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April 20, 2017

If sex is good for you (and science says it is), then surely more sex is better for you, right? Not necessarily, it turns out.

So, how often are you having sex?

It’s ok, you don’t actually have to answer – it was a hypothetical question. I ask because Time magazine recently revealed that “the average American”, whoever that is, is having less sex than they were 10 years ago.

This might not seem very surprising. It wasn’t ever so long ago that I wrote about how difficult (but also how important) it is to find time for intimacy in our ever busier, ever more hectic lives. TV, kids, the internet, social media, pure laziness – they all steal time we could be using to get jiggy with it.

It turns out that the effect of that high-pressure lifestyle on the average American’s sex life over the last decade is that they’re having less – much less – of it: 9 times fewer each year for unmarried couples and *wince* 16 times fewer for married couples. Eina!

But fortunately, despite those scary looking decreases, it turns out that Americans are still getting plenty of sex anyway – basically an average of once a week whether they’re married or not. In fact, perhaps the most surprising thing about this survey was that married couples were having more sex than their unmarried counterparts ten years ago. This was a bit of a blow for me personally, as I wasn’t married ten years ago and now I am, dropping me neatly into the “getting less sex” group for both surveys.

Dammit.

Apparently, I shouldn’t be too perturbed because it turns out that you can – literally – have too much of a good thing. Not that I’m saying that once a week is too much, I hasten to add.

A recent study asked “Does Increased Sexual Frequency Enhance Happiness?”. 

Straight away, that’s a difficult question to ask, given that “happiness” is a subjective feeling and can be influenced by any number of factors, not just sex. Anyway, to cut a long story short, they deduced that – perhaps unsurprisingly – yes, more sex = more happiness, but only up to a point. Too much sex (there is such a thing, guys) actually had the opposite effect.

The report’s author, George Loewenstein, suggested that “forcing” couples to be intimate frequently for the purposes of the study might have “turned it into a chore” and that they were “tired out”, explaining why they were noted to be less content when they were asked to double(!) their sexual frequency.

This might also explain the mixed results of “self-help” books which suggest being intimate each day for a given period – from once a day for a month to once a day for a whole year. In theory, it sounds like a wonderful idea, but in practice… well, maybe not so much.

What this does seem to indicate is that there is an optimal frequency for sexual intercourse. And it stands to reason that – without the shackles of a busy lifestyle or the demands of a scientific study – we’re likely to subconsciously get as close to that optimal frequency as we are able to.

If you were to take a straw poll, you’d probably find that most people feel that they were just under that “perfect” level. But why? Well, Loewenstein says it may be due to our sex lives getting into a rut: “When a couple has been together for some time, the mere presence of the other person, even unclothed, can cease to be exciting or arousing… I still think that couples could benefit from a bit of outside encouragement to have more sex.”

I think he’s suggesting a quick trip to Matildas!



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