Optimal Sexual Experiences

“Optimal sexual experience may involve those moments of deep connection in which both lovers are psychologically and sexually accessible, engaged and responsive to whatever lies deep within.”

Kleinplatz, Ménard, Paquet, Paradis, Campbell, et al (2009). The components of optimal sexuality: A portrait of “great sex” Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 18(1-2), 1-13.)

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Find your Optimal


The Optimal Sexual Experiences Research Team of the University of Ottawa began conducting a series of studies on “great sex” in 2005. Our team sought to learn empirically what constitutes optimal sexual experience, what lessons we might learn from extraordinary lovers, about commonalities and differences across our participant groups and about optimal sexual development in long-term couples (Kleinplatz, Menard, Paradis, et al., 2009; Kleinplatz Menard, Paquette et al., 2009; Kleinplatz, Menard, Paradis, Campbell et al., 2013; Kleinplatz, Menard, Wannamaker, 2014). We then identified facilitating factors which helped to bring about optimal sexual experiences which are discussed in Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers (Kleinplatz & Ménard, 2020).

For 10 years, whenever we presented our data, colleagues were inclined to ask if our findings had any practical or clinical value. Could our findings be useful in helping dysfunctional or “ordinary” couples? Or to put it more simply, could anybody become an extraordinary lover? Our reply had always been that this was an empirical question and it deserved an empirical answer

Beginning in 2013, we entered the translation phase of this research endeavour: We applied the lessons from research on optimal sexual experiences to develop a group therapy intervention for couples presenting with low sexual desire/frequency and sexual desire discrepancy. Subsequent to our preliminary, positive results published in Kleinplatz et al. (2018), our team has continued to find large increases in sexual satisfaction among couples as a result of our intervention, as reported in:

Kleinplatz, P.J., Charest, M., Paradis, N., Ellis, M., Rosen, L., Ménard, A. D., & Ramsay, T. O. (2020). Treatment of low sexual desire or frequency using a sexual enhancement group couples therapy approach. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 17, 1288-1296.

This expanded sample included 90 individuals (38 heterosexual and 7 same-sex, distressed couples) who were seen in 16 hours of group couples therapy. Significant differences (p < .001) and effect sizes (Cohen’s d = 0.7-1.3) were found in overall sample means from pre-tests to post-tests and 6-month follow-ups, as well as in items assessing satisfaction with intensity of sexual arousal, variety, pleasure, frequency, partner’s initiation, creativity, balance between giving and receiving, and emotional opening up. There were no differences across teams of therapists, including those who received training subsequent to the development of the intervention.

We have thus far increased the sample size to over 200 individuals (over 100 distressed couples) beyond those initial clinical studies, added more same-sex couples and continue to find the same, highly significant results.

We are now collaborating more widely and over the last two years, have been offering trainings to other, experienced couples- and sex therapists in this approach. What is especially exciting is that their results parallel those of the team that developed the approach! In other words these are transferable skills, not only from extraordinary lovers to distressed couples but also across therapists.

We continue to offer these groups to people in any kind of relatiolnship who want to enhance their sex lives. In addition, our team members have published many different articles about optimal sexual experiences. More broadly, we also study sexual experiences across the life cycle, sexual well-being and sexual health among older people, sexual minorities and the marginalized, access to sex education, depictions of sexuality in the media, including messages in sexual health advertising, romance novels and advice columns.

Optimal Sexual Experiences

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