As a Clinical Sexologist, I have the privileged opportunity to know the intricacies of many people’s sex lives.
Therefore, I can say directly that there is no ‘normal’ or right number of times a month or ways of being intimate that are right for everyone.
What is satisfying for each couple and individual varies enormously. Saying this, I do see patterns and there are certain things that people bring to my counselling room regularly that may be helpful for you to know a bit about.
Many women and people with vulvas / vaginas experience difficulties relating to sexual difficulties at some point in their lives.
Here are some common ones and some things to think about if you or a loved one experiences any of them.
This is really common and there are a lot of reasons why this could be happening.
A non-exhaustive list is scar tissue, thinning of vaginal walls, tight muscles due to anxiety or previous sexual trauma or physical trauma from giving birth, STIs or infections as well as dryness. The first step is to see your GP, depending on what is happening for you they can refer you to a gynaecologist or pelvic floor physiotherapist to support you. Once any physical aspect is also being addressed, get some support to combat anxiety, tension and sexual aversion that may have developed due to the pain. There are also many wonderful devices and toys that can support you to experience sexual intimacy in different ways and without pain.
Lack of Arousal.
Bodies change throughout the lifetime. We change with age, fluctuating hormones, state of external life and relationships, illness and injury.
It’s unreasonable to expect a baseline level of arousal to remain constant.
But the good news is that good sex doesn’t depend on arousal and orgasms, a desire and motivation to be sexual is needed, then the fun can unfold in a myriad of ways.
If there is a willingness from all involved to be really present and just enjoy whatever sensation and experience is happening in the moment, without such a focus on orgasms or a certain type of activity you can still have satisfying and pleasurable sexual connections. Use a great lube to ensure any touch glides, there are so many different types these days.
Ripping each other’s clothes off in a passionate flurry isn’t something that happens much outside of movies, at least not in long-term relationships.
And once that rush of honeymoon endorphins are over, couples are rarely going to both desire sex at exactly the same time. Each human has an amount of sex each day, week, month or year that feels satisfying.
Difficulty arises when there is a big mismatch, as one person will seek sex, the other feels obliged and pressured, or refuses and the other feels rejection.
Both people in this situation may need to adjust to a shared middle ground; talk about what that is in a neutral setting from a loving heart, remember more or less isn’t better or worse- it’s like food, some people just have bigger appetites than others.
For many women who experience less desire than their partners, it’s really common that the mental load they carry of the home, kids, work and partner is too overwhelming and not fairly split, and therefore they feel too exhausted and resentful to want to be sexual, this warrants a really frank conversation about shared responsibility and what feels reasonable.
You might also want to explore how to bring some ‘New Relationship Energy’ into your love life, as familiarity and comfortability are so cosy, but sometimes a spark is needed to reignite the sexual passion too.
Not feeling Connected
Many women and more feminine leading people really need to feel emotionally connected before they have any desire for sex or can open sexually.
If there are any trust issues, feelings of insecurity or perceived lack of connection in the relationship many women just don’t want to be sexual. Intimacy starts out of the bedroom. So do your best to connect through conversations, shared activities, laughter and play- this is often better foreplay than any kind of sexual advance.
Orgasms (lack of)
Many women don’t orgasm purely from penetration and need non-penetrative touch or oral sex before or after or added stimulation from a vibrator or a hand to reach orgasm during sex.
This is perfectly common and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong. Learning and exploring slowly and playfully with a partner exactly what works is a wonderful experience and highly recommended.
Other people will have trouble letting go during sex and therefore find it hard to release, while others find they don’t build up enough intensity of pleasure to get to orgasm. Some medications prescribed for mental health issues interfere in this way, for others it’s due to being too ‘in the head’. Learning mindfulness as a sensual and sexual practice can slowly build more connection to the body and the moment that can allow more pleasure. It can be frustrating not to reach orgasm but being with whatever pleasure is available in the body at a certain time with a sense of relaxation is something to enjoy, in and of itself. For some people and some bodies, toys and devices will be necessary to add the level of stimulation needed.