It seems the topic of sex – and mismatched libidos – is swirling around in the blogosphere today. I feel that I have something unique to add to the discussion (or really not so unique, if you keep reading). I have touched on the topic of sex more than a few times here since it has been an issue in our relationship and our recovery. Even if you aren’t married to a sex addict, though, sex is a topic that you should be talking about.
I won’t waste too much time on the great importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about that. I will, however, point out that sex and intimacy create a bond, a connection, between two people that can make them feel closer and carry them through difficult situations. Intimacy and sex are incredibly important to a marriage. It’s one of the aspects of a relationship that takes it to the next level – to the realm of romantic love versus platonic friend or family love.
So how is it that around 20%* of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage?” What is a “sexless marriage,” you may ask… It is a marriage where sexual intercourse occurs 10 times or less each year. In marriages where sex has dried up to that extent it’s a vicious cycle, and often no one can remember what exactly came first: “lack of sexual desire, lack of trust, anxiety, financial issues, misunderstandings, pressure from children,” or a myriad of other factors.**
Even when things haven’t gotten that bad, couples can find themselves frustrated or feeling rejected from their partner when there is a difference in how much sex each person thinks is “normal.” In the first 6 months of a sexual relationship both parties are tearing each other’s clothes off with the same intense passion and vigor. Once things settle into a comfortable place and those “lusty” brain chemicals die down, our natural preferences will start to emerge. It’s actually common for spouses to have different amounts of sexual desire. Sexuality is a complicated, delicate thing. Each of us have our own ideas of how much is “enough,” and those ideas do not always mesh. However, not addressing those differences or talking about sex with your partner can be devastating to your relationship.
Now that the groundwork is laid (haha), I’m going to jump right into the heart of my topic. Whenever a marriage is struggling with sexual intimacy the finger is automatically pointed at the wife. If the sex isn’t frequent enough or someone is sexually dissatisfied, it must be HER fault! Society in general loves to joke about how once a woman gets married she stops wanting sex. Women are overly sexualized in magazines, movies, posters, entertainment, etc., yet conversely we are told that we really aren’t very sexual beings. When a woman is open about her sexuality, she is treated like a freak or a whore. If you want sex more than your male partner, there must be something wrong with you. Make up your minds people!
Women do love sex. And sometimes we want it more than the man in our life. In fact, as one article put it, “It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common” for a woman to want sex more than her partner. That’s right, folks! In many, many cases the wife is the sexually dissatisfied one in the relationship.
Our culture doesn’t want to talk about it and certainly doesn’t want to accept it, but there are a lot of us out here. In fact, that very same article says that in about 1/3 of the cases where a couple sees a sex therapist it is the woman who wants sex more frequently. In those cases, fighting against cultural stereotypes in addition to an imbalance in sex drives is incredibly difficult. Here’s an excerpt that I just have to share:
“Any chronic desire difference can drive people crazy. But in our culture, when the woman wants sex more, the couple descends into a special circle of hell, the place reserved for those caught in culturally unexpected circumstances. It’s bad enough to have a chronic desire difference, but when the situation contradicts the highly prevalent assumption that women—all women!—are erotically coy, while men—all men!—are insatiable horn dogs who can never get enough, desire differences feel even more distressing.”***
The stereotypes and public perception that men should or do want sex more than their female counterpart make it more difficult for women like me to find an outlet to talk about this type of thing. I have connected with more women than you could imagine who also have higher sex drives than their husbands. It is very isolating because you think there must be something wrong with you… Men are SUPPOSED to want sex more.
It’s just not true, though. Think about it. If the woman in 1/3 of couples wants sex more than her spouse, then the number of women like me who are left disappointed and sexually frustrated when our husbands are “too tired” at night has to be in the millions. There are millions of us!!! Are we still in the minority? Maybe. But if this wasn’t such a taboo issue, maybe more and more of us would speak up and that 1/3 number would inch up closer to 50%. I have no empirical proof of that, but the logical, reasonable side of me is screaming that if sex and sexuality is so varied then why couldn’t that be true?
Just check out this message board on Women’s Health with 38 pages of responses to one woman who was concerned that her sex drive was too high. Or read this response from an advice columnist to a woman whose high sex drive was causing friction in her marriage. In the beginning of her answer she says, “You are far from being the only woman who finds that her partner’s sex-drive is way lower than her own. I get more questions from women on this subject than from men.” Maybe that’s because we are the ones who write to advice columnists. Maybe it’s because we are seeking to find out whether society is right and there is something wrong with us. Or maybe it’s because there are a lot of us out here.
I don’t deny that there are a lot of studies that point to the fact that men think about sex more than women. That’s probably true. I’m not sure how much any male thinks about sex because I am certainly not in their brain. I am also not some sex-crazed woman who is lost in sexual fantasy all day. I just love sex, and I want it frequently. I don’t stop and think about it obsessively – I just make a move on my husband, send him a flirty text, go in for a long kiss with a little tongue, or any number of other actions. I’m a woman of action, though.
So what about the evolutionary theory? Men are programmed to spread their seed and all that, right? Well, there might be more to it than just that. In Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha talk extensively about early human sexuality. I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if I would agree with every single conclusion they draw, but I have read several articles that touch on their findings. Surprisingly (to some), the psychological and anthropological evidence they gathered shows that without the constraints of society women were just as sexual as men (or more so).
So what changed? In an interview with Dr Snyder’s PsychologyToday’s blog “SexualityToday,” lead author Christopher Ryan said, “Even as we speak, clitorectomies are taking place in North Africa, women in Iran are being stoned to death, and American girls are committing suicide because their classmates call them ‘sluts’ online. The world is hardly a safe place for women to express sexual curiosity, and hasn’t been for a very long time.” So very true. I really think a lot of this boils down to our society.
Today I was referred to this article about how men and women’s sex drives differ. They conclude that “men score higher in libido, while women’s sex drive is more ‘fluid.'” I found it very, very educational and interesting. There were a lot of valid points made, some of which I have addressed above and some of which I am not going into. One thing in the article really jumped out at me, though. The #4 difference between men and women’s sex drive is that “Women’s sex drives are more influenced by social and cultural factors.” All of the bullet points under there were spot-on, and I would highly recommend that you take a look.
This is my interpretation. Women’s sexuality is more influenced by their peers, church, education, age, and other outside influences. If you create a role for women like, “The wife never wants to have sex as much as the husband,” some women will go ahead and fill that role. They will suppress their sexuality and let their husband take the driver’s seat because that’s how things are supposed to be. If, by chance, they step out of line, another woman is more than happy to call them a “whore” to put them back in their place. Men and women alike are there joking and whispering in their ear that men are more sexual, and they just need to accept that fact.
That bullet point also explains a bit why I might be more open sexually than a lot of people – male or female. I am well-educated, not religious, and don’t care what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks is “normal.” That makes me able to fulfill my entire sexual potential (or at least a lot of it).
When it all boils down to it, I think the baseline sex drive for men and women is more equal than people think. While men may think about sex more often and may be more direct or less complicated sexually, I think both genders equally want sex. We both crave good sex in it’s fantastic, intimate form. It may be a higher priority for some men than for women, especially when children enter the picture. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that, either. In a vacuum, though, I think men and women’s sex drives would be very, very close (and pretty darn high). Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum. We live here, in this society, and every single one of us has a completely different sexual experience and background.
Today I just wanted to be a voice for women like me. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not alone. Remember, men peak sexually at around the age of 17 while women peak in their late thirties. It just is what it is.
As for what to do about it? My answer, no matter which way the imbalance of sex drives goes, is to open up about sex with your partner. We both need to be communicating about sex. We both need to be initiating. We both need to be finding ways to connect sexually. We both need to realize how important it is. We both need to make time and make sex a priority. So go home, give your man or woman a deep, romantic, passionate kiss, and get busy! Talking that is… If that leads to more, then more power to you!
* According to the National Health and Social Life Survey and Newsweek magazine
** From MSNBC.com, “The Big No: The truth about sexless marriage” (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32735936/ns/today-relationships)
***When She Wants Sex More than He Does: It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common. Published on December 4, 2011 by Michael Castleman, M.A. in All About Sex
- When She Wants Sex More than He Does (psychologytoday.com)
- Sex is the “glue” in a marriage (recoveringwayward.wordpress.com)
- Sex is vital in an intimate relationship (ourjourneyafterhisaffair.wordpress.com)
- Sex: I Want It More Than My Husband (goodwomenproject.com)
- Being Open About Sex (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Being A Sexual Woman (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- My Sex-Drive’s Too High – Agony Aunt (talktalk.co.uk/lifestyle)
- Are Men More Romantic Than Women? (huffingtonpost.com)
- My sex drive is dead. (workspousestory.wordpress.com)
- Good Health = Healthy Sex Life. (denshispeaks.wordpress.com)
- Sexless Marriage – SexlessMarriageProblem.com – Newly Designed Surveys to Reveal the Truth About Married Couples and Sexless Marriages (prweb.com)