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A Tale Of Naked Whoa

I’d like to have sex three or four times a week, but my girlfriend of a year is willing only once a week. She isn’t on antidepressants or other medication. I’m guessing her sex drive is just low since she says she’s very happy with me, and just isn’t usually in the mood. I find begging unappealing, and don’t want to pressure her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. I know relationships require compromise. What would be a reasonable one regarding frequency of sex?


Relationships are filled with little tasks that don’t exactly bring a person to screaming orgasm. A man, for example, doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night with some primal longing to bring his girlfriend flowers, rehang her back door, or clean the trap in her sink. Like sex, these things can be expressions of love, but if a guy’s going to lock himself in the bathroom, it’s not going to be with “Bob Vila's Complete Guide to Remodeling Your Home.”

So, couldn’t putting out when you aren’t in the mood be seen as just another expression of love? Joan Sewell, author of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido, told The Atlantic Monthly, “If you have sex when you don’t desire it, physically desire it, you are going to feel used.” Well, okay, perhaps. But, if a guy rotates a woman’s tires when he doesn’t desire it, physically desire it, does he feel used?

Actually, we all do plenty of things with our bodies that we don’t really feel like; for instance, taking our bodies to work when we have a hangover instead of putting our bodies in front of some greasy hash browns, and then to bed. For women, however, sexual things are supposed to be out of the question. I think the subtext here is not doing things we really don’t feel like if it GIVES A MAN PLEASURE. And no, I’m not advocating rape or anything remotely close to it. And, of course, if you find sex with your husband or boyfriend a horrible chore, you’re in the wrong place. Otherwise, if you’re with a man, and he’s nice to you, and works hard to please you, would it kill you to throw him a quickie?

The real problem for many couples is the notion that “the mood” is something they’re supposed to wait around for like Halley’s Comet -- probably due to the assumption that desire works the same in men and women. The truth is, just because a woman isn’t in the mood doesn’t mean she can’t get in the mood. According to breakthrough work by sexual medicine specialist Rosemary Basson, women in long-term relationships tend not to have the same “spontaneous sexual neediness” men do, but they can be arousable, or “triggerable.” In other words, forget trying to have sex. Tell your girlfriend about Basson’s findings, and ask her to try an experiment: making out three times a week (without sex being the presumed outcome) and seeing if “the mood” happens to strike her. You just might find the member getting admitted to the club a little more often.

Sexperts will tell you “a sexual mismatch needn’t mean the end of a relationship” -- which sounds good but tends to play out like being hungry for three meals a day and being expected to make do with a handful of pretzels. Expressway to Resentsville, anyone? If it comes to that, breakup sex is a better idea. You’re always going to have issues in a relationship, but for a relationship to work for you, the biggie’ll have to be something like your falling asleep after sex, not her falling asleep before.

Posted by aalkon at May 29, 2007 7:25 PM


This reminds me of something one of my brothers was talking about at a party we went to a while back, about how men and women don't communicate. He was trying to be funny, but I really think he made a good point. He was saying about how, after a couple got married, they had come back from the honeymoon, and the bride was telling her girlfriends, "wow! I'm so glad we're back from the islands (or wherever) and we're married and now I'll never have to give (groom) another blow job ever again!", and the groom is in another room with his buddies and he's saying something along the lines of "ya know it's so cool being married, I'm gonna be getting blow jobs for the rest of my life!" and neither one knows what the other is saying/thinking, and then they're both surprised that the marriage/relationship isn't happening in the way that they expected, because they're not talking about it. Or if they are, one isn't really being honest with the other about what they're expecting/wanting out of it.

It's really about each person wanting to give to the other, physically, emotionally, willingly, not feeling that one is forced or expected to do certain things.

Posted by: Flynne at May 30, 2007 7:12 AM

Good advice. Personally, I've noticed that most women have some sort of "trigger". Some are "triggered" by just asking "wanna f*ck?", some like to be romances, and some will jump you just because you vacuumed the living room. For most women that aren't constantly ready to "go", all it usually takes is something that shows you appreciate them which results in getting laid, rather than telling them "I want laid."

Posted by: Jamie at May 30, 2007 7:24 AM

AMEN AMY!!!!!!

Posted by: E. Barron at May 30, 2007 7:55 AM

Sexual compatibility is one of the cornerstones of a relationship. If they can't find a compromise, he has to ask himself if he want to spend the rest of his life sexually frustrated.

If she does agree to make love even when she isn't "in the mood", she has to do it joyfully and want to give him pleasure in the same way he should give her flowers because it makes him happy to see her smile, not because it is expected of him. If she just goes through the motions it would be the same as him walking in the door and throwing some flowers on the table with a "that should do you for a while" attitude.

Posted by: Steamer at May 30, 2007 9:24 AM

I found this question especially interesting because I am coming at it from the opposite gender. I would prefer sex once a day, my boyfriend is happy with... well whenever he's not too damned tired. (3-4 times a month, lucky me) Part of the problem is that he has severe hypothyroid, which contributes to his lack of energy, even when he is on his meds. And also, we both work a lot so we get tired.

Frequently he "takes care" of me, even if he doesn't feel like it. It still isn't as frequent as I would like, but I know he is trying because he wants to make me happy. I think part of that is because I hate having to ask for sex, I mean who wants to do that? For me it isn't just that I'm not getting enough, it's also that I don't always feel wanted enough.

I also think Flynne made an interesting point about how men and women communicate differently. I wouldn't really say though that the issue is communicating differently, I think the issue is that people aren't honest with eachother. And in the end they aren't communicating at all. I guess it is pretty much known that most people are "fake" with the people they want to sleep with, and it takes forever to get to know the "real" person.

Example: Everyone at work flirts with our super hot receptionist, as they should, for she is hot. Yesterday some of the guys in support were making Yo' Momma jokes for a good 20 minutes. She comes by and they stop MID CONVERSATIOn to discuss her manicure. Now we all know that they don't CARE about her manicure, and we know they'd rather be making yo' momma jokes, but the theory is by pretending to care about this that she will want to bang them. (As close as I can figure out.)

The thing is though, how long into a relationship with her can they keep talking about her manicure like they really care? Likewise, how long can a woman keep acting like she enjoys giving blow jobs when she doesn't?

If people were just honest about their interests, likes, dislikes from the beginning then there would be fewer suprises.

Posted by: Shinobi at May 30, 2007 9:41 AM

When two people get good chemistry going between them, it seems to feed off itself - and bad chemistry does the same thing. The more you feel like someone is attracted to you, the more you are attracted to them, and they get the same feedback loop going. Next thing you know, you can't keep your hands off each other.

Feeling unwanted, on the other hand, makes you feel less attracted to the other person, which in turn makes them want you even less. I have a feeling this guy's relationship is stuck in the second type of loop. Eventually his own desire will diminish and diminish ... until some other chick comes along and fires him up.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 30, 2007 9:46 AM

You are right, Amy.
If two people care about one another enough, perpetual reciprocity is thier tool to a lifetime of happiness.
If you don't care enough to make your significant other happy, then you are not happy -or you're selfish. Either way, run.

Posted by: Keith at May 30, 2007 10:55 AM

It sounds like she just wants to play house, and considers sex as the price she has to pay to get a man to play.

I doubt the relationship has a chance because eventually he will get too frustrated and either screw around or just leave her.

Posted by: Chrissy at May 30, 2007 11:05 AM

Shinobi -

One note about Hypothyroid (I have it, too), is that there's a wide range to what the doctor considers "normal", and they tend to err on the low side, to be cautious. I was in the normal range with meds, but still constantly tired, and started putting on weight like crazy. I asked him if we could try a higher dose. We increased it, to 1.5 times the original dose. I'm still in the "normal" range, but a bit higher with room to spare. The weight gain slowed then stopped, and I wasn't nearly as wiped out all the time.

Just a thought, if that's an option for him that hasn't been considered before.

Posted by: Jamie at May 30, 2007 12:02 PM

Apparently their are concerns about side effects with him if he does up his dosage too much. He has had it his whole life though they didn't catch it until he was older. And apparently he tends to become resistant to the medication. (which seems odd)

He did just take about two months off of his meds, and with his thyroid running at 13% it wasn't exactly an adventure filled time in our relationship. It's getting a lot better though.

Posted by: Shinobi at May 30, 2007 2:11 PM

Those who have hypothyroidism ...

I'm curious. What are the symptoms? Does it dramatically decrease the sex drive? If so, what causes it?

Posted by: Brett at May 30, 2007 3:14 PM

It always amazes me how far "off topic" these follow-on discussions get from the original question and answer. Hypothyroidism has many symptoms. Think of it as your body's thermostat being turned down too low. Your metabolism is slow, you feel cold when it's not, you tend to gain weight, but most of all, you don't have normal energy. You are tired. All the time. You j u s t d o n ' t f e e l l i k e
d o i n g a n y t h i n g.

Posted by: Jonathan at May 30, 2007 8:59 PM

Who doesn't enjoy blowjobs!?!?!? Anyway, I'm another gal with a guy who doesn't want to do it as often as I do. I have found that in general men have lower sex drives--it's just biological. Women can have unlimited orgasms, one or two and men or done. So, by definition, women can go for more. But I've found that if I can get my husband to start being interested, he'll rev right up. So there's something to the "fake it til you make it" school of gittin' busy. . .

Posted by: Anathema at May 30, 2007 10:36 PM

"Joan Sewell, author of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido, told The Atlantic Monthly, “If you have sex when you don’t desire it, physically desire it, you are going to feel used.” Well, okay, perhaps. But, if a guy rotates a woman’s tires when he doesn’t desire it, physically desire it, does he feel used?"

Excellent point. That is, of course, the guy is rotating the woman's tires (um...literally) and is himself doing certain things even if he'd rather not do them, just as she is. Of course, from what I've seen, sex/cooperation in relationships can become a chicken-and-egg thing - she says she doesn't feel like putting out because he's not pulling his weight outside of bed, he says he doesn't feel like pulling his weight outside of bed because she's not putting out, and where it all began is lost in the mists of time.

My name should link to a nice little (non-professional) commentary on this - it's from a married-with-children POV, but I think it still sums things up nicely. Sample quote: "I think we generally try and give our partner what we want, rather than what they want. And it's a waste of time."

Posted by: marion at May 31, 2007 7:42 AM

'I have found that in general men have lower sex drives--it's just biological.'

That's been my experience too. Any guy I've been with, I've always wanted more sex than they have, so even if I wasn't in the mood when they suddenly were, I damn well got in the mood fast, so as not to miss out on any opportunities!

Posted by: Chrissy at May 31, 2007 7:58 AM

Anathema... I have no idea who doesn't enjoy blowjobs, but I'm sure that there are women out there who don't. (There wouldn't be as many men bitching about how their wives don't blow them if some women didn't like doin it. Maybe it would behoove the gentlement in question to start off the "oral exchange" for a change.)

Posted by: Shinobi at May 31, 2007 9:39 AM

I've been reading for a few weeks and biding my time in posting comments (and it took a serious amount of energy to not get in on the row about last week's column). I agree wholeheartedly with your advice Amy, and have never once thought you wrong.

I'm a 24 year old guy and learned a while back that "the mood" rarely strikes by accident. Maybe once every few weeks she may just have a need to rip your clothes off (and by George, you'd best be ready). But for the most part, a man needs to bring some matches to get that fire going. And a man who doesn't know that has a lot to learn.

Posted by: Deion at May 31, 2007 9:58 AM

Shinobi, that is something that every guy should try. If a guy makes a woman happy first, she will be very likely to want to return the favour. He could even confirm that deal with her while he is midway through the 'job' on her.

I always tell any new guy I'm with that that the deal-make me happy first, and you'll be very happy.

Posted by: Chrissy at May 31, 2007 11:46 AM

Haha! That first comment just killed me...! That is exactly the way it is! Men and women are just so different it is a miracle that we can ever be in the same proximity...

I would have to say that most women have lower libidos than do men. This is just from experience mind you, and nothing scientific. But, I will say that two years ago I could have had sex 3 times a day every day...now I hardly feel like it and am dating a woman who has a crazy sex drive (how ironic). I guess everyone is different... And the oral thing? I have always done it without expectations, and have never been surprised that it has rarely been reciprocated. Now though...! Geez, its like the floodgates are open and all I have to do is show up! (don't know where that was going so i better stop now) ;- )

Posted by: mike at May 31, 2007 1:17 PM

Marion, I just read some of the comments at that link and have never been so happy to be single and childfree.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 31, 2007 1:29 PM

Pirate Jo, I just read some of the comments at that link and have never been so happy about being divorced and regularly fucking. It also allowed me to appreciate Amy's excellent insight and witty writing voice by reminding me why I spend my valuable time here instead of other places.

Posted by: kg at June 1, 2007 7:15 AM

kg, those experiences certainly validate other comments Amy has made about remaining unmarried and keeping separate residences. I guess those folks are kind of stuck in their situations because they were insane enough to have kids, but I'm sure glad that's not me. Whether I am getting regular fucking or not (something which goes through phases for me, depending on my mood or the season), I am never being pressured for it when I don't want it and not stuck with a guy who doesn't put out when I do want it. I know some happily married people, but they are in the minority, and relationship longevity for longevity's sake just doesn't cut it for me.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 1, 2007 8:02 AM

Totally in agreement with the other single women. The quality of my sex life is very important to me, and the best way for it to stay hot is to keep the mystery, which means keeping separate residences.

I want to be pursued and desired, not just a convenience.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 1, 2007 9:51 AM

I once had a girlfreind who after a few moths was getting further nd further less interested in sex.

One night she afer she said she didnt feel like it she went in to the whole "I dont want to be just a sex object/relationships arent all about sex" speech, after a 15 minute lecture she asked me to come over to her place and help me paint her house.
So I gave her the "I dont appreciate being used as a free source of labor/relationships are about give and take - not taking care of just you" speech.

Obviously she was pissed, she said that wasnt the same thing nd if that was my attitude we would be having sex ever again, I said I was fine with that and told her to get out of my house and dont bother calling me anymore.
It still amazes me how quickly she backtracked and sudenly got in the mood.

But by that point I was pissed as well, just 5 minutes before she had said I was treating her like a whore by "exepecting sex for helping her when she needed some work done" Quite frankly her hypocracy sickened me and I was glad I got out of that relasionship before I wasted too much of my life.

Posted by: lujlp at June 1, 2007 10:43 AM

lujlp, you should have asked her why she was having sex with you, since she obviously doesn't get anything out of it. Usually if a woman (or man) has sex in exchange for something, its called prostitution, but that should be clearly spelled out before entering into the transaction.

Wouldn't life be so much simpler if everyone were honest about their expectations?

Posted by: Chrissy at June 1, 2007 11:16 AM

What's with these women who don't want to have sex with their boyfriends? I can't think of too many other reasons to have a boyfriend in the first place. Platonic friends can substitute for any other services a boyfriend might provide.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 1, 2007 11:37 AM

I think it because people are confused about what is and what isn't happiness. Confused or not in agreement. Probably both.

Posted by: kg at June 1, 2007 1:19 PM

Wow, I was going through a similar experience as talked about in this post ... for six years. I was in a relationship with this guy who never seemed to be "in the mood". I tried being compassionate and understanding (He did work long hours) and went the route of compromising; but hey, I worked just as hard, and was (and still am) dealing with a medical condition (Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis) and I was still finding myself wanting sex, or even just a bit of intimacy more than he. I was lucky if I got sex twice a month. In the end I felt no matter how much I tried to entice him, make compromise after compromise, I even layed everything out on the line and would speak with him about the situation and what was going on, it just wasn't going to happen. I started to feel like there was something wrong with me. Now I'm not some haggard one-legged troll, I fixed myself up every day, cleaned house, cooked for him ... Hell, even did the laundry but through his actions of not wanting to touch me made me feel like one. If and when we were together after, I just felt like he was going through the motions because he had to, not because he wanted to. I felt like my needs were an obligation. I made the mistake of suggesting maybe there was something of a medical nature going on in regard to his lack of libido. Well, I might as well have just slapped him in the face and called him impotent. Cos things just progressively went down hill from there. During year 5 I pretty much just stopped trying. He had a normal enough sex drive when we first started seeing each other, so I figured it was something I was doing wrong. It didn't help that he never wanted to tell me what was going on with him (I mean c'mon! Yell, throw something, draw a frikken picture ... just let me in). Year six I'd had enough. I was through talking, bargaining, being patient and understanding. Being in my early 20's I wasn't ready to give up sex for good and I ended it.

Now I'm in a loving relationship with a guy who's my equal ... and up and ready to go just as often as I am.

Bottom line: If intimacy and sex are becoming an issue so early on in someone's relationship (Hell, even a few years down the road), there's only so much YOU can do until you have to throw the towel in on the relationship. Talk things out. Compromise. Be Compassionate and Understanding. If you've done everything you possibly can and your needs still aren't being fulfilled ... cut your losses, get out, and find someone who will give as well as take.

Posted by: Crystal at June 1, 2007 4:38 PM

You have no idea who doesn't enjoy blowjobs? Well, I'm someone who doesn't. It's about the non-intimate sexual act you can have done to you.

Posted by: Patrick at June 2, 2007 11:52 AM

Wow. Once a week? Once we were married and had a kid, my ex-wife dropped the frequency of sex to less than once a month. I endured it for the sake of keeping the marriage together, but I can't help resenting the face that I spent my prime sexual years with a controlling woman who doled out sex as a reward for sucking up to her or doing work for her.

There was no compromise. The compromise was that eventually I could take her no longer and divorced her and took custody of the kids.

Thus freeing her up to go have tons of sex with men to whom she was NOT married. Just like we did back in the good old days before she knew I couldn't leave her easily.

In my experience women use sex to control and punish men. And the only women who have more of a drive than men are the middle-aged ones who are cheating on their husbands.

(And yea, I'm still a little bitter, even now years later).

Posted by: Jay at June 4, 2007 3:44 PM

Jay, I sympathize with you, but her extorting work and sucking up from you in exchange for sex reflects on the kind of person she is. I think it's essential that people choose on more than sexual attraction (which is really what many people base their relationship choices on, telling themselves the rest will just work out eventually). All women don't use sex to punish men. But, you married one who did. It's essential that you take responsibility for that, and for choosing better then next time around (not that I believe in marriage...but, I mean, in who you partner up with in whatever way). Being bitter is about blaming her -- not taking responsibility yourself.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 4, 2007 5:08 PM

Also, being bitter towards someone is like drinking poison and then waiting for them to die - ain't happening, and they probably don't even know you're bitter. Even if they do, they don't care. Don't waste your emotions that way. Take some personal responsibility and resolve to live better than they are, it's the best revenge! :)

Posted by: Flynne at June 5, 2007 5:46 AM

Jay, once you take responsibility that you chose to marry her, and you made a mistake in that choice, you can start to move on. A lot of personal reflection will help you figure out why you wanted her in the first place: what you liked about her, why you didn't see her character flaws, etc.

Then you have to start liking yourself, and believing that you can be with a good woman. You have to be a very confident man to be with a woman who enjoys sex and likes a lot of it. I think guys with low self-esteem think that a woman that likes sex will just do it with everyone, because they think there is nothing special about themselves for her to be attracted to.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 5, 2007 6:23 AM

"I think it's essential that people choose on more than sexual attraction (which is really what many people base their relationship choices on, telling themselves the rest will just work out eventually)."

Y'know, Amy, I have mixed feelings on that. I realize sexual attraction isn't the only thing, but I still place it at the top of the list, in the #1 spot. Because that's something you can't manufacture - either the chemistry and attraction are there, or they aren't. You can find a sweet guy who looks good on paper and passes a credit check, but if you don't want to shag him, you don't want to shag him. Then you're just settling into dull complacency, and for what? A meal ticket?

I spent seven years in a relationship with a person who was a great friend and wonderful person, but we just did NOT have any attraction to each other. I was sick and tired of dating players who treated me like dirt. I'd found a nice guy and by golly I was determined to break those unhealthy patterns and make it work. I tried desperately to want him, and to care whether he wanted me, but that well was pretty much dry from the very beginning. Sure, I wanted sex more than once every two months - just not with HIM. And he always preferred internet porn to me, which was less scary than the fact that I didn't care.

I say look FIRST for chemistry and sexual attraction, keeping in mind that a number of other factors can always come along later and derail it. Even though in my case, I admit, something else always has.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 5, 2007 6:27 AM

You're right, Pirate Jo, it should be placed at the top of the list, because without it, you're fucked (and not in a good way). There's too much sentimentality and not enough real thought that goes into people's "decisions" about who they pair up with.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 5, 2007 7:04 AM

I'm not sure it is fair to jump all over this mystery woman for not wanting to have sex all the time. Somehow, I don't think "Honey, I wrote to this advice column and THEY think you should want sex more often" is going to get this guy laid.

When she DOES want to have sex with you, do you notice a pattern? Time of day, day of the week, etc? Is she often tired, does she have a demanding schedule? Does she like her job?

Are there physical things that you know she likes? A lot of women like being teased a little... rather than jump all over them, they prefer it if a guy gives a little and holds back... it can be very hot if she's not sure whether or not you are going to kiss her, and if you prolong the tension.

Also, why this aversion to begging? Does she share your aversion to begging? I have a friend who is very into the power-domme thing and loves making men beg. Some women like to do the begging. Do you ever play with power/domination stuff? I don't mean hanging upside down from the ceiling while being beaten by a cactus... just a bit of an edge, you know.

Do you ask her about her fantasies? Does she have an orgasm every time you have sex? Does she know how to have an orgasm by herself?

Get over the "not wanting to pressure her" thing. By that, I don't mean nag her... I mean tease her. Build it up. Start by touching her lightly, and then let the pressure get stronger.

Do you expect her to go down on you? If so, do you go down on her? Having a guy expect me to go down and not return the favor is a huge turn-off to me.

Basically, are you doing everything you can to be a good lover and seducer?

Posted by: Nicole at July 7, 2007 8:31 PM

"You can find a sweet guy who looks good on paper and passes a credit check, but if you don't want to shag him, you don't want to shag him." -- Pirate Jo

That's a sad truth of life, involving more than just sex. For the most part, people are who and what they are, it's not that they never change, but nobody else can _make_ them change, they can't even necessarily make themselves change at will.

It sounds less 'harsh' if applied to, say, food, a person who dislikes brocolli today will probably dislike it tomorrow, no matter how good it is for them or how much they _want_ to like it.

We lie to others about our own motivations because we want that person to like us, and we even lie to ourselves about our own motivations because they seem selfish or low. A guy who has a serious thing for blondes or big tits, or a woman who just can't stand the idea of dating/marrying a man who makes less money than her, may be embarrassed about their own motives and reluctant to admit that they want what they want, even to themselves.

But we are what we are.

Posted by: HC at December 2, 2007 8:50 PM

hoohoo i have sex 5 times a week if ur gf no like jus have sex someplace else, i gotta screw at least 5 times aweek so i jus do um

Posted by: mike paahana at January 31, 2008 7:44 PM

I too have a low sex drive -- possibly because I'm on hormones, I don't know. Anyway, I suggested, and my husband agreed, that we would alternate regular sex with oral sex (only with me doing him, not mutual because I don't like receiving it). It works for us -- he likes both ways equally and gets all the sex he wants, and I get to take care of his needs in a quick and easy way even if I'm not in the mood for the whole production. When we do have regular-type sex I enjoy it more, because I don't feel it's too soon already. Maybe some of you others with low libidos could try this.

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 23, 2008 8:12 PM

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