Sex should be simple, shouldn’t it? Yet research and probably your own personal experience shows this isn’t the case. From the nearly-nude Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” our culture is entrenched in sexuality, yet so many couples claim they’re dissatisfied with sex, if they’re having it all.
For decades, most believed men wanted more sex than women, yet now some research claims their sex drives are nearly equal. While men are undoubtedly wired differently and view sex in more straightforward terms, for women, sex has tiers and tangents, and layers of complexity—like one of those advanced mazes you can neither complete nor begin again. For married couples, sex as something marriage-sustaining should be simple yet satisfying, selfish yet selfless.
Sex Is Healthy for Couples, So Carry On
According to research by the Kinsey Institute in 2010, 50 percent of 30 year-old married women and 47 percent of married men claim they’re having sex “a few times per month to weekly.” The next largest percentage, 34 percent, reported having it more often, 2 to 3 times per week. Couples who remain dissatisfied with sex are among those whose risk of divorce is higher. Marital satisfaction is most often associated with the amount of sex a couple has. “Across all ages couples who reported higher levels of marital satisfaction also reported higher frequencies of sex.”
Generally speaking, it’s usually men who complain they’re not having sex as often as they’d like. I probably don’t need to compile a spreadsheet like this poor guy did to show you they also tend to initiate more often than women—so complain of getting turned down more often, too. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Still, couples should do it as often as they can mutually agree upon, with as much zeal as they can conjure up, for one selfish reason: it’s good for them.
Women, Stop Making Sex So Hard
Many men struggle to figure out how to get their woman interested—let alone excited—to have sex. They don’t realize that a woman has many emotional components that function together to build up to a desire for physical intimacy, and many struggle to sort out all the mixed messages they receive throughout any given day.
But women, thank your lucky stars. Sex for him and thus for you is simple. You have the home-court advantage every time. You shoot; you score; you win. What do I mean by this? Both academic and anecdotal research supports the assertion that men are turned on to sex easily and quickly. For most men 20-30 minutes (heck, five? Ten?) of focused attention satisfies him physically and emotionally.
Yet repeatedly women refuse to even engage in this simple act on a weekly or monthly basis, citing various reasons such as exhaustion, low self-esteem, or a long to-do list. Behold the excuse index: She wants to shower; she’s tired; she has her period; she’s about to have her period; the kids are awake; now they’re asleep and she wants to sleep; her husband isn’t attractive; she doesn’t feel attractive; it takes too long to climax; he doesn’t take long enough; she wants to talk first; he doesn’t feel like talking.
An article in the Wall Street Journal says sex is a way “for [men] to be aggressive and manly but also tender and vulnerable.” “Taking away sex, takes away their primary emotional outlet,” says Justin Lehmiller, a Harvard University social psychologist who studies sexuality.
Infrequent sex hurts a man’s ego and the bond of marriage. It’s also just plain selfish. If I were paid a dollar every time a friend complained about her husband, “He just wants it all the time!” I wouldn’t be writing for a living. Men want and need sex often. It’s just that simple. Get used to it and frankly, get over it. Trust me, they probably wish it weren’t such a driving mechanism in their lives, either. What if every time you texted, called, or turned to talk to your husband he sighed, “You want to talk again? We just talked yesterday!”
Why must a woman’s needs always be met first? Think of all the “i’s” he must dot and the “t’s” he must cross to be viewed as a good man in her eyes—you couldn’t pay me to battle the minefield of a woman’s emotional industrial complex from a man’s perspective—yet if a woman would lay aside her desires for a moment and selflessly meet his needs, she could satisfy him both emotionally and physically, with a simple gesture. That, my friends, is the definition of what we call a good cost-benefit analysis.
Lessons from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, and everything I learn about it pushes the likelihood of doing either of those things farther away. But allow two observations. The book has sold 100 million copies. It’s popular for some reason. I’m not saying that makes it moral or cheesy or fantastic or cliché any other adjective—just popular. I’m curious to know what those reasons are, aren’t you? It’s possible it’s popular because it shows various forms of sex, some of which are playful, some kinky, some unconventional. Sometimes tawdry and illicit just sells because it’s abnormal and piques curiosity. Many are saying what’s portrayed in the movie degrades women and should be boycotted.
However, according to this 2012 survey Women’s Day published, 79 percent of women wanted to have more sex and 52 percent said they weren’t having any. Honestly, I found that statistic incredulous, if baffling, but let’s go with it. Women are saying they want more sex, they’re buying books and watching movies about sex, but then they’re turning down their spouses, with whom they could enjoy it.
This could be for many reasons, both simple and complex. Barring circumstances like past sexual abuse or painful sex, is it so far off to assert that women (and men) should sit down with their partners and figure out some mutually agreed upon forms of action?
The second observation: Please don’t misread me. I’m not suggesting you must enter the land of BDSM to make your husband happy, not by a long shot. But if the above statistics are true—about copies sold and a woman’s rather high libido—then let’s take a cue from those and shift our attitude from withholding to willing, from a million excuses to a simple yes. Flirty texts and cute attire are optional, but encouraged (men, you can text and shower!). Not painful sex, but playful sex. You’ll be surprised at how much fun the two of you are having and how close you feel to each other.
Not So Fast, Guys
Before the guys email this article to their wives and the women blast me in the comment section for being too hard on our sex—men, you’re not off the hook. You can learn some things and put forth some effort, too.
In addition to the external pull of her husband, multiple battles rage within most women. There is her own biological and hormonal clock–for many approaching a woman near her premenstrual cycle is akin to doing a bomb sweep: You may come away clean and happy you’re alive, or you may suffer the consequences of the ticking device. Women don’t like this about themselves any more than guys do.
Then there is narrative whispering in the corners of her mind about what her husband wants. This is especially true of women who genuinely want to please their husbands but who just cannot seem to “get there,” mentally or physically. The Hollywood version of sex—in movies, sitcoms or magazines at the checkout line—is pervasive, even if you don’t indulge. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is her own view of sex, what she wants or doesn’t, what is fun, what isn’t, how much attention other things—like the home, her work, the kids, her friends—require.
Remember the study women touted everywhere last year that found couples who share housework have more sex? In essence: Even science proves what women have been telling their guys all along: if you want some, treat her like a person, starting with her brain. Laurie Watson is a sex therapist and author of “Wanting Sex Again.” She says the “popularity of [“Fifty Shades of Grey”] is not as much about a particular type of sex. I think it shows, though, the hero who has an obsessive focus on the heroine of the story and that deep sense of connection. Women are really turned on by that.”
Most women really don’t think about sex as often as you do, but they do think about you, probably as often as you think about sex. So if your wife thought you were thinking about her that often, she would feel loved and cherished and probably be more open to intimacy. Calling regularly; helping with the kids; picking up groceries; providing well financially—to a woman this isn’t a to-do list: It’s this new thing people have been doing in some form for thousands of years called foreplay.
Sex should and does bring couples closer together. While it can be complicated, try to keep it simple. If every spouse put the other’s needs above his or her own—while mutually agreeing on what’s enjoyable—nobody would have time to read “Fifty Shades of Grey.”