How Much Sex is Too Much Sex?

D.A. Wolf gets into the question everyone wonders about and nobody wants to be the first to ask.

Come on. It never really gets old, does it? The subject of sex – who’s doing it, how they’re doing it, how often they’re doing it, not to mention where. Your sex life. My sex life. The neighbor with the three dogs or the hot instructor in your Yoga class.

So let’s get to the burning question. How much sex is too much sex?

Now, now. You might say that topic has been done to (the little) death. But here’s what amuses me. If you Google “How much sex is too much” and leave it at that, what comes next leads to an intriguing discussion.

There’s how much sex is too much for a woman, how much sex is too much for a man, how much sex is too much with my boyfriend (or girlfriend), how much sex is too much to ask for, how much sex is too much for one night.

And then there’s the kicker – at least to some of us – how much sex is too much for marriage.

That last variation?

Tragic. Don’t you think so? Having been married (and yes, divorced), I see it as a sorry state of affairs when I consider how starry-eyed we are walking down the aisle, and how gargantuan the gulf becomes when we’re discussing the marital mattress.

Even The Google reflects our cultural conundrum: sex in romantic relationships is one thing, and in marriage – quite another.

As to frequency of sexual activity, browsing the web turns up articles running the gamut from medically minded reasons women don’t want sex to why women stop having sex with Hubby Dearest.  And let’s not forget that we’re all subject to conventional wisdom, which advises that we must like and want sex – men, as much and as often as possible, and women – when we’re in love, and preferably, legally married.

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The reality of our sexual appetites?

Those of us who have been with the same partner for years are aware of the pitfalls of routine – not only in our amorous antics, but “take out the trash” and “what’s for dinner” aren’t conducive to ratcheting up the romance.

Then there’s stress, fatigue, and physical discomforts. Hormones? That, too. And it all combines to tank the ladies’ libido – temporarily or for longer periods. At least, it does for me.

And so I willingly confess that there are times I’m not in the mood. I’m turned off to sex, but I’m never turned off to affection, and I’m a believer in sexual generosity.

So what does that mean, exactly? Indulging in a quickie? A hand with a “job?” Or are we forced into negotiating and nagging, scheduling and scheming? Do we turn a blind eye? Do we consider looking elsewhere? And when things pick up again and resume a normal rhythm, are we talking Standard Saturday Night Sex – or can we hope for something more enticing?

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Can we agree that stage, age, and parenting status are factors?

If we’re talking about sexual activity early in marriage, with babies and bottles and hapless hormones, the primary caregiver is going to be beat. Guys, if that’s your woman – give her a break if she needs one, and she probably will.

Sex in our twenties or thirties may be acrobatic. In our forties and fifties, something else again. Older? Men may have the Little Blue Pill, but women may be worried about aging bodies and sagging skin, or they may feel sexier and more adventurous than ever – relieved at last from pregnancy worries, and enjoying the privacy afforded in Empty Nest.

A few more variations that affect our frequency?

  • We may be hungry for sex on its own (Say hello to spiking hormones!).
  • We may desire sex with affection. (Traditionalists will be pleased.)
  • We may want the affection, but no thanks to the sex. (Definitely tricky; again recommending “generosity” as strategy.)
  • A 20-year age gap? What’s fine when you’re 30 and your spouse is 50 may not be viable at 50 and 70.
  • What if one partner is healthy, and the other suffers a debilitating condition?

In those last two cases of one active, healthy spouse, how do you feel about going outside the couple? Do we condemn the healthy partner to years of a sexless marriage? Do we allow for “alternatives” while remaining married, or condone leaving a long-term union instead?

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Why is it still taboo – even with spouses – to talk about what we desire, much less to think, slink, and kink outside the box? Shouldn’t we be trying to keep things fresh – talking, listening and playing – exploring our fantasies – as well as each other?

One thing I learned in marriage, and I confess, I learned it the hard way: not talking means not solving. And in my journey since divorce, I’ve gotten better at expressing what I need, more open in my willingness to explore, and sexual quantity as well as quality is the delightful surprise at the end of that rainbow.

But I will say this clearly. Whatever I may be comfortable with, if the man in my life wants and needs more sex, I’d be a damn fool not to pay attention, and not to be loving. Likewise, if I’m not getting what I need, I’d be crazy to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t matter when in fact, it does.

Returning to the wisdom of The Almighty Google, perhaps the answer to how much sex is too much sex is as simple as “it depends.” My premise may be askew – knowing that as our partners change, as our needs change, as our bodies change, as life throws us for a loop or offers us a graceful stretch of road – the nature of our pleasures and their frequency will evolve.

So here’s to changing the question from “how much sex is too much sex” – regardless of with whom and in what configuration – and asking instead “how much sex is just right” – with the rest of the phrase, for the two of us, here and now.

 

Photo—Angelo González/Flickr

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About D. A. Wolf

D. A. Wolf is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and devotee of fine footwear & French lingerie. She admits to two sons in college and eight imaginary friends in Paris. When not saving the world one high heel at a time (or blogging at The Huffington Post), she can be found at Daily Plate of Crazy, reflecting on relationships, parenting, pop culture, and anything else that strikes her fancy. Find her on Facebook at MyDailyPlateOfCrazy or Twitter at Big Little Wolf.

Comments

  1. The Wet One says:

    Whenever something starts getting irritated for no other reason than friction, that may (note I said MAY) be an indication of too much sex. It could also indicate a lack of lube. YMMV.

  2. ” But I will say this clearly. Whatever I may be comfortable with, if the man in my life wants and needs more sex, I’d be a damn fool not to pay attention, and not to be loving. Likewise, if I’m not getting what I need, I’d be crazy to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t matter when in fact, it does.” This is the kind of wisdom that comes w/ age. I absolutely agree, sex is a circular thing-we give to get…we think about it and want to engage.
    I could never see quantifying sex…my needs and desires have changed over the years. At this age, I’m at my most desirous and my most passionate.

    • As you say, Walker, it changes. For some of us, for the better. Then again, how much depends on our partner(s)?

    • “Whatever I may be comfortable with, if the man in my life wants and needs more sex, I’d be a damn fool not to pay attention, and not to be loving.”

      Well said. The notion that married people should simply “take what they can get,” i.e., adjust to whatever level the less-amorous partner prefers, is a poisonous one.

      A saying I once heard: “Marriage used to be considered the beginning of your sex life; now it is understood to be the end of it.” Don’t let that cliche become YOUR marriage.

    • I agree, experience is now saying it all. Liked the contribution so much.

  3. … and how much sex is too little, when the amount your wife desires becomes none …

    • And this, Ned, is exactly the reason we should we be discussing the subject… When your wife’s desire takes a dive, there are reasons. Personally, I think affection and sex (I believe in both) are marital glue. Not the only glue, but essential. Will she talk about it?

      • She says she doesn’t understand herself, but the “what part of no don’t you understand” is strongly stated with attitude.

        • “What part of No don’t you understand” is a great way to shut down the conversation. That isn’t talking; that’s refusing to talk.

          Are there babies or little kids in the picture? Is she / are you under 40 or over? How long have you been married? Do you know when it changed? I’m not a sexologist or anythingologist, but at times, depending on how you were raised, it’s very difficult to talk about what the real problem(s) is/are. Talk may not solve them, but not knowing what the issues are will surely worsen things.

          I might add, as simplistic as it sounds, it can make all the difference in the world by asking your spouse or partner “What’s really wrong? Can we talk about it? Can I do something better or differently?”

          That means setting aside the resentment and being willing to go there. Not so easy.

    • There’s always self=gratification if you don’t want to go to commercial providers.

      I suggest telling her “Dear, I intend to have X orgasms per week. How many of them you want to be involved in is up to you.”

      • Love this. I’ve never had a problem getting sex within the context of a relationship; if anything it’s the girlfriend who usually complains. But I’m stealing this anyway.

  4. It seems to me that a lot of people prefer to maintain their egos intact rather than have sex…

    • Didn’t know they were mutually exclusive, Olive… Not sure I understand your meaning.

      • I’m sure that sometimes you can work out differences in sex drive by talking… I agree that one or both parties can make an effort to find a happy space mostly in cases when the gap is not too wide . The more I read about this topic, the more I’m convinced that the talk about sex drive has to take place prior to marriage and not after… I’m sure that a lot of people feel they can overcome desire with love, but this path can be extremely painful for both parties.

        In the case of the party with the higher sex drive, being constantly rejected is not something many are prepared to do day in and day out for the rest of their lives. Similarly, the party with the lowest sex drive feels utterly inadequate, which adds to negative feelings of anxiety and sometimes anger.

        Another major problem is that most people feel they absolutely have to resolve gaps in sex drive within the (monogamous) relationship. In my opinion, if a man (or a woman) considers their sex drive too high for the average, he (or she) should not marry at all.

        • @Olive…

          This great, sound, and terrific advice.

          Unfortunately, many of us (myself included) just assumed all would be well with sex in marriage. It was a given I thought. Oh how so wrong was I.

          Hence, I agree with you, “the more I’m convinced that the talk about sex drive has to take place prior to marriage and not after…”

          Great comment!

          • I’m curious, @Jules. Were you to marry a second time (I’m going to guess that you’re married now), would you take longer and pay more attention to exploring this area before considering marriage?

            What is the basis for the assumption that it will “all be okay?”

            Is it ingrained in the remnants of Puritanical culture that say to marry at a certain age/stage, and a woman of lesser experience?

            • @D.A. Wolf…

              No, I am not married. I really have no desire for round 2. I threw in the towel after round 1!

              However, I am now wiser to the needs of women with respect to sex. I would make intimacy, passion, and eroticism a priority. I have learned since marriage that it is important to openly and honestly discuss sex and a woman’s sexual likes and dislikes before hand. No assuming anything.

              I think it is BEST to marry after age 30. For me I much prefer to be with a woman that has been with only a few partners like myself.

              There is no guarantee, but I do think the two of you can grow sexually and be happier.

              JMO.

            • It sounds like you picked up a few (vital) life lessons, @Jules. On the other side of marriage, I would agree.

        • @Olive, you raise a whole other set of issues… and cultural conventions.

          Being constantly rejected is terrible, I agree. And it isn’t always the man, is it. (One more assumption our Puritanical society likes to make.)

          I also agree that figuring out if you have like libidos before marriage makes a whole lot of sense. Unfortunately, American culture still seems to like its women married, which often presses us, the older we get, to marry whomever is there – and yes, we may love him, but we also may set aside some fundamental needs in the process, either knowingly or half knowingly.

          Interestingly – Sweeping Generalization Alert – most of the men I know think it’s not great, but acceptable to “slip” now and then, or go outside the marriage. Most of the women I know tacitly understand this. Those same men don’t think it’s okay if the women “slip.”

          That’s a whole other discussion (infidelity – its reasons, its double standards), and whether or not one person can or should be expected to fulfill all your needs for 30 or 40 years…

          • «You raise a whole other set of issues… and cultural conventions.»

            Let me get at this in stages:

            First, the slut shaming… Young men are left free to roam in sexland, but not so young women. Young women need to understand the pleasure in sex, without experiencing shame. The problem is that for women, sex drive is a mental process that requires a lot more self-exploration plus the dedicated attention of a roster of lovers, so that she can understand what she feels and needs. I reckon that waiting to do this after marriage is a dangerous strategy. Then, men need to see the absurdity in marrying a virgin or near-virgin with the hopes that she becomes a porn star in the bedroom. That simply is not going to happen because having one single lover (or 2 or 3 or even a 100 depending on the case) is not going to give anyone the necessary range of experiences to make sex interesting and novel over a good period of time. Some people require more explaining in Math, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the same is true for sex, and nobody should marry until they actually get it, and not by using porn as a learning tool.

            Second, the idea that men are bottomless sex pits is a stupid myth. I’ve talked to a number of self confessed high-libido individuals (men and women), and it may seem that the most extreme cases are actually women, who’d have a hard time trying to gain satisfaction from most men. It’s actually very interesting to see how these women manage to keep their marriages whole, but even more interesting is how husbands celebrate these women’s sexuality as opposed to feeling threatened by it. I would just like to point out a couple of facts: the global market of Viagra and similar products (almost exclusively for men) is about $5 billion, whereas the global market of sex toys (mostly for women) has been listed at $15 billion. Why would men need to take Viagra if it was not to please women? Why would women buy so many toys if they were not interested in sex? Go figure…

            Next is the problem of marriage (or maybe the big wedding?) as a goal. I think women have been able to separate the part of sex and pregnancy very well with the advent of the pill; however, there’s still work to do in regards to the separation of childbearing and marriage. The question here is: Why do women need to marry in order to have children? Children are not exactly the best libido enhancer, mostly because they require a lot of attention and energy. So again, and without diminishing the importance of parental responsibility, starting a family is possibly not the best reason to get married.

            Finally, the looming issue of infidelity… I can’t believe how hung up people get about this with issues of trust and so on, like if biological necessities were moral issues. The heart of the matter is that sex with one person gets boring after a while. This is a biological phenomenon (i.e. Coolidge effect) that has been observed across species, not just human, so whoever comes saying that you can make it work somehow by switching things over in the bedroom is simply talking nonsense. People make their marriages work because they’re committed in spite of sex. We may be monogamous, but I gather this is mostly a social construct. Biologically, we’re not… We need more variety in terms of partners, some more than others. I sometimes speculate that the reason many women lose interest in sex is simply because they become “bored” with their partners. Nothing personal about this, but most men would be hard pressed not to interpret it that way. What to do then?

            • @Olive – I agree with you – straight down the line.

              Except on a few details, for example, that talk can’t help. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about sex or sexuality. It requires more trust to talk about it – and what you want – than it does to “do it.”

              Talking can open up new possibilities to try. I’m not saying it’s easy (or always the answer), but isn’t that part of what happens when we change partners? We find ourselves with someone who touches in just the right way, who is playful in ways we adore, or engages in a way we never felt comfortable discussing?

              That leads me to the other “detail” – also critical, when you get down to it. The boredom issue. I think we can crank up the heat with our existing partners. But both have to be willing.

            • I’m not saying that talking things openly doesn’t help, or that things can’t be cranked up… What I’m saying is that this can only work when the gap in libido is manageable. Unfortunately, and this is my own perception, I feel that similar libidos is not the norm that most people think it is. Besides, and you’d be surprised of how many people don’t tell their partners what they want to avoid the risk of hurting them… For instance, would you tell your partner that your most erotic fantasy is to have sex with four different men while he watches? And believe me, this is rather tame compared to the scenarios some women construct in their minds while they sleep right beside the men they married and had children with.

            • @Olive, Agreed. On all points.

            • You seriously agree with the notion that women need a steady ‘roster’ of lovers in order to find themselves? And you expect men to take you seriously?

              Either this person is a Poe (seriously, they did everything they could to write a statement embodying the manosphere’s criticisms of women. All that’s missing is the word ‘carousel’) or I’m going to have to start taking Dalrock and Rollo a lot more seriously…

            • @Olive,

              I agree with most of what you said, especially the part about infidelity. Whenever friends have asked me about this, I always tell them, “Most people are very good at being committed, and at being monogamous… however, very few are good at being both over a long period of time.”

              However, I disagree with you 100% on the slut-shaming thing. As a rule, slut-shamers are men who’d be willing to trade a little bit of sexual excitement for the (implied) promise of having a more faithful and dutiful wife. For them, having a great sex life would be awesome, but it pales in comparison the idea of having a great and loving family and faithful wife. I think this is fair and understandable, even if we don’t all necessarily agree with it. These men are simply rebelling against the fact that in our current promiscuous society this has option has been wiped completely off the table for them.

              There is an established correlation between past number of sexual partners and increased risk of infidelity for both men and women. There is also an established correlation between past number of sexual partners and decreased sexual satisfaction within marriage for both men and women. So their arguments are not completely without merit. Personally, I could care less. I’ve met plenty of virginal women and near-virginal women who were either teeming with sexual energy or rock-stars in bed. I’ve also had mediocre sexual experiences with women I knew to have fairly high partner counts. So I don’t buy into the argument that a near-virginal girl must be terrible in bed. After all, people have been having sex for hundreds of thousands of years. There are bound to be some innate differences in ability and desire completely independent of any cultural underpinnings.

            • Having a “virginal” wife hasn’t been wiped off the table as an option. There are still plenty of women with religious beliefs who want to save sex for marriage. There are also plenty of young women who are not part of hookup culture. But you won’t find them in clubs or bars, probably. They are probably studying, working, and engaged in community activities or doing things with their family. They are the women who often get overlooked by men.

            • I never said there weren’t women getting married as virgins today. In fact, my current gf was a virgin when she got married (she’s very recently divorced). But there are likely far less women getting married as virgins today than a generation or two ago. But what slut-shamers lament is that our society no longer encourages women to stay virgins until marriage, to the point where it’s vanishingly difficult for the average guy to live out the “traditional” American dream of meeting a girl who’s a virgin at marriage, and building a large family and housing them comfortably, with the expectation that his wife will remain faithful to him over the course of their long and happy marriage. Slut-shamers are basically rebelling against the fact that society is constantly bombarding them with the message to “man up” and take on the role of the traditional male breadwinner role while encouraging women to completely abandon their traditional roles. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I do understand where they’re coming from.

              Also, the idea that these women are “overlooked” by men is absurd. Men don’t overlook attractive women. We are strongly encouraged, both by society and our own biology, to go after them. We have no way of knowing if a woman is a virgin or not upon just meeting her, so why would we overlook her because of it?

              Of the women I’ve met who remained virgins until their mid-to-late twenties (I live in a very conservative city, so I could probably name at least a dozen that I’ve met in the past year), nearly all of them consciously and immediately reject men who don’t fit their ideal image of what a great husband looks like. I actually think this is a great strategy for finding a husband, up to a point, but it certainly doesn’t fit the myth that there are hordes of attractive virgin women getting overlooked by men simply because they’re virgins.

            • Well shoot, when I was young, I was a quiet geeky girl who hardly even dated and didn’t want to have sex and I was IGNORED by every guy I met. But maybe I was just ugly.

              Anyhow, are there hoards of young men out there looking for traditional girls to marry and have big families? Seriously? Where are these men? I’ve never met them.

            • Not me, I want an equal woman and when we have kids we’ll sort out who’s looking after the kids. Not a big family though, 2 kids would be enough, but I’ll settle for robots. :D

            • @ DD

              Slut shaming is mostly about maintaining a social power structure… In general, this is something that high-rank females.usually enforce in the community. There are some cultures though, where men engage in the practice, but they are pretty extreme like the Taliban in Afghanistan or Orthodox Jews in Israel.

              As for the correlation between the degree of promiscuity and lack of character in a woman, do you mind telling me where I can find it? I don’t recall ever reading a study of that nature.

            • @Olive…

              “Slut shaming is mostly about maintaining a social power structure.”

              I disagree. Why cant people have standards about the women they want to have sex with?

              Personally, desiring a woman with low numbers of sex partners has everything to do with being with a woman who has not already “been there done that.”

              It does make a difference in my opinion of how many sex partners a woman has been with and the sex in marriage. I have a very low number and did so before marriage. My ex had a higher number. It created problem. She had already had all this sex. So, when I came knocking she did not have the same level of excitement.

              The point is not to shame any woman. It is to simply select a woman you think is a better mate. Pure ans Simple.

            • @Olive,
              I agree with you that from a female perspective, slut-shaming is something done by women to enforce a social power structure. An abundance of attractive, sexually promiscuous females can easily drive down the mating value of even their less promiscuous peers. As a man, it

            • Re-post. For some reason my earlier comment got cut off…

              I agree with you that from a female perspective, slut-shaming is something done by women to enforce a social power structure. An abundance of attractive, sexually promiscuous females can easily drive down the mating value of even their less promiscuous peers. As a man, it’s hard to justify pouring dozens of hours of your time and [x] amount of your money into courting a girl when you know a half-dozen or more girls who’d have sex with you for next to nothing. That part I get. However, at least in American culture (I can’t speak to what happens in other countries because I don’t know enough about them), men do engage in slut-shaming quite often as well. We don’t do it openly, since it’d impede our primary biological drive and having sex with as many attractive, willing females as possible. However, behind closed doors (or the anonymity of the internet), slut-shaming from men is quite common – largely because of the reasons I alluded to before. For the record, I have no particular interest in marriage, so for me a woman’s sexual history is a non-issue.

              As for the link between promiscuity and increased infidelity risk… Google “Sociosexual orientation.” The strength of the correlation is debatable, for sure, but everything I’ve read suggests that sex researchers tend to agree that there is some correlation between high partner counts and a more relaxed attitude towards infidelity. Reference “Feldman, S. S., & Cauffman, E. (1999). Your cheatin’ heart: Attitudes, behaviors, and correlates of sexual betrayal in late adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9, 227-252” if you really want to get to the heart of the matter.

            • DD, that study refers to adolescents of both genders. I don’t think you could extend the results to just females of all ages.

              I’m sure teenagers experiment a lot and aren’t always aware of how their actions affect other people… Their brains are still developing, and I wouldn’t stick mistakes they make for the rest of their lives.

        • I’m not so sure that talking about sex drives before marriage will give you any meaningful indication of how things will be after marriage. Long-term exposure to the same partner and the promise of commitment (and later childbirth) induce biological changes in both men and women, that dramatically impact their libido. This topic has been explored in great detail in David Buss’s The Evolotion of Desire and Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity. As a man, the only thing you should assume about your wife’s sex drive is that after marriage it will likely go down. Yours will too, but hers will probably diminish much faster than your own. For this reason, I wouldn’t even consider marriage to a woman who’s sex drive wasn’t already considerably higher than my own.

  5. Great, thoughtful blog. You nailed it (pun intended) with your perceptions about this complex relationship issue. I agree with you . . . it’s not about how much sex in general, it’s about how much for us and our partner, considering where we are in life. There is not a static answer to such a dynamic relationship issue. I’ll be sharing this . . . . thank you!

  6. I really enjoy your writing.How much sex is too much? LOL The more the merrier and try to live by that as you get older… As we get to perimenopause and menopause stages, it takes a toll on our estrogen and testosterone levels and hence impacts our desire to have sex (dryness, possible weight gain, self confidence issues). Meanwhile great sex is one of the best and cheapest prescriptions to feeling better about yourself and getting a great endorphin rush. I’ll be reading your part two piece on how much sex is just right!

  7. Lori Ann Lothian says:

    well, I have wrestled too with this, to the tune of his hit (pver 12K views) article. I think this question is not about sex. it’s about intimacy…can we find intimacy w/0 sex? http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/libido-challenged-try-a-daily-dose-of-sex-lori-ann-lothian/

  8. When you forget what it feels like to be alone and your penis/vagina hurts :P

  9. Ok DA, don’t hold grudge on me to bring back again what I say about all that in Being French (see my URL about this book) because we are in the hard core of what my book precisely addresses. At some point I raise this question: Is there an official amount of sex to have? And of course my own answer is no there is no such thing. In matter of sex behaviors there would be nothing more wrong than to talk about norms. Which of course doesn’t forbid reflecting on it: The different levels of needs, the way sex can eludes us for different reasons, and even eventual excesses. As any other kind of human activities, sex can be subject to addiction. And here I’m not talking about sex addiction the way some ludicrous US websites for sex recovery are seeing it. I once read on one of those that a woman living single and masturbating twice a day had a problem of sex addiction!

    Of course one of the main issues between men and women, in regard of sex, is the quite different ways we are envisioning it. In my book, I quote Billy Cristal when he says: «Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.» But I just want to say that I completely back up your vision on the topic, sex is certainly not to be seen regardless of the context or of the partner involved. And I warmly approve your notion of “sexual generosity” which I translate in these words in Being French: “… isn’t making love the most intimate and precious experience that we can ever share with anyone? And how can this sharing possibly be great, if it doesn’t involve two genuine givers?”

    • François, You know I agree with you in these matters, generally speaking. And I agree that two genuine givers is truly ideal.

      You also know I have my own set of cultural comparisons – having lived and loved in France, and dating (both before and after marriage) on two continents.

      But I will say that I’ve known men who don’t fit the Crystal quote. They want an intimate connection (especially as they mature), and it’s part of how they’re wired. Likewise, I’ve known women who are happy with anytime, anywhere. You may tell me these are exceptions; I will tell you we continue to sexually stereotype.

      I will add that my own experience is of a more encompassing, less guilt-burdened embrace of sensuality and sexuality on your shores, rather than mine.

  10. One simple thing I have learned in my years; the quality of sex is directly related to love. In my current (and forever) relationship, I have never wanted it more, wanted her more, and enjoyed it more. I guess that is why they call it, making love.

    • @Steve…

      It’s not just about love. It is also about intimacy, affection, and eroticism.

      Here in America we all too often just look at the love aspect of things. There is way more too it!

      • @Jules, You mention eroticism. I’m glad. It’s something we don’t talk about enough in this country. We do enjoy it, but we hide our desire for it and our pleasure in it. We tend not to raise the topic with our spouses. If we marry young, we may not realize the pleasures of erotic encounters – and there’s no reason those encounters can’t be enjoyed with our committed partner.

        I don’t know why we deny the fact that a little edge or a lot of playfulness or the element of surprise all add to the experience. We shouldn’t be narrowing the menu, and if we’re lucky, we can enjoy that menu with an equally hungry (and playful) partner.

  11. Don Draper says:

    “But I will say this clearly. Whatever I may be comfortable with, if the man in my life wants and needs more sex, I’d be a damn fool not to pay attention, and not to be loving. Likewise, if I’m not getting what I need, I’d be crazy to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t matter when in fact, it does.”

    NEVER, have truer, more practical words been spoken. I know a man who celebrated his 34th anniversary two days ago, with a wife he LOVES – but she refuses him sex, limited to less than five times a year. He LOVES her…he’s not going to be unfaithful to her – but he RESENTS the hell out of her, for the way she makes him feel like a puppy begging for a treat! No one likes to think of having sex with their partner, as a sacrifice…but ‘ya know, if you married somone with a stronger libido than yours, you need to LOVE that person enough to provide his/her needs….you’ll garner many more benefits by doing so, than refusing constantly.

    There is no such thing as “too much sex” if both partners are willing. There is obviously such a thing as too little, and while I think it is an over-used EXCUSE for so-called committed partners to take their sexual needs elsewhere, I DO think it’s a factor in the infidelity issue. These are matters that need MUCH more treatment as a relationship progresses. It’s a “BIG TICKET” item in relationships, and if you and you partner are not on the same page about your sexual needs, your headed for heartache somewhere down the road!

  12. To routine, fatigue, stress, and parenting I would like to also add culture and marital conflict. Having lived abroad in Asia I can see some huge differences in sexual expectations and practice in marriage post-baby. In Asia many parents cease to be lovers but instead view one another as co-parents, only. Marital conflict is a huge libido sucker too…but I suppose as it should be since once we’re married it needs to be about more than just satisfying our physical urges.

  13. I don’t believe, for most men, there is ever too much sex. To stay happily married, healthy women MUST understand that point, or their husbands will eventually find alternatives for their sexual needs.

  14. As I’m getting closer to menopause, I find that my sex drive has definitely dropped compared to my 20’s. I still love sex but it’s just not n my mind the way it used to be. I need some effort sometimes to get in the mood. An issue I have with my longtime boyfriend is that when he’s in the mood, there’s no build up. He just suddenly wants some sex. I often want sex too, but my mind is elsewhere and I need to switch gears from thinking about work/family/housecleaning/errands/global warming/the world in general. Luckily, we are both generous with each other and overall we have a great sex life. I rarely turn down sex — I will say no only if I’m sick or practically asleep. I’ve found that if I get into it, I get aroused and have a great time. The issue is that I don’t feel that constant urge anymore.

    I think for many women, they are waiting for the urge to strike them, like it used to. And it just doesn’t. So they refuse to have sex and eventually their marriage is practically sexless. To be honest, I really miss the sense of sexual anticipation and excitement that I used to have about my boyfriend, especially early in our relationship. It seems to be gone, and that makes me sad. I’m still attracted to him, but there’s no sexual tension, I don’t think it’s just hormones (although that’s part of it), it is also that boyfriend (unlike me) is perfectly content to treat sex as a routine thing that we do “X” times a week to scratch an itch. I have told him that I am just longing for him to tell me at dinner that I look ravishing and he can’t wait to get me home. Or to email me during the day with sexy thoughts. Or anything! But he doesn’t feel the need for any of that. If he tries, it feels false, because it is. He doesn’t think about sex at dinner, he’s thinking about dinner. During the day, he’s thinking about work. Maybe he’s more compartmentalized. Anyway, I find I have to entertain myself with fantasies to keep my motor running. I occasionally read erotica or watch a sexy HBO show that gets me thinking about sex. (I tried 50 Shades of Grey – awful book.) I also fantasize when we are having sex, not that I’d ever tell him that.

    So, just from my own experiences I think women often need to make an effort to stay interested in sex in a long term relationship, but they don’t understand that. They keep waiting for the mood to strike and those wonderful excited feelings to bubble up on their own. It is disappointing in a way to realize that sexual feelings won’t just happen in their own as much as they used to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy sex or that you are doomed to have a sexless marriage.

    • I hear you on the need for build up, @Sarah. I also agree with what you say about erotica – a little, well executed, works wonders for the libido. But erotic literature that appeals to women? Difficult to find in this country, in my experience.

      And a great story – especially shared – can be a very pleasurable pastime.

    • ravishing? says:

      My wife asks for something similar… I’m supposed to want to ravish her. It’s been so long since she’s done anything exciting, shown any independent interest in our sex life. Her job is to show up and be willing, I’m supposed to be excited by that?

      She’s very attractive, but I struggle to find her sexy. I think you’re right to put that effort into keeping your motor running.

      • Okay, @ravishing, I’ll bite.

        What would it take to find her sexy? What are you willing to try to let her know you still want to try? Can you send the kids to a neighbor’s house? Surprise her before Valentine’s as opposed to whatever the automatic VDay gesture is? Could you mix her favorite drink tonight, get her a little sloshed, and ask her what she’d love to try together? Encourage her to talk about a fantasy? Can you keep in mind that women, generally, rev up more slowly than men and are reticent to voice their fantasies?

        What are you willing to try?

        Sexy is all about the brain. And a little encouragement from the one we love. Caveat: Just my (non-professional, unsolicited) two cents.

        • I have asked for things, I have shared things. I have brought home various outfits, books, movies, toys. There is only so much rejection a person can take before that well dries up. I have asked about her fantasies and when she responds with one, I never say no. There is not much I haven’t tried, so whatever she wants to try is fine with me. I am not however, willing to try to have a satisfying sex life with someone who’s just humoring me and is not into it herself.

      • Well actually I didn’t say I want to be “ravished,” but I want to be told that I’m ravishing. I want to feel like my boyfriend is really attracted to me, that he finds me incredibly sexy and can’t wait to get me in the bedroom. Is that a little narcissistic of me? Probably, but it is a central part of my fantasy of being loved and wanted, and those feelings are critical to fueling my desire for sex. It’s really hard to feel that desire for him when, for him, sex is just something we do together before we fall asleep because he feels an urge once and awhile.

        This is the thing that frustrates me in my relationship — it doesn’t seem to matter to him if I show “independent interest” in our sex life or not. Really, if I just show up, that seems good enough! If I wear sexy underwear — yeah, ok, now he’s turned on enough for sex. But if I don’t wear sexy underwear – I get exactly the same level of reaction. So after awhile, I get tired of making the effort. I guess I feel like, if I put in extra effort, he should notice. He should be more turned on than usual. I should get a reaction. I should notice some difference. At the very least, he should care that I’m making an effort! He should say something! He should appreciate it — I don’t know.

        • Lol is this a joke?

          Umm he is probably appreciating it by default. He is turned on, I’m sure he cares you make the effort but instead of seeing it in a way where you THINK he doesn’t appreciate it, think of it that he is turned on by you whether you spend ages or not on makeup, lingerie, etc. He finds you beautiful with and without the extras. Tell him to speakup on what he likes, it’s a double edged sword you see since complimenting the extra work you do could also possibly make him feel like it’d make YOU feel like you have to keep doing it. If it were me I’d appreciate it but wouldn’t want my partner to think it was necessary to dress up so much.

          Be glad, be happy, he finds you sexy!

          • I guess it’s like, let’s say you spend hours making a gourmet dinner and your family gulps it down like they always do, and no one seems to notice the extra effort. So after awhile you don’t feel very motivated to spend hours cooking something incredible when no one seems to care.

            I have heard a lot from men, “women think all they have to do is show up” (for sex). Maybe that’s true of some women, but what are you doing when she makes more effort? Are you telling her you appreciate it? Are you giving positive feedback? Or is it just business as usual? If she talks about what she likes, do you respond enthusiastically or do you get defensive or embarassed?

            • I would try to compliment her on the extra effort, but it’s not like 100% necessary to do so. I only want her to dress up if she wants to and wants to try do something fun.

            • It depends on what she says she likes. If what someone is sharing is, “This spot, right here. Side to side, not up and down. About this hard.” Certainly good to know and I’ll use it. But not anything exciting. I don’t respond enthusiastically to that. If someone says, “That’s just how I am. You need to do x, y and z and maybe I’ll be in the mood for it a couple times a week.” Also not exciting.

              The one time I can think of my wife sharing a fantasy that seemed real and personal, it involved a number of other people, doing something some people would find degrading to her and threatening to me. My response was something along the lines of, “that sounds hot, if you really want to, we can find a way to make that happen.”

        • I’m sorry I misunderstood. That sounds kind of crummy.

    • @Sarah, regarding the “buildup”
      In my late 20’s, I had a GF who could text or email me about how she was giong to seduce me when we got home from work (both of us working full-time, no kids). However, nothing ever happened. When i could question her about it, it turned out that a) She could say that “No, YOU didn’t do anything so I didn’t think you were interested!” (Well no, since you said you were gonna seduce me, I didn’t realize I was required to start the show…)
      And b) We had totally different definitions of the phrase “When we get home”. To me, it didn’t necessarily mean the second we stepped through the door, but within a time frame of maybe an hour, maybe to get a quick something to eat first. To her, it meant an undefined time period that started when we stepped through the door but litterally had no closing time frame. It could just as well mean tomorrow, or next saturday, or any day next month…

  15. What a complex subject to try and tackle in a blog post and subsequent comments! Talking should be a priority before marriage, during and after should you head down that road. One topic not mentioned here is sexual abuse. Its quite common for some victims of sexual abuse to repress their memories until after marriage (they feel safe now) or when a child reaches the aged they were abused at (trigger). This can have a dramatic impact on a marriage. A marriage that might have started with volcanic sex can suddenly take a turn for the worse. Or, as in my experience, hoping things would get better after we said “I do” was a huge mistake. So many variations here, but a topic I feel we still aren’t good at talking about in public. The impact sexual abuse can have on a relationship can be devastating.

    • It is complex @Darren. And your point about abuse is a critical one. Too often swept under the rug, and never discussed for so many reasons.

      I know few who could have discussed sexual (or other abuse) before marriage, and some who wouldn’t have discussed it after. Yes, so many variations, and we do need to bring the topic to light.

  16. As it’s been raised a few times in this discussion (slut-shaming, virginity, “traditional” male-female arrangements)… Can someone explain to me how and why virginity remains relevant in the 21st century?

    • We don’t automatically test for paternity, and even if we did, the husband is still legally ‘assumed’ to be the father in most states. Virginal brides seriously mitigate against the risk of entrapment (a woman getting pregnant and then ‘deciding’ who she would like the father to be).

      That said, as a requirement, it’s so rare as to serve as nothing but a bugaboo. Women bring it up when they need something to ‘prove’ men are evil, but it isn’t something any of them has been held to since prom. They are really upset that men care about how many men they’ve slept with, and use ‘virginal’ because ‘my boyfriend dumped me because I slept with 40 men before him’ doesn’t garner much sympathy.

      • @Soullite, I think you touch on a few different issues here, directly and indirectly: virginity (in and of itself); infidelity / trust; the issue of partner counts.

        Before I address your remarks, I’ll remind you that the gist of this article is sex in marriage and committed relationships – the fact that it dwindles to the extent that it does, and how (ideally) perspective and generosity might allow men and women both to do something about it.

        I will add that my world of friends and contacts consists largely of men and women who are married, divorced, or remarried. No doubt that’s a function of where I am in life, what I write about (and who I hear from), and I also hope I’ve learned a thing or two over the years alone, the years married, the years as a single mother, and the years of dating since.

        Re virginity: I asked because I don’t personally see it as something to aspire to, nor something to throw away. It is a state of sexual inexperience – and possibly even a “technical” state of inexperience, because theoretically, you could have a woman who has done everything but “the deed” and I suppose you could say she’s virginal.

        if a man has had only a handful of partners and hopes to find a woman with like or lesser experience, would this theoretical virgin fit the bill? Just curious. As to bringing up virginity to prove men are evil, sorry… I don’t get the reference.

        I will say I hadn’t thought of virginity as you positioned it – a man worrying about paternity or being trapped into marriage. I hear what you’re saying, but those aren’t circles (of women) I travel in – never have. But when you worry about paternity, that leads me to the issue of trust / infidelity.

        The statistics aren’t pretty – whether you look at marriage or relationships. I don’t think that’s something for any of us to be proud of. I might personally believe that we aren’t designed to be monogamous, but some of us have an easier time of that – which brings me back to some of the mentions and discussion here, around sexual generosity (in marriage), around the erotic, around paying attention to our partners (and that includes affection). This is also why I believe sexual exploration when we are not yet married makes perfect sense.

        Does that mean sleeping with four people before you marry – or 40, as in your example?

        I don’t feel that’s my place to judge, but what if you don’t meet someone to marry until you’re 30? 35?

        I would agree, “because I slept with 40 men before him” doesn’t garner sympathy. (And what a dumb thing for anyone to say,.) But tell me – don’t you think it makes a difference if the woman is 20 – or 50? I’m not trying to be provocative here, but trying to point out that numbers can be meaningless or, meaningful only in context.

        Personally, I have no interest in a man who has had hundreds of women. (No thanks!) But I’m realistic that if I’m dating a 50-year old divorced man, whose been single for 10 years and was married for only 10 years before that, he may well have a pretty high partner count! That’s easily 20 years of being single (and presumably sexual). I wouldn’t even begin to know how to estimate the number of partners he would have had – and frankly, I wouldn’t ask.

        But I would take my time getting to know him. I would insist on being “safe” and healthy. I would seek to make sure we had compatible views on sexuality, as well as being sexually compatible.

  17. More on sociosexual orientation:

    “Evolutionary personality psychologists classify men and women on sociosexual orientation between the extremes of unrestricted and restricted. Relative to sociosexually restricted individuals, sociosexually unrestricted individuals are more likely to: 1) engage in sex at an earlier point in their relationships; 2) engage in sex with more than one partner at a time; and 3) be involved in sexual relationships characterized by less investment, commitment, love, and dependency. Sociosexual orientation (just like all other personality traits) is a relatively stable trait of individuals over the life course; in other words, people are either sociosexually restricted or unrestricted most of their lives…

    As you can imagine, sociosexual orientation has a great impact on the risk of divorce. Sociosexually unrestricted individuals are far more likely to experience divorce than sociosexually restricted individuals because they are more likely to engage in extramarital affairs” (Kanazawa 2008).

    “A motivational/individual differences model of infidelity is proposed in the course of empirically evaluating the traditional dichotomy between emotional and sexual motives. A scale assessing motivations for infidelity was developed and administered to 432 college students, 120 of whom reported past dating infidelity. Four motivations were identified and were associated as predicted with Big Five and other trait constructs; Sex was predicted by male gender, lower age, and unrestricted sociosexual orientation (SO); Dissatisfaction was predicted by female gender and Extraversion; Neglect was predicted by Neuroticism; and Anger by Neuroticism and low Agreeableness. As predicted, a two-factor model provides a poorer fit with the data than a multi-factor model. Unrestricted SO partially mediates the gender difference in endorsement of a sex motive for infidelity” (Barta and Kiene 2005).

    “…for the dual-factor model, the correlation did differ such that women had a higher attitude-behavior correlation (rD.66) than men
    (rD.49, ps.99). From an evolutionary perspective, this gender divergence stands to reason, since the number of partners that men want to have often disproportionately outweighs the number of partners they can actually obtain” (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) (Bryan and Webster 2006).

    In other words, people with high partner counts tend to be sociosexually unrestricted. Sociosexually unrestricted individuals are much more likely to cheat than sociosexually restricted individuals. This behavior has a genetic basis and is fairly steady throughout our entire lives. And the correlation between sociosexual orientation and behavior is stronger in women than in men. Thus, the more people you have slept with going into marriage, the more likely you are to cheat at some point during your marriage — this is true even mores o for women than it is for men. Thus, there is scientific evidence to support the idea that if a man wants his wife to remain faithful to him throughout marriage, he be wise to choose a woman who had very few or no partners prior to him.

    References:

    •Barta, William, and Susan Kiene. “Motivations for infidelity in heterosexual dating couples: The roles of gender, personality differences, and sociosexual orientation .” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships . N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2013. .

    •Kanazawa, Satoshi. “The 50-0-50 rule in action: Sociosexual orientation and risk of divorce.” Psychology Today. N.p., 2 Nov. 2008. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. .

    •Webster, Gregory, and Angela Bryan. “Sociosexual attitudes and behaviors:.” Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 917–922. N.p., 17 Oct. 2006. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. <http://psych.colorado.edu/~cuchangelab/pdfs

  18. Slut shaming, sexless marriages…you really can’t win. Slutty ho or Frigid bitch. I love choices!
    Agreed, no such thing as ‘too much sex’ This notion only applies when a couple falls out of synch with each other sexually – ie one person’s need for sexual intimacy becomes greater/lesser than the others.
    Dear god please let that never happen to me.

    Now please excuse me, I’m going into town to get ‘Slut Shamed’..branded on my bosom.
    Cheerio.

  19. The question still remains… how much sex is too much sex? We’ve been married for seven years. We have three kids. If I recount, in the last two and a half months, we have done it more than fifty times for sure. We both enjoy it. How will we ever find out we’re overdoing it both from enjoyment and health perspective?

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