How much sex should you be having?

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Google boasts 343,000,000 responses to the question: “How much sex should you be having?”

The prefill options included how much sex is normal, how much sex is too much, how much sex should you be having, & how much sex is in Game of Thrones?

Personally, I love that last one. The answer is A LOT.

When it comes to sex, you’ll frequently hear experts say that everyone thinks everyone is having more sex than them.

With media messages, advertising, pop culture, and even “experts” claiming there’s a certain amount of sex we need to have, it’s no wonder we’re confused and feeling inadequate.

The truth is we are asking the wrong question.

More sex does not equal a happier relationship. But neither does less.

So what gives?

The bottom line is that it’s not a numbers game, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

It’s about quality. It’s about happiness.

It’s about pleasure and how much you’re enjoying the experience when you do have sex.

If you have sex five times per week, but you dread it or feel indifferent about it, you’re likely building resentment and driving a wedge between you and your partner(s).

If you have sex five times per year, and each time you do it feels amazing, you’ll probably find you’re having fun reconnecting with other and appreciating the experience.

While there have been a number of studies showing more sex is better, researchers are questioning those findings.

Instead, they’re finding that more sex doesn’t lead to more happiness, but rather more happiness leads to more sex.

When you and your partner(s) are feeling supported, heard, valued, and desired, you’re more likely to want and enjoy sex (though, as you know from previous posts, sex can mean a myriad of things).

Many of us know that our libidos take a nosedive when we feel stressed, pressured, exhausted, and/or frustrated.

That’s why when you have a partner who is always pressuring you for sex, it makes you shut down even more.

Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are”, frequently recommends for couples to stop having sex while they’re working with her. By taking sex off the table, the individual who feels pressured to have more sex often experiences a surge in their libido as soon as the stress is lifted.

It’s an interesting experiment to try.

In my experience, when someone asks about how much sex you should be having in a relationship, it’s really stemming from a place of wanting to know if their needs are normal.

This is either because a partner is pressuring them for more sex and they don’t want to or because their partner isn’t interested in sex and they want to find ways to have more.

Mismatched libidos are normal, and it is possible to have a healthy, thriving relationship when you two have differing needs. From exploring non-monogamy to redefining sex to exploring new ways to incorporate pleasure, differing libidos and needs doesn’t have to spell disaster.

But, while we’re talking about feeling pressured for sex, we need to get serious for a moment.

You never, ever, ever owe someone sex. Ever.

Not your spouse. Not your partner. Not your boyfriend or girlfriend. Not someone who did something nice for you recently. You never owe someone sex.

While it’s OK for you to disagree about how much sex you’re having, and it’s also OK for one person in a relationship to want more sex than they’re having, it is never acceptable to pressure or punish someone into having sex.

If your partner punishes you in some way for not putting out (the silent treatment, by being moody, by otherwise manipulating your feelings when you say no), that is abuse.

There’s no other way to put it. It’s abuse, and in many cases, it’s rape.

You can choose to have sex when you’re not really feeling it – maybe because your partner is stressed and you want to help them relax – but you do not owe anyone sex. Ever.

It is not written into a partnership or a marriage that you have to put out.

If your partner wants sex and you say no, any additional coercion or manipulation is unacceptable. And you are perfectly in the right to call them out when they do that.

You are not responsible for someone else’s pleasure.

That said, if your partner wants sex and you’re not able or willing to meet that need, it’s also acceptable for them to talk to you about their needs and other ways to meet them.

That’s a longer discussion for another post, but while we’re talking about frequency of sex, you need to understand that consent is only having sex when you want to, of your own free will, and nothing less than that.

*steps off soapbox*

So, how often should you aim for when it comes to sex?

Sex has tremendous health benefits from improved immune health to lower blood pressure to increased libido and better cardiovascular health. But the benefits come with a caveat – these things are only true if you’re having sex because you want to.

I also recently talked about how our libidos and sexual needs ebb and flow over the course of our lives. The amount of sex that’s right for you will change depending on your health, your lifestyle, your mobility, your stress levels, and many other factors.

The good and the bad news is that the right answer is between you and your partner(s).

Are you happy with the sex you’re having now? If the answer is yes, there’s no need to change it unless you want to add more excitement or try something new.

If you aren’t happy, then talk about why.

Often the dissatisfaction you feel when it comes to sex is less about frequency and more about quality or depth of desire.

Instead of banging one out because of a sense of obligation, what are one or two small adjustments you could make so that you’re both experiencing more pleasure and connecting with each other?

If one of you is feeling pressured and the other of you is feeling unwanted, what are some sexual activities you could introduce that would be fun without contributing to the pressure? Things like sensual massage or making out or reading a sexy story to each other might be a terrific alternative.

I know what you’re thinking, too. All of this requires talking about sex in an open way, which for many of us is totally awkward or foreign.

When it comes to talking about sex, do it outside of the bedroom when you’re both feeling open and safe.

Ask things like, “How are you feeling about the sex we have?”, “What parts of our sex life do you enjoy? What could be better?”, “What would feel good for you?”

Remember to use “I” statements in your responses, and let things be weird. Let things feel uncomfortable.

Unless you’re having those conversations all the time, it’s going to feel strange and you’re going to fumble it.

Just remember that you’re on a team, you aren’t adversaries. Assume the best intentions, remember that you both want to feel loved and valued, and go from there.

Let’s change the question from how much sex you should have to how can I make the sex I do have more enjoyable?

Focus on being more happy, relaxed, and emotionally open in your relationship. When you’re feeling good, you’re more likely to feel that erotic energy flowing.

And one last note – sometimes you don’t really feel like having sex until the sex has started. If you know that about yourself, it’s OK to give it a go and then decide whether you want to continue or not. That’s called responsive desire, which I briefly touched on last week.

Finally, self-pleasure is sex, so if you’re single or your partner isn’t up for it, have sex with yourself. It’s not a lesser form of sex. It’s actually quite healthy and awesome.

How can you change the discussion in your relationship from frequency to enjoyability?

Comment below with your thoughts.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re ready to discover and explore sex on your own terms, I’m here for you. [/callout]


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  • August McLaughlin

    Such a poignant post! In our numbers-obsessed culture, it’s easy to get concerned over frequency. Letting go of that pressure is golden. Thanks for your voice! Glad Kait introduced me to your work. 🙂

    • Thank you for stopping by, August! You’re so right – letting go of the pressure and the guilt is so freeing and gives us permission to explore sex on our own terms, versus the ones everyone else is telling us to adhere to. Yay!