In this recurring guest column, Kate White, M.D., of Boston Medical Center, answers your questions on all things gynecology. As the author of the Mayo Clinic Press book Your Sexual Health, she’s ready to dole out wisdom on sex, periods, menopause and more. Submit a question here.
Q: OK, I’ll admit it — I have no idea if my sex drive is “normal.” I honestly have no idea if I’m asking for too much or too little sex. What’s typical?
A: Here’s the good news: There is no typical! As long as you’re happy with your sex drive, there’s nothing to worry about. However, this may get more complicated when you’re trying to match your sex drive with a partner. Two things to remember:
1. It’s OK if you want more sex than others do.
If you identify as a woman, you may be treated negatively for enjoying sex or even just having it. But being sexual is part of what makes us human, so you shouldn’t be judged for wanting any amount of sex that feels right (and oh-so-good).
There is no “normal” amount of sex to want or have. And lesbian and bisexual women report having as much sex as hetero women each year. Yet people’s expectations about how much sex they think you should want or have are shaped by society, culture and religion. If you’re with a male partner, he may have been taught to be the sexual aggressor and be used to setting the sexual pace. As a result, he may react badly when you show that you want to set the tempo, especially if it’s faster than he would set it. Or your partner’s libido, regardless of gender, may simply be lower than yours.
No matter the reason for the imbalance, it’s OK if you want sex more than your partner does. Don’t let any partner shame you for your desires. You’ll have to figure out how to negotiate this gap, but that should come from a healthy place, not one of judgment.
2. It’s OK if you don’t want sex as much as others do.
There’s no gold standard in terms of how much sex you should want or have. It’s OK if you run at a lower RPM (romps per month) than your partner does or than your friends do. And it’s common to have a lower sex drive with stress, illness, pain, fear of pregnancy, or fear of getting caught — and then rebound when those things pass. The reality is that about half of women have sex at least once a week — everyone else is having sex less often.
And there’s also no rule about what kind of sex to want, either. You may love oral sex because it reliably gets you off and feel meh about intercourse. Or the opposite — maybe intercourse makes you feel connected to your partner and oral is too intense.
In any case, you may find yourself with a sexual mismatch with your partner. But it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex as much as your partner does, or your friends do. And it’s OK if you don’t want sex at all.
If you’re unhappy with how disinterested you are in sex, talk with your doctor. But if you’re content with the amount of sex you’re wanting, you’re OK. You deserve to be with a partner who travels at the same sexual speed as you, and who won’t make you feel pressured to have sex when you don’t want to.
This an edited excerpt from Dr. Kate’s book Your Sexual Health.
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