- After interviewing women about sexual desire for 5 years, author Katherine Rowland found people were more concerned with how often they had sex than how good the sex itself was.
- She said fixating on sexual frequency hinders sexual fulfillment because it suggests sex is one-size-fits-all.
- Everyone prefers to have sex at different frequencies, and that's OK. As long as you and your partner feel fulfilled, others' sex lives don't matter.
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If you're concerned about how often you and your partner are having sex compared to other couples, your worries could be misplaced, according to Katherine Rowland, the author of "The Pleasure Gap."
After interviewing women about sexual desire for five years, Rowland found that women and their male partners were regularly worried they weren't having sex often enough, and that the low frequency was hurting their relationships.
But after looking at sex research and talking to women about their turn-ons and best sexual experiences, Rowland realized that these couples' real concerns should have been about the quality of the sex they were already having.
"All too often, frequency is bandied about as a shorthand for pleasure, but these statistics tell us little about whether women are enjoying the sex they have," Rowland wrote in the chapter Tradition and Its Discontents.
She argued that society's hyper-focus on having an appropriate amount of sex detracts from the more important conversation of what good sex really is.
Society's fixation on penetrative sex leaves women feeling sexually unfulfilled
In focusing on sex frequency over sex quality, women are largely unfulfilled by their sex lives, according to Rowland.
When people become fixated on how often they have sex, she said, they end up overlooking what actually makes for an experience that fulfills both partners. That's because sex is narrowly defined, in many cases, as a penis penetrating a vagina.
"It is incredibly hard to break from the entrenched model that placing a penis in the vagina is the apex of erotic mingling," Rowland wrote. "And it's not just men that are pushing for this as a trusted means of getting off. Women, too, continue to wrestle with the concept that insertive sex is the capstone of intimacy."
Although foreplay and men giving women oral sex is now more popular than it was decades ago, Rowland said these acts are often considered appetizers to penetrative sex, which is still considered the main course for many heterosexual couples.
Because of this, Rowland said it's unsurprising that heterosexual women may not desire sex as much as men do, especially over time as they continue to have sexual encounters that center around male pleasure.
Sexual frequency is a personal preference
Although there's no simple way to dismantle the sexual norms that influence our sex lives, focusing on individual needs and experiences, rather than what others' sex lives are like, could help.
A "normal" sex life is all about defining what works for you and your partner and no one else, gynecologist Dr. Donnica Moore previously told Insider.
In fact, Moore said you shouldn't compare the sexual frequency you had in the beginning of your relationship to your relationship now, because even that can change and still be normal.
But if you want to up your sexual frequency, Moore suggested focusing on the factors you can change to get there. If work different shifts and you're rarely alone together, scheduling in sex may be the best way to ensure you make time for each other at least once a week.
If stress from lack of sleep, kids, or poor work-life balance keeps you from getting in the mood, consider sticking to a sleep schedule, hiring a babysitter, or forcing yourself to leave the office at a specific time each day. In hectic times, prioritizing regular sex might seem silly, but it could be what you need to de-stress.
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