When is too much sex not enough?

Pile of threaded metal countersunk screws with a Philips head screwdriver on a white background for DIY and carpentry

Okay, so when is not enough sex for me too much for you? When I forget about quality and focus on quantity? Or when we have fundamentally different levels of libido? And what is the truth underlying the apparent universality that men want sex more than women?

Person A is pained when their partner says he thinks they have sex less than they used to, or that she doesn’t initiate enough. Painstaking discussion reveals that they are in a vicious cycle where he has been making it harder for her to initiate sex (by going straight to sleep) to protect himself emotionally from her not initiating. Is her not having been more insistent, say, waking him up to complain, or chasing him faster to bed at night, evidence that he is right? Or is it just a lot of disappointed person A?

Person P says: my partner wants sex more than I do. It has always been that way. Is this an unsolvable function of their libidos, or a long term chain reaction, triggered by a seed thought that goes unnoticed, like Person A’s ‘not enough initiation’? Is it a gendered problem which happens to loads of couples?

Maybe there is a problem of quality versus quantity. I don’t mean that they have crap sex, or not enough quality sex; I have no idea and don’t want any clairvoyant comments filling me in on that either, kindly thank you. I mean that if they have never completed a conversation about how much sex would be enough, not enough, and too much, by working out a perfect compromise on quantity and frequency of sex, to make them both feel as close to satisfied and as far from put upon as humanly possible, then maybe it’s because without realising it they have settled on a shared idea of what sex is that is just quantitative.

Let’s indulge stereotypes and call Person P ‘she’ and assume they are hetero. Maybe she doesn’t want sex as much as he does because she doesn’t enjoy it as much as he does. Maybe she has not-enoyed it more times than he has. Maybe he doesn’t even know she has not-enjoyed it as much as she has.

I don’t know about you but I think sex is fucking brilliant and I can’t think why anyone would not want to have sex all day long, every day, unless there were some pressing reason not to do so. Some of the reasons I don’t actually do this in my own life are: having to eat, cook, clean, look after others, go out to work, buy or grow food, pay bills, mend stuff, answer the phone, menstruate, socialise in public places and/or with people who are no good for having sex with. I would probably stop having sex to vote. I won’t count laundry because if I did have sex all day every day I wouldn’t bother to get dressed.

There are other reasons I don’t have sex this much, including: movies, books, conversation, Scrabble, my kids and other relatives and all my friends, sport, art, learning, live music and being outdoors in nature. Taken as a bundle these duties and non-sex pleasures take a really big chunk out of my sex time pie chart. There also seem to be times when my mate doesn’t want to have sex (and my solutions to this don’t include urgently finding someone else to have sex with). And finally, if we had sex all the time, surely we would pretty soon be doing the same thing over and over again, since how would we get a chance to even think of anything different?

Esther Perel tells us that many couples identify the times when they are stretched away from their mate, socially or geographically, as the times they are most likely to notice the rekindling of desire. These desiring moments presumably generate new energy and initiative for sex, whether any newness in bed is thought through or not.

My brain says the sex person P doesn’t want so much of must, almost by definition, be less fun for her that it is for him. Does he notice this when they have sex? Does he care? Does she notice this, or suspect it, or does she enjoy sex a great deal, but simply feel incredibly satisfied thereafter and find the idea of doing it again quite bizarre? Duty kills libido; does she have more duties, or not? I have heard of a hetero couple for whom him doing the ironing is a consistent initiation process.

Maybe their shared seed thought was that men enjoy sex more than women do. Maybe their vicious cycle is that he enjoys the sex more than she does every single time and neither of them has realised that they are both missing out. Maybe believing he naturally enjoys sex more than her means he doesn’t fully realise the value of showing her sexual affection even when she clearly does not want sex, and maybe she doesn’t show him sexual affection in case he wants sex more.

Why doesn’t he just fucking forget about the number of sexes he’s not getting for a while, and try to find out what is less great in her memories of their sex than in his? I do understand that some people have low libido. I agree that everyone has the absolute right to say no to sex, including within a relationship, heaven forbid that this should need saying. I also have a conviction that a large majority of sexually mature adults have the physical and hormonal apparatus to have and enjoy good sex and that good sex creates libido. I most want more sex when I have had good sex recently.

As if this post wasn’t long enough already, I will add: (menstruating age) women are definitely cyclic. If it seems that a conversation about what will make sex better will happen before how to have more of it, start by checking when you are/she is most likely to be hot. The second week after menstruation is a good place to start. And if that’s just passed, so much the better. Discussing what you are going to do to each other for a whole month is going to give that low libido some serious trouble.





Problems without solutions

Well I have asked myself a difficult question now, and one I can no longer keep asking you lot and avoiding myself – not if I want this blog to have any integrity whatsoever, or rather, to relate to it’s title!

My epic-fail example of asexual sleeping together (see Confession Part 1) and Marnia Robinson’s case studies illuminate the problem we are facing in the same way – albeit from two sides of the same coin. Her witnesses are amazed that their cuddling worked out, despite obstacles so obvious that we can all just fill them in. Then they loved it. On reading these I get the sneaking suspicion that, although some are clearly not destined to couple up, some could well go that way – in time – precisely because they have created a safe space to share love and affection. By subverting the expectations of sex, they have laid the foundation for trust that many couples never achieve.

What? Yes, here I believe there is a real problem. Many couples who don’t develop open communication about sex and non-sexual cuddling experience some anxiety almost every night: whether it’s about getting or not-getting sex or about giving or not-giving sex. The biggest stereotype is the sex-hungry man and the exhausted woman, but whatever truth there is in that, we know it will be happening in every possible combination, every night. In a relationship, do you know with certainty before you go to bed at night, every night, whether you want to be sexual with your partner or not and whether they do? How can we ever have this certainty?

Before I list so many problems I start to give up hope, bear with me while I try to break it down a bit:

  • It is normal for human beings to cuddle, and this includes to cuddle overnight – an obvious winner in any geographical region not sweltering at 30° all year round (IMHO).

  • Most adults in the West (which is all I know about) only share a bed with another adult regularly when they are in a sexual relationship with that person.

  • Couples may enjoy non-sexual cuddling at night, or may feel tense about sexual willingness/performance, depending on clear communication about sexual desire.

  • While many couples do enjoy non-sexual cuddling, a lot of people who are not paired up sexually miss out on night time skin contact or even clothed contact, maybe for years on end…

The so-called cuddle sluts show all this perfectly: we are conditioned to pair up and to keep sex in couples. People who have casual sex while not paired up don’t get guarantees for the level of pure cuddle contact they’ll get from temporary lovers. Which brings me back to my first aim with this blog: a nosy-as-hell call out to those of you in-betweeners who evade the strictures of a trad relationship – for whatever reasons – but have established bed relationships which do include affection and trust. Maybe one person, maybe several, maybe never the same person twice; maybe you had sex only to find you both wanted the cuddle more and struck a deal…

This is not to forget that a lot of people are engaged in non-trad relationships with unique rules, no rules, multiple partners and so on ad delirium and infinitum. Do these experiences enlighten us about the path to a cuddling world? You tell me. And what about age? Do young adults and older teens spend more time sleeping in beds with friends, without sex, than older people? Do you know?  Tell me tell me tell me.