“What normal guy doesn’t want to have sex?” Teresa, 29, used to ask her boyfriend angrily when weeks would go by without any interest. Well, according to an enlightening new book, Why MenFake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex by Dr Abraham Morgentaler, the answer is a lot more normal guys than you’d think.
“Many people still assume guys are sex obsessed; that all a man needs to get an erection is for the wind to blow,” says Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School. “It’s simply not the case.”
Good to know – but in reality it can be disheartening. “My boyfriend and I have been together five years, and my only complaint is that I want more sex than he does,” says Michelle, 31. “When he turns me down, I feel insecure.” If you’re in the same boat, read on – there is a way to find a happy compromise.
Low desire in men is nothing new, but women who feel empowered enough to speak up about their sexual appetites are an emerging breed. “Women are much more emboldened about their sexuality than they were even 15 years ago,” says Morgentaler. “They feel comfortable asking for what they want… and they’re discovering that what they want may not be what their partner wants.”
On the flip side, men are being encouraged to be more in touch with their feelings, and maybe that includes, “Hey, I don’t feel like having sex!”
Stress due to a tough economy could be a culprit inhibiting his desire. So can the ubiquity of porn, experts say. “Excessive masturbation taxes a man’s libido and makes it so he doesn’t have a lot of mojo left for you,” says Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. Unless he’s skipping work to get his fix, it’s not something that requires therapy, but it does warrant discussion. “Let him know that you can feel the power of his erection when he hasn’t ejaculated in a day or two,” says Kerner. “That should give him the hint.”
Mend the gap
But even more likely is that when a guy has a lower libido than you do, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with him, or a cause – it might just be how he’s programmed. Sex is always going to be more frequent in the early days of a relationship. It may not be till you’ve been with someone for a year or two that you realise that you aren’t on the same page about sexual upkeep.
“Testosterone, one of the hormones that regulates sexual desire, is higher in the beginning of a relationship for both menandwomen,” says relationships expert Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Wife: What to Do When He’s Lost Desire. “But as the novelty wears off, less testosterone is produced, and sex with that person is less interesting.”
Sounds depressing, but it’s quite normal. If you’ve talked it out and know there aren’t other issues, it’s likely an everyday gap in sexual desire.
The good news is, mismatched sex drives don’t have to turn into deal-breakers. You just need to find middle ground. These are strategies Weiner Davis gives her own patients who are struggling with this frustrating issue:
✽ ID his turn-ons: Buying new lingerie in an effort to spice things up in the bedroom can actually put more pressure on him, not to mention raise the stakes for you. It’s one thing to get shot down under normal circumstances – it’s quite another to get shot down while you’re wearing a see-through nightie.
Instead, suss out his other turn-ons – the things that bring him bliss but have little or nothing to do with sex. If he savours time with his buddies but hasn’t had a lot of it lately, tell him, “You’ve been so stressed, you should do a fun weekend away with your friends.” It could make him see you in a whole new light. Some space, autonomy or appreciation can be more potent than a pair of furry handcuffs.
✽ Get PG together: Little things such as holding hands or cuddling on the couch signal to your brain to produce the bonding chemical oxytocin, which can make you both feel closer and more connected (important if you’ve been arguing). Try saying to him, “I just want to feel close to you” or “Let’s do this for five minutes” as you grab his hand or curl up to him.
It seems innocent, but desire often takes over when you give it the physical chance to grow. Think about it: you’re snuggled up together, warm under a blanket, his hand grazes your butt, and bam!– it’s on.
✽ Take sex off the table: Pressure will only make him dig his heels in. Virility and ego are closely tied together for guys, and any criticism will erode his ego and make him less in the mood.
So, let him know you’ll be dropping the issue for a few weeks. When you revisit, the point to focus on is that desire is a choice, says Weiner Davis. If he loves you and wants to see you happy, he needs to initiate sex once a week. If nothing changes, it could be that you’re not compatible long-term. “Learning to cope with differences is the difference between people in happy relationships and those who break up,” she says.
Words by Jessica Knoll