Narcissists are notorious for thinking they’re a blast in bed. But when evidence suggests they’re not the sex kings they may think, it deals a particularly hard blow to their egos, according to a series of studies in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. And that can end up tanking their love lives.
In three separate studies, researchers from the University of Toronto and York University examined the effects of sexual narcissism—which the press release defined as “the tendency to exploit others, a lack of empathy, feelings of grandiosity, and an excessive need for validation in the sexual domain”—on people’s satisfaction with their relationships and their sex lives.
Through a personality test with questions like, “If I ruled the world for one day, I would have sex with anyone I choose,” they gauged 173 people’s sexual narcissism. They also asked how happy they were with their sex lives and relationships, and when they last compared their sexual experiences to someone else’s.
Sexual narcissists were much more likely to make comparisons with others who they deemed inferior to them in bed—so when they thought about how others stacked up to them, they generally emerged on top. But when they last thought about someone more skilled than they are sexually, the sexual narcissists reported lower sexual and romantic satisfaction.
In the second study, the researchers asked 201 people how much it bugged them to hear about other people having more sex than them. Sexual narcissists were more likely to admit it would get under their skin.
The final study had 665 people read an article about another person’s sexual habits. Sexual narcissists who had less sex than the article’s subject were especially unhappy with their own relationships and sex lives afterward.
Now, wondering how your sex life stacks up to others’ doesn’t make you a narcissist, of course. On average, people spend 18 days a year making these comparisons, according to the press release.
But while normal, such curiosity could backfire. While only the narcissists in this study seemed to suffer from unflattering comparisons, one 2013 study in Social Indicators Research found that people are less happy with their sex lives when they perceive that those around them are having more sex.
And unsurprisingly, narcissism has other downsides for your sex life. “Some of its most negative consequences come from a lack of empathy for one’s sexual partner,” says lead author Lisa Day, Ph.D. (c).
So, there’s another reason to be considerate in bed — and to keep your nose out of other people’s bedrooms.