thinking about, Dr. Lehmiller explains. And eventually, you may act on those thoughts.

For conservatives who have very strong political and moral prohibitions against certain sexual behaviors, then, this could mean masturbation, but it might also mean same-sex fantasies, infidelity or other forms of sexual activity that transgress traditional mores. Generally, whatever it is you believe to be wrong yet find equally arousing bears the potential to turn you on more when you try to abstain from it.

This could also explain why conservatives tend to engage in higher levels of porn consumption than liberals, per a series of studies dating back as early as the 1980s. The authors of a 2020 study, published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, analyzed porn consumption across state and individual levels, ultimately finding the highest levels of porn engagement among evangelical Protestants from politically conservative states.

“We’re [often] turned on by the idea of doing what we’re not supposed to; it’s the appeal of the taboo,” says Dr. Lehmiller. “For Republicans, a group of people who have a lot of restrictions placed on their sexuality, violating the norms of monogamy in particular would be something especially appealing.” In other instances of perceived sexual transgression, he adds, particularly when it comes to BDSM play, it might not just be the taboo of the act that’s appealing. “For some people, [BDSM] involves a lifelong pattern of attraction to pain,” says Dr. Lehmiller. “For others, it’s a learned kink.”

Regardless, one thing to consider in dominant versus submissive roles, according to Malcolm, is a need for control often reflected in conservative ideology and its adherents. For some conservatives, this may translate to taking on a dominant role in bed, a position defined by exercising control over another. Liberals, on the other hand, are not easily affected by pain, according to the same 2017 study of political ideology and personality, and also more flexible, curious and open — the combined effect of which may make liberals more interested in assuming a sexually submissive role and relinquishing power to a dominant partner.

Ultimately, while the beliefs and perspectives that inform one’s political views might also shape sexual attitudes and interests, it’s impossible to draw any direct correlation between the two. As Levkoff tells InsideHook, what you do in the bedroom ultimately comes down to a very personal combination of collective experiences, willingness to experiment and the dynamic between you and your partner, which can change from relationship to relationship. While Malcolm and Simone Collins’ work reveals interesting, sometimes surprising connections between political ideologies and sexual proclivities, it really just highlights the fallibility of any assumptions we make about someone’s sex life based on what we know of their public-facing persona. 

Sexuality is deeply personal, and which way someone votes can’t really tell you any more about their sex life than their favorite ice cream flavor or whether they favor iPhone or Android. Still, research does seem to suggest that who you vote for may say something about you and your interests in bed, even if your sexual and political lives appear on the surface to be strange bedfellows.

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