It’s broadly accepted, in much of the mainstream media, that when it comes to shagging you can never have too much of a good thing. So initial reports this week that people are having less sex than we did 20 years ago might give you cause for alarm. Don’t worry, though, I am here to calm your worried, potentially sex-starved mind.
Let’s get the facts out there to start
with: according to a study in the U.S., people are having less sex
today than they did ten or twenty years ago. Researchers found not
only that the
of sex is going down
(i.e. those who have it are having less of
it) but also that the number of people between the ages of 20-24 who
have no sex at all is increasing.
Panic! Horror! Misery! Woe!
Except it’s actually not all bad news.
There are lots of reasons why we might be having less sex, and some
of those reasons show just how lucky we are.
What exactly counts as ‘sex’?
Whenever a study like this comes out,
my very first question is: what exactly are they counting as sex?
When I shag my boyfriend, I usually count it as sex if one or both of
us has had an orgasm. That means I get to include mutual
masturbation, blow jobs, and the occasional long afternoon of a
weekend which we spend watching porn and touching ourselves on the
sofa. But there are many other ways to have sex: frotting, for
instance, likely isn’t always counted by people answering survey
questions, but it can still be a valuable addition to anyone’s sex
Solo sex, aka masturbation, might not
instantly leap to mind if someone with a clipboard were to approach
you in the street and ask how recently you’d got laid, but
masturbation too is a pretty awesome component of my sex life. It’s
sex with the person I love the most. Cheap joke, sorry.
My point, though, is that it might be
hard to do a proper comparison between sex today and sex twenty years
ago. Not only do we have easier access to a much broader set of sexual tools (helloooo glass dildos and butt plugs and whips and
restraints and all that lovely stuff), but we also have a much
broader notion of what sex is, and can be. It doesn’t need to be a
hetero-leaning box-ticking exercise where someone puts their train
into another person’s tunnel – sex is a much more nuanced thing
What are we doing besides having sex?
The other important point – raised by
the researchers in their comments on the study too – is that we
just have a whole lot more to do in our lives these days. With the
advent of email, smartphones, and Netflix, we’ve got unlimited
entertainment and diversion at our disposal. I am certainly guilty of
spending more time on Twitter than I spend on my boyfriend’s cock.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Sure, if you’re worried about how much
time you spend online, you might want to try and set up a system for
dropping your usage a bit, but if it’s not causing you a problem, why
not share that cat gif? Why would you pressure yourself into having
sex if you simply don’t fancy it today? Why pressure your partner
into having more sex when both of you are perfectly comfortable
having a cuddle and binge-watching Better Call Saul? It’s fine. It’s
all fine. Honestly. The sex police aren’t going to show up at your
house and give you targets to hit to make sure you beat the previous
generation’s record. You get to decide what you want and when – and
that’s a lovely thing.
How much sex do we actually want?
The final point, and I think it’s the
most important one, is what the ‘right’ amount of sex is to have
anyway. As I mentioned above, sex is often portrayed in the media as
something so good you can never have too much of it. But tell that to
my aching vagina after a long evening of overenthusiastic humping. Tell that to my mouth after giving my partner
the third blow job of the day, as I make like a stranded tourist in
the Sahara desert, thirstily sucking the last few drops out of a
pouch of Capri-Sun.
More importantly, we understand more
about consent and pleasure than we did ten or twenty years ago.
Thanks to cool books like Enjoy Sex (seriously, I’m recommending this
everywhere, it’s excellent) we are coming to terms with the fact that
sex is not a goal in and of itself. More important is to understand
what you need, what your partners need, and how best to make the most
of whatever you do do together. It’s not about counting score, like a
football match, it’s more about dancing together: far more important
to understand and enjoy it than to do it as often as possible.
Sex itself is like chocolate cake: many
of us want to have a lot of it, but most of us can agree that there’s
such a thing as ‘too much.’ Personally, I reckon by my fourth or
fifth slice it starts tasting a bit sickly, and I’d much rather
switch to crisps. So find the recipe that works best for you and your
partners, and make sure to enjoy and savour it. You don’t have to
have fifty extra pieces just because the person on the next table is.
And if none of that has persuaded you,
consider this: when looking at sexual frequency, the research
actually found that we’re only having sex seven fewer times each year
(on average) than couples in the 1990s. Seven times. Seeing as some
of the sex I have is done and dusted within five minutes, seven times might total less
than an episode of The Wire. I can live with that, if it means I get
to keep my smartphone, amazing sex toys, and an attitude to sex that
prioritises quality over quantity.