Is spontaneous sex actually more sexually satisfying than planned sex?

By Kaitlin Myers

This blog is a summary of our published article:

Kovacevic, K., Tu, E., Rosen, N. O., Raposo, S., & Muise, A. (2024). Is spontaneous sex ideal? Beliefs and perceptions of spontaneous and planned sex and sexual satisfaction in romantic relationships. The Journal of Sex Research61(2), 246-260.

Among Western societies, there is a common belief that spontaneous sex is better than scheduling sex ahead of time [1, 2]. Yet, encouraging the planning of sexual encounters is a common approach for clinicians working with couples coping with desire difficulties to prevent avoidance of sex [3]. So, we wanted to know, do people’s beliefs about spontaneous and planned sexual encounters impact how satisfying they (and their partners) experience their sex life to be? 

What did we do?

Across two studies, we asked participants to share their beliefs on whether spontaneous sex and planned sex were satisfying to them, and to rate their satisfaction with their overall sex life. They also answered questions about their last sexual encounter, such as whether they perceived their last encounter to be spontaneous or planned, and if they felt that it was sexually satisfying.

In the first study, 303 participants completed one survey. The second study included 121 couples, and asked each couple member to independently respond to daily surveys for 21 days. 

What did we find?

In Study 1, 73% of participants reported their last sexual encounter was spontaneous (compared to 16% who reported it was planned, and 11% who were unsure/reported neither).

Independent of gender or how long ago sex occurred, participants rated spontaneous sex as more satisfying than planned sex in Study 1, and this belief was associated with higher sexual satisfaction. These participants also described more excitement, passion, desire for a partner, and feeling desirable, when discussing spontaneous sex.

Additionally, in Study 1, when participants reported their most recent sexual experience was planned ahead of time, they reported lower sexual satisfaction compared to those reporting a recent spontaneous encouter. Notably, individuals’ specific beliefs seem to be important here: planned sex was not associated with lower sexual satisfaction for participants who more highly endorsed beliefs that planned sex is satisfying. 

However, the associations in Study 1 were not found in Study 2. Rather, in the second study, an individual’s beliefs towards spontaneous or planned sex did not seem to impact how satisfying a sexual encounter was for them, both in daily life and more generally. In contrast, individuals who had more positive beliefs about planned sex did not report higher or lower sexual satisfaction, but their partners felt less sexually satisfied at the outset of the study.

What does this mean?

So, is spontaneous sex or planned sex more satisfying? The answer is it depends: planned sex could help both partners feel wanted while spontaneous sex might introduce aspects of fun and adventure into their sex lives.

Although individuals often reported greater beliefs about spontaneous sex being satisfying, we did not find consistent links between spontaneous sex beliefs and experiences and sexual satisfaction. It’s possible that unplanned sex reminds individuals of the spontaneity early on in their relationship. However, they may be overlooking the planning that went into those spontaneous encounters, such as sexual desire that may have been sparked from planned, romantic dates [2].

Overall, these findings suggest that it is important for cliniciansand for couples themselves—to explore each person’s beliefs about planned and spontaneous sex in order to better understand what role each encounter type might play in a couple’s sexual well-being, and in overcoming sexual challenges.


[1] Dune, T. M., & Shuttleworth, R. P. (2009). “It’s just supposed to happen”: The myth of sexual spontaneity and the sexually marginalized. Sexuality and Disability, 27(2), 97–108. 

[2] Perel, E. (2007). Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence. Harper.

[3] McCarthy, B., & Wald, L. M. (2015). Strategies and techniques to directly
address sexual desire problems. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 26(4),