‘Why don’t I feel like sex?’ is the question I am most asked by women.
It’s always been the most asked question and I have been writing about sex and relationships for decades.
‘I dread having sex. What’s wrong with me?’
‘I’ll do anything I can to avoid it – even though I know it’s ruining my relationship.’
‘I see that look in his eye and I want to run away.’
We know that women lose desire faster in long-term relationships than men do. Not because our drive for sex is lower but because women need more interesting sex than men to enjoy it.
Our orgasm rate is lower (probably for the same reason) which also reduces motivation.
But that’s not the full story
Research suggests around 40 per cent of women globally experience diminished desire. After interviewing hundreds of women for my latest books, I’d put that percentage even higher.
There’s another reason why women go off sex that’s rarely mentioned in research or studies: it’s because sex comes as a package deal.
I came up with a four-step plan to help women reconnect with their sexual selves based around this fact.
And guess what? It works.
What do I mean by ‘package deal’? All will become clear. Let me guide you through.
STEP ONE: BE MORE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE ABOUT SEX
Women are fond of making blanket statements.
‘I’m not interested in sex’. End of story. No further discussion needed.
When I ask, ‘But why? Narrow it down for me into exactly what you don’t like about it’, I get a different perspective.
‘It’s because I don’t like my body anymore’. (Would you be happy having sex in the dark? Or feel better about yourself if you got more compliments from your partner?)
‘I don’t like being hassled for sex all the time.’ (Agree on a way of initiating sex that suits you more and talk about how often you are happy having sex.)
‘I’m too tired at the end of the day’. (Do it in the mornings or during the day on the weekend.)
‘I don’t have an orgasm during intercourse’. (Join the club: only 20 per cent of women do. There are many other ways to make each other climax.)
Thing is, there are solutions for most problems. You just have to be very, very clear on what the problem actually is in order to find it.
Action plan: Make a list of all the things you don’t enjoy about sex. Take your time doing it and keep going until you feel you’ve covered the main elements that stop you enjoying sex with your partner.
STEP TWO: IS THERE ANY PART OF SEX YOU DO OR MIGHT STILL ENJOY?
Or at least wouldn’t mind doing, if you had to.
When pressed, women say things like, ‘Well, I still like kissing’. Or ‘I used to enjoy my breasts being stroked.’
Other comments: ‘I like the cuddles and feeling of closeness afterwards.’ ‘I guess it’s a compliment that he desires me.’ ‘It makes me happy seeing him so happy.’
When I say to women, ‘Why don’t you continue having sex that includes the things you do like and stop the things you don’t?’, the reply is instant and predictable.
‘Don’t be silly! My partner would never consider that. For him, sex is intercourse and if you don’t have that, it’s not real sex.’
If only men could grasp this simple concept.
If they didn’t make intercourse part of every single sex session, more women would be interested in having sex.
Lots of women enjoy some elements of sex – X and Y – but not Z. Because they know Z – intercourse – is always part of the equation, they avoid sex entirely.
Intercourse might be the most favourite part of sex for men, but it leaves a lot of women cold.
Worse, we are in a bizarre situation where it’s perfectly ok to say, ‘Actually, I don’t like finger stimulation/oral sex/sex toys much’. But unthinkable to say, ‘Actually, I don’t enjoy intercourse that much’.
If each sex encounter was varied – sometimes it was kissing only, another time breast fondling and maybe some hand stimulation, the next him pleasuring her using a vibrator or one of you giving the other oral sex, women wouldn’t be announcing that they dislike ALL sex.
Action plan: Now make a list of all the things about sex that you did enjoy and might still enjoy. It’s OK to write things about after play (I like the cuddle at the end), it’s all part of the experience of sex.
STEP THREE: DESIGN YOUR PERFECT SEX SESSION
Look at your ‘What I don’t like list’ first. Next to each thing you don’t enjoy, try to think of a solution, like the examples I used above.
‘He moves from zero to 100 too quickly’. Solution: If he spent more time on foreplay, I would enjoy sex more.
If you’re struggling to flesh out your ‘What I do enjoy list’ think about the following:
Do you masturbate still? What do you think about when you do? If you watch erotica, what about watching it with your partner?
What technique do you use during solo sex? Does your partner know how to perform this technique on you?
If you use a vibrator to climax, have you considered asking him to use it on you?
Do you feel more comfortable having sex in the dark? What time of day would you prefer to have sex?
Where do you feel most comfortable doing it?
Does music put you in the mood? What sort of music?
Are you happy giving rather than receiving sex? Lots of women are quite happy giving their partners a BJ or oral sex, just don’t want the favour returned.
Do you fantasise? What themes are they? Is there something you can take from them to incorporate into sex (get him to tie your arms behind your back, for instance).
Do you get turned on reading a racy book or watching sex in a film or tv show? Would your partner to open to watching them/you reading out bits together?
Action plan: After all this information gathering, you should have a clear idea of what you want less of, what you want more of, and a few ideas of the kind of sex that would suit you better.
Now all you need to do is…
STEP FOUR: EXPLAIN IT ALL TO YOUR PARTNER
Don’t worry if this is the most daunting task of the entire exercise: it is for most people.
But the good thing about talking about sex with your partner for the first time, is that once you’re over that initial awkwardness, it very quickly becomes easier. And easier. To the point where you wonder why it took you so long to do it.
Believe me, if you’ve been avoiding sex and not having sex regularly, it’s highly likely your partner will be overjoyed to have a discussion. Especially one that has a positive slant and lots of suggestions and solutions.
Wait until you’re getting on well and then say, ‘I’ve been thinking about our sex life and that we don’t do it as often we used to. And I got thinking about/read an article which encouraged me to really think about sex and the things I like and the things I’m not so keen on. I found it really interesting and want to share it with you. Would you be up for that? I’m also keen to know your favourite parts of sex and things you can take and leave.’
That’s a good starting conversation. It might take you a few goes to get to the point where you’re both chatting away comfortably, but the rewards of doing this far outweigh any discomfort.
Together, you can then put together a few sex scenarios that you’d both enjoy. Sex that isn’t just X plus Y equals Z.
Aim to come up with at least four or five rough plans of how a session might go. You don’t have to follow them religiously, just have an idea of what you’re aiming for. Some will favour one of you over the other but relationships are all about compromise.
Having said that…
It’s never a bad thing to have sex her way
Female driven sex tends to be more foreplay based so more satisfying for her and him (don’t be fooled: men like foreplay, too, they just need permission to lie back and enjoy and not be in charge).
If couples have sex her way, sex happens more often.
If you’re in a low or no-sex relationship and given a choice – I’m happy to have sex this way or not interested in sex at all – most men happily embrace the first option.
Try it. You might be surprised how welcome your suggestions are – and how quickly it can turn around what you thought was an unfixable situation.
*This blog originally appeared as one of my Mail Online columns