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A Third Of Us Aren’t Interested In Sex
“I think there’s something wrong with me.” Charlotte Moore explores why a third of us aren’t enjoying our sex lives
“It’s not that I don’t love him. Just the thought of sex, after work and everything. It’s just unappealing. Obviously, I feel guilty – I know he wants to have sex. But, it’s like that part of me has switched off. I’m twenty-seven. I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”
Jade*, 27 Cheshire.
Jade is far from alone.
A recent study from The University of Glasgow highlighted a pretty shocking statistic, revealing “Nearly a third of all women were found to experience difficulties rooted in a lack of interest in sex – a problem associated with distress and dissatisfaction with their sex life”
That’s a third of us that aren’t enjoying, or are uninterested in, our sex life. From childbirth to hormones, the study explored how women felt about their sexual health and sex life in general. And yet, it didn’t seem to explain why so many of us weren’t enjoying sex. Especially younger women.
“I’m just not interested,” says Katie*, a 29-year-old living in central London. She’s been with her partner for four years and they haven’t had sex in four months. “When I think about how long it’s been, I do feel guilty. Guilty for not being interested. It’s not that I don’t find him attractive. It’s more finding the time where I’m in the right mood.”
Exploring this issue has led me to speak to a number of women in long term relationships, who haven’t been having sex. Emily* a 24-year-old living in Scotland has been with her partner for around two years. “Everyone jokes about lesbian bed death. And I love my girlfriend more than anything. We’re both just so busy and when we climb into bed after work – it’s honestly the last thing on my mind. I don’t think she (Emily’s partner) is unhappy. But, we haven’t really spoken about it – maybe we should?”
I caught up with Abeda Ahmad, the Founder of Amanah Counselling. Abeda has a Masters Degree in Development Studies and is also a Relate Counsellor. Basically, she’s an expert in helping people who are having issues in the bedroom. I started by asking her if she was as surprised as I was by the results.
“Sadly not,” she says. “It’s far more common for women to feel less interested in sex than men. Practically speaking, in a heterosexual relationship, the mechanism that leads to arousal is simply a lot easier for men. For women to get to the same stage (ready for penetrative sex), it takes about fifteen minutes of stimulation, it’s a lot quicker for men. After a while in a relationship, your partner might not invest what they used to into foreplay. Which means that it’s a lot harder for women to even start feeling aroused.”
Abeda highlights that emotional connection is also really important. “It’s not healthy to make sweeping generalisations and say women are simply ‘more emotional’. But, with twenty year’s experience, it’s clear that stress impacts women slightly differently. Whereas a lot of men can see sex as a cathartic process. Very few women can switch off and simply work through stress through sex. That close connection, the feeling of being wanted, is incredibly important to our sex life.”
I read to her a few of the quotes from the women we’ve spoken to, especially around the impact of guilt, – the feeling that we ‘owe’ our partner something. A quick poll on Instagram highlights revealed over 74 per cent of responding women have felt guilty about not having enough sex.
Guilt, like shame, isn’t a healthy emotion to carry around.
“Guilt, like shame, isn’t a healthy emotion to carry around. Guilt leads to avoidance, it means that we stop talking about the issue and it can make it a lot harder to resolve. Traditionally, it’s a very British thing to be a little shy about sitting down with your partner to discuss your sex life. But, it is important.”
“In fact, I have several clients that are in the same position. Couples that, outside of their sex life, are really compatible. It’s important to dig down into where there was a change. You know? For example, six months ago, we started drifting slightly. Figuring out if you need more romance, or even just more foreplay.”
So, how can we improve our sex life, guilt-free?
“Preparation is key. There’s a reason that a lot of us recommend Sensate.”
Sensate focus is a sex therapy technique introduced by the Masters and Johnson team. It works by refocusing the participants on their own sensory perceptions and sensuality, instead of goal-oriented behaviour focused on the genitals and penetrative sex.
“For example, spend half an hour exploring and enjoying the sensation of touching your partner’s body. For now, we’re going to avoid touching genitals, as we want to keep this experience low stress. The most important aspect here is communication – tell your partner what you do like and, more importantly, what you don’t.”
“The other thing to remember is what you like will change. What we enjoyed sexually as a teenager is very different from what we like ten years later. So, focus on learning what you and your partner really enjoy. I also recommend scheduling in some time together – such as a date night.”
As a recent date night convert, I’m all in favour of scheduling in quality time with your partner. Though chatting to Jade*, she worries that there could be too much pressure on the evening. It’s quite a common worry. But, Abeda explains that while, in theory, we all like spontaneous gestures, in reality, our lives tend to run on structure and routine.
“It doesn’t sound romantic, but scheduling a date night can be really useful. It gives your relationship the respect it deserves. What I’d recommend is simply to see where it goes. You don’t need to schedule sex. Simply book in a night a week to spend time together – it may lead to something, but it’s fine if it doesn’t.”
Most importantly, she highlights that there’s nothing wrong with us if we’re less interested in sex. And, our perception that everyone else having far more sex than we are, is normally wrong.
Amid COVID19, we’re all spending plenty of time at home.
For some, this is simply more pressure to have sex. Abeda reminds us that these expectations are misplaced. “Going back to basics is important. Any NLP practitioner would remind us of the importance of language. The way we say things. Focus on using positive language. And, most importantly, when changes need to be made, look at what you need to change to improve things, not your partner.”
However, the most important thing we can do is sit down with our partner and have an honest conversation about our sex lives.
Are you both happy with the quantity of sex that you’re having? Or, is there something you really want to try? Creating space for these open conversations is essential to a healthy relationship.
If you think you might need a bit more support, then having a chat with a sex therapist can be really useful.