How much sex is normal?
Does frequency really matter when it comes to having a "good" sex life? Find out how to tell how much sex is right for you and your partnerBy Josephine Brouard
Most people are reluctant to talk about their sex life, and that’s fair. Some things are sacred. But do you get the feeling that people are reluctant to talk because the event typically fails to live up to all the hype?
When I confide to friends that I’m having sex less often than the much-quoted average of “a couple of times a week,” my friends then typically admit the same. “Sex life? What sex life?” is a common refrain among my peers. Female friends often voice a wish that their husbands didn’t want sex so often, while male friends occasionally admit to daydreaming about sex with other women.
There’s nothing shocking about these divergent attitudes to sex; what is surprising, though, is that each gender tends to forget the other’s biological hard-wiring. In his book Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, John Gray describes the different ways in which men and women reach arousal. Men tend to respond to the sensual—touch, taste, smell or visual cues. For women, arousal is usually a mental operation, requiring time to “switch off” from the day’s activities and then to “switch on” for pleasure. Quite often, it’s the delay between women’s and men’s responses that leads to sexual incompatibility.
The solution? Sexual therapists the world over say the fastest way to a good sex life is to communicate with your partner. Lots of long-term relationships see libidos bottom out during busy, stressful or child-rearing times. The secret to intimacy, say therapists, is to ensure that “not often” does not lead to “never.” But apart from that rule, almost anything goes.
Sex therapist Heide McConkey sometimes sees clients who believe they have a sexual problem when they really don’t. Men, she reports, often cite anxiety about their performance. “A lot of men complain they’re only maintaining their erection for three to five minutes,” she says. “ ‘Congratulations,’ I say. ‘You’re normal.’ ”
McConkey says couples also complain that they feel enormous pressure to pep up their sex life. “I saw a couple recently who were clearly deeply in love. But, they admitted, after almost 20 years of marriage, they weren’t making love very often. They wanted to know what they should do.” McConkey probed and both partners admitted they were content with the status quo. “If both parties are happy having sex three times a day, then that is a satisfactory agreement. Similarly, if a couple both feel okay about sex once a month, then it’s ample.”
McConkey, who has counselled many people over the years, feels there is still a lack of real education in our society about sex. “I get people in their 20s and 30s, asking what will happen to them if they masturbate. I tell them masturbation is not only normal, it’s healthy!”
What about shyness? Not everyone has the courage to tell a partner how to kiss or perform oral sex. Therapists suggest it’s best to talk about what you like and what you want more of, rather than emphasizing the negative. When you can relate honestly and openly to your partner, that’s when the juices flow.
How Canadians measure up
The Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey found 55 percent of Canadians say they usually climax during sex. Here’s how we compare to people around the world:
- Sixty-six percent of Italians, Spaniards, Mexicans and South Africans reach orgasm almost every time.
- 59 percent of Americans usually reach orgasm.
- 27 percent of Japanese and 24 percent of Chinese are likely to have an orgasm.
This article was originally titled "How Much Sex Is Best?" in the May 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—and never miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what's new in the latest issue of Best Health.