By Gigi Engle
Once a week, three times per week, once month, every single day.
These are just a few of the numbers attached to getting busy in long-term (and even new) relationships. Everywhere you look, experts point to the “at least once per week” mark when defining a flourishing sex life.
We don’t doubt that sex is important. I mean, Dame is a company that makes toys FOR sex. Sex is an integral part of total relationship happiness. It helps you feel close to your partner, builds connection, and acts as an adhesive in maintaining long-term romantic relationships. But when it comes to sex, is putting a number on it kind of … well ... bullshit? Seriously.
We really have to ask ourselves (and sorry for the Carrie Bradshaw-esque question here): Is there ever such thing as “enough” sex in a relationship? Or is this just another sex-shame-y myth designed to box us into impossible standards for our interpersonal relationships?
And a bigger, more overarching question: Are we so desperate to be “normal” and so lacking in our basic understanding of what constitutes “normal sexuality” that we have to quantify everything to feel OK in our partnerships?
To answer these questions, we went to a few experts who know a thing or two about getting freaky. Here is what we learned.
Sexual wellness is subjective AF
We have to stop considering sexual wellness inside of a “group mentality.” What is good for the herd is not always good for the individual couple.
“This whole idea with ‘enough’ is about prescriptives, and unless we're literally God, we have no place telling people how many times they should or shouldn't [have sex] a week. It's not what's enough for everyone, it's what's enough for the individual,” says Mal Harrison, a sexologist and director of the Center for Erotic Intelligence.
“People like prescriptives because it lets them off the hook from doing the work of self, exploring their needs, and then having [to] communicate them with their partners."
The reason we’re so obsessed with projecting numbers onto sexuality is because we don’t know how to talk about sex and avoid uncomfortable conversations like a coffee date with a sort-of-not-really friend. “People like prescriptives because it lets them off the hook from doing the work of self, exploring their needs, and then having [to] communicate them with their partners,” Harrison explains. “People would rather just have an app that lets their partners know they want sex than actually talk about it.”
It’s about what feels good for you
For one couple, sex every single day may be wonderful. For others, sex once a week may be enough. Other couples may prefer to have sex every few weeks. What matters is what works for the TWO (or more) of you.
“If a couple is happy having sex a few times a month or year, then they should feel no pressure to have sex more often than they enjoy. As long as they are both satisfied and fulfilled by the sex that they are having, then that is a healthy, happy sex life!” Lorrae Bradbury, a sex coach and founder of the site Slutty Girl Problems tells us.
"If one person wants more sex than another, compromise."
This, of course, brings about the question I receive almost daily from readers: What do I do if I want more sex than my partner?
Your sex life, and what that entails, must be a joint decision, one where the two of you have had a discussion (and ongoing discussions) about your individual sexual satisfaction. If one person wants more sex than another, compromise.
For example: One person in the couple wants to have sex every single day, the other would prefer once per week. Compromise and have sex two or three times per week. When it comes to having a healthy, satisfying sex life, a couple has to consider both individual needs and the needs of the relationship as a whole.
It’s really about quality rather than quantity
We’re quick to slap a number on something and call it a day because it’s easy. It’s so much simpler to say, “We’re having sex twice a week,” only to actually have shitty sex, leaving one or more people hazy with Post-Coital Dysphoria.
We have to cut it out with that nonsense. Good sex is better than frequent sex, isn’t it? “The quality of the sex you’re having is much more important than the quantity,” says Bradbury. “You could be having unsatisfying sex three times a day with no orgasms and no pleasure, or mind-blowing, toe-curling sex once a month that leaves you breathless with pleasure. Which would you rather have?” Word.
“You could be having unsatisfying sex three times a day with no orgasms and no pleasure, or mind-blowing, toe-curling sex once a month that leaves you breathless with pleasure. Which would you rather have?”
Instead of holding yourselves to this unrealistic, boring numbers game, think about the pleasure you want to feel in your relationship rather than just the getting it in and moving on with your day, sans sexual release and/or satisfaction.
Bradbury says this doesn’t even necessarily mean intercourse or sex every time. Maybe you just want intimacy, snuggles, and a make-out session. It’s about connection, not an easy one-off bang session. “When you focus on your pleasure and creating the experiences you deeply desire, you’ll have more satisfaction and fulfillment in your erotic relationship,” she says.
Maintenance sex, a key ingredient for healthy pair-bonds
Harrison says that people in relationships can also let sex go as a couple - and this won’t do either. Sex is needed. Don’t forget that.
“A lot of couples get in a rut, and think they're totally fine having [sex] two times a month, and even that takes work,” she says. “So, I suggest they schedule it. Sex doesn't spontaneously fall from the sky like it does when you're in the first throes of passion throughout the first months of dating.”
"Remember, the amount of sex your have is subjective, but that doesn’t mean sex isn’t important."
Yes, this means popping sex on the Gcal, y’all. Center “sex dates” around how much sex the two of you would like to be having. Remember, the amount of sex your have is subjective, but that doesn’t mean sex isn’t important.
Scheduling sex may not sound like the hottest thing you’ve ever done, but we have to understand that sex IS an important part of healthy relationships. It’s not fair to put numbers on what is “normal,” but it’s also unfair to pretend sex isn’t a vital part of maintaining romantic attachment.