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Being Too Tired for Sex Doesn’t Spell Relationship Doom

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When you’re exhausted and the picture of salvation simply looks like your bed welcoming you to hop in for some shut-eye, sex is likely not the first thought in your mind. In fact, a 2017 survey found that 60 percent of folks say they crave sleep more than sex on average, indicating where our priorities are for a lot of the time. But, being too tired for sex doesn’t mean the end of intimacy in your respective partnership.

“There are a number of emotional, mental, physical, and circumstantial reasons why someone might be too tired for sex,” says sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Chicago-based pleasure-product company Early to Bed. The root cause of someone being too tired for sex can be a number of things, including a work-life-balance issue or occupational burnout, new parenthood, or the fatigue is simply a symptom of some other health condition, she adds.

And of course, if it’s an irregular thing, prioritize that shut-eye. But, even if being too tired for sex becomes more chronic, there’s no need to worry that it’ll spell out the end of your relationship. “Many relationships go through periods where the people involved have less sex because they’re sleep-deprived,” Deysach adds.

These relationships are able to survive and thrive because there are ways to continue experiencing intimacy with your partner(s), even when you’re bone-tired, she says. Phew. Ahead, find seven suggestions for how to troubleshoot feeling too sleepy for sex.

7 expert tips for how to proceed when you’re regularly too tired for sex

1. Let go of the belief that you have to have sex often

“There is no pre-determined number of times that someone is supposed to have sex each week or month for a happy relationship,” says Rachel Rubin, MD, a board-certified urologist and sex-medicine specialist with sexual-pleasure retailer Promescent. More essential than how often you have sex is communicating about your sex life, she says.

“There is no pre-determined number of times that someone is supposed to have sex each week or month for a happy relationship.” —Rachel Rubin, MD, sex educator and urologist

“You can have sex as much or as little as you and your partner would like,” she says. And it’s a healthy practice so long as you’re on a similar page about your wants and needs getting met. Some duos, for instance, are made up of two asexual folks or two people with low(er) libido who are mutually disinterested in sex. Other couples are made up of people who have learned through trial-and-error that having sex twice per week helps them feel most connected.

Remembering that there is no “normal” sexual frequency can also help alleviate any pressures, says Deysach.

2. Prioritize quality over quantity

How the sex feels is a superior measure of sexual satisfaction than how frequently you do it. “Quality is more important when it comes to sex, because when it’s quality, it’s more memorable and satisfying,” says queer sex educator Marla Renee Stewart, MA, sexpert for sexual-wellness brand Lovers. “Ask a group of people if they prefer mutually pleasurable sex one time or bad sex seven times, and more will pick the quality sex.”

3. Talk to your partner

Maybe you want to be having more sex. Maybe you think your partner wants to be having more sex. Maybe you’re feeling guilty about how tired you are. In any of these cases, Dr. Rubin suggests communication is the best path forward.

“Using ‘I’ statements is a great way to have the conversation,” says Deysach. “Assigning blame never helps with open communication, so just speak from your heart about how you are feeling, and ask your partner to share their feelings, as well.” If you’re having a tough time initiating this convo, Dr. Rubin suggests working with a sex therapist or couples therapist for help.

4. Schedule a sex date

No, a verbal agreement won’t do it; actually input the date into your Google or fridge calendar. “This may sound a little mechanical,” says Dr. Rubin. “But many couples report that the practice of scheduling sex has increased their intimacy and closeness with their partner.”

To be very clear, scheduling sex doesn’t mean that you have to have sex during that blocked-off time. After all, you should only have sex when everyone involved is giving their enthusiastic yes. Rather, the timeframe can be understood as a time block to prioritize intimacy. If you don’t want to have sex, but do give one another a massage, talk honestly about your fears, or dance in the living room, those also mark a successful sex date, Deysach says.

5. Masturbate

“Masturbation can be a great option if you and your partner(s) routinely find yourselves with no extra time or energy for partnered play,” says Dr. Rubin. Not only does masturbating feel good, she says, it also boasts a handful of mental and physical benefits.

You could also try mutual masturbation, says Deysach, which is the act of touching yourself while your partner touches themselves right beside you. “Mutual masturbation can be a fun experience to share that can be quicker than going all-in for full-on sex,” she says.

6. Think of sex beyond penetration

When you’re zonked, the distance between zero and sex can feel insurmountable… even when you want to have sex! “Try to remember that sex doesn’t have to always mean intercourse,” says Deysach. There is a whole menu of sexual activities out there that you can share when you want to enjoy physical intimacy but don’t have enough time or energy in tank intercourse .

“Making out, oral sex and hand stuff are all great ways to connect with your partner and engage in sex play, and these activities may be easier to fit into your lifestyle or achieve when you are very busy, stressed or don’t have time for a whole meal,” she says.

7. Talk to a health-care provider

If you’re really tired, talk to your provider. Prolonged exhaustion and chronic fatigue are symptoms of a number of different health conditions, including depression, anxiety, compassion fatigue, burnout, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and viral infection, according to the Cleveland Clinic. So, if the tiredness you’re experiencing could be described as “long-lasting,” “endless,” or “deep-seated,” mention it to your provider.

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7 Tips for When You’re Too Tired for Sex and Don’t Feel Happy About It

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The Woman Whose Older Lover Doesn’t Want Kids

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Illustration: by Marylu E. Herrera

This week, a woman sneaks around with a work contact who everyone says is wrong for her but whom she may be in love with: 31, in a relationship, Brooklyn.


8 a.m. No one at work knows about my “boyfriend.” We haven’t officially used that term around each other, but I call him that to myself and my friends. I work in biotech, and he used to be a client at my job — he was someone with a lot of money who hired my team for a project.

So when I sneak out of his house in the morning, I’m stupidly paranoid. It’s not like my colleagues are going to spot me on the Upper East Side. Nevertheless, I slither out of his building, past the doormen, and into the street to hail a taxi.

8:15 a.m. I like taking taxis when I’m on the UES. It feels like I’m in a movie. Plus, my boyfriend always hands me a couple hundred-dollar bills on my way out, and it’s nice to have cash to spend.

9 a.m. Home in Cobble Hill. I take a long, hot shower, then head to work on the subway.

10:30 a.m. Start my workday in downtown Manhattan. He texts to see if I made it in time. The mornings are always a crunch but so worth the chaos.

We’ve been seeing each other for about six months. I first met him via Zoom and was instantly attracted. He’s about 15 years older but looks great — reminded me of Bradley Cooper. We weren’t directly working with each other, but I came up with a ridiculous reason to email him. We started flirting and a few days later had a cocktail together uptown; we ended the night with wild sex. That’s been our routine every few days since: uptown dinner or drinks a few nights a week; hot sex, even if a bit vanilla; sleepover; and then off to our very different worlds.

6 p.m. Citi Bike home to Cobble Hill and pick up sushi on the way. I live by myself, and the nights I’m not with my boyfriend, I like to read, watch TV, and relax.

9 p.m. Call Boyfriend to ask about a summer trip we were talking about. We have a great talk and land on a destination — Maine — and he tells me to do some research and call him when I need a credit card. I like the sound of that!


8 a.m. Travel porn kept me up until way too late last night. I narrowed our trip down to a few places. Will discuss with Boyfriend tonight.

11 a.m. I have a breakfast “meeting” with another colleague, who is actually a good friend. She knows about Boyfriend. She’s concerned, though. She thinks he’s too attractive, too rich, and too old. I try not to be insulting by the implication that I’m somehow not good enough for him or that I’m the fool here. Boyfriend has never done anything to imply he’s a playboy or a womanizer. Also, I’m 31, not 18! I nod politely as she continues to talk nonsense.

2 p.m. At a doctor’s appointment to discuss freezing my eggs. I tell the doctor that I’m in a relationship with someone who never had kids and doesn’t want them. “And you want kids?” she asks. “Yes, very badly.” She looks at me with concern. Argh! I can’t seem to escape judgment today. I decide to talk to Boyfriend tonight about my doctor’s appointment.

9 p.m. We’re enjoying some steak-frites when I tell Boyfriend that I want to freeze my eggs. He is very supportive and asks all the right questions about the procedure and the doctor; he even asks if I need help paying for it. But it bothers me a bit that he doesn’t suggest that maybe we have kids together someday. He has already told me he never wanted them, so I know I’m asking for something he can’t give me. But … now I just have all these voices in my head warning me against him.

I just drink more wine.

11 p.m. Sex at his place is pretty good, as usual. The biggest problem for me is that he’s great at foreplay and a wonderful kisser, but it’s hard to come from his actual penis. I try to come from the oral before and then focus the sex part on getting him off.


10:30 a.m. Same mad rush to get home, showered, and into my office. We ended up cuddling as we slept last night, which means I didn’t sleep great, but it also showed that we were both aware we had a very intimate conversation at dinner and had become, arguably, closer in talking about real life together. At least that’s how I see it.

3 p.m. Follow-up call with a nurse about freezing my eggs. She said my blood work looks good and we can move forward with a few more appointments if I’m interested.

5 p.m. Call my sister, who just had a baby, for advice. She knows about Boyfriend. She tells me that she’s personally against egg-freezing because it gives false hope to women like me. Her feeling is if I want to have kids someday, I need to ditch him and find someone interested in having kids. She’s very curt and unemotional about it. I practically hang up on her.

I realize that I don’t like hearing the things that I don’t want to hear. I also realize that her thinking is very sensible and I’m just being immature. But here’s the thing: I think I love him.

9 p.m. I text Boyfriend that I’m watching a show called I Love That for You. It’s very funny. I tell him I’m laughing my ass off. He writes back, “I Love That for You.” I giggle. It gives me goose bumps to see the word love come through in a text from him.

I have not been in love for a very long time. The last man I loved was my college boyfriend, who was a treasure, but he moved to another country after college to pursue a big career, and I chose not to go with him. Since then, I’ve had a series of short-term boyfriends whom I always get sick of. No one has captivated me like Boyfriend.

10 p.m. We’re texting and watching our own shows from our respective homes, and the energy is great, and I just decide to write, “Hey. You’re my boyfriend.” I like the idea of telling rather than asking. He immediately writes back, “Yes, darling, I am.”


10 a.m. I get a follow-up email from the nurse since I never wrote back to her text. I’m at work and pretty caught up in what I’m doing, so I ignore the email.

11:30 a.m. Haircut with my hilarious hairdresser. Unlike everyone else in my life, he loves hearing about the older rich boyfriend. I’m sure he also sees it as good business for him since I’ve upped the amount of blowouts and highlights I get, now that I have more cash on me!

So my boyfriend is not paying me. It’s not transactional like that. It feels pretty normal and traditional to me. He’s self-made and quite wealthy, and I don’t make a ton of money, so he’s always happy to give me some. He can spare the cash and he’s not weird about it, and neither am I. Only me and the hairdresser seem to see no harm in the situation.

6 p.m. On my way home from work, I see a guy I went on a Tinder date with before meeting Boyfriend. I don’t know if my boyfriend is monogamous with me, but I’ve been monogamous with him the entire time.

The topic of monogamy has come up only a few times when he hasn’t used protection, and … he has said he’s not sleeping with anyone else. Truthfully, when we’re not together at night, we’re texting each other the whole time. There’s never been an off night with that stuff, so I believe him.


10:30 a.m. “Does my girlfriend have any interest in Japanese food tonight?” he texts. Sometimes he’s a dork. Since the “boyfriend” text two nights ago, he has used the BF/GF terms over and over again. It’s adorable, but, yeah, he’s acting like a sexy dork. We make after-work plans.

5 p.m. On my walk home, I decide to call the nurse back. I just want to know how good my chances are of getting pregnant if I wait a few years. I want statistics. I’m a math-and-science person. I’d like some numbers. I leave her a voice-mail.

7 p.m. Feeling like a million bucks, I get on the train to see my man. I see that I missed a call from the nurse while I was in the shower. For some reason, I feel resentful that she soured my mood for the night, even though she didn’t do or say anything. It was just a missed call.

As I walk into the sushi restaurant, I’m reminded about the egg-freezing and our differences in future goals and all that stuff, and I’m suddenly disenchanted by our date night.

8 p.m. I end up telling him that I’m freaking out a little bit about our relationship because I love it so much but that I also won’t sacrifice having kids. I commend myself for being so straightforward.

But after talking, Boyfriend and I are at a bit of a standstill. There’s no part of him that wants kids, and it’s not like he’s even slightly open to the prospect. Our date night feels ruined. I feel responsible for that.

9:30 p.m. We end up kissing outside the restaurant and going our own ways. He says something like, “It seems like you have a lot to think about.” I hate that it’s all on me. Why can’t it be him who has to think about changing his ways? Why is it always the woman who has to compromise?

11 p.m. Smoke a little bit of weed just because I know I’ll never sleep otherwise. It works as well as it can.


10 a.m. It’s the weekend, so I lie around in bed for a bit. I’m supposed to see college friends today at the park, and it’s beautiful out, but I just want to focus on my situation. I feel like I’m always distracting myself from the obvious, which is that I shouldn’t be with this guy.

11:30 a.m. Boyfriend calls. We make plans to drive to the North Fork tomorrow. He got us a hotel room for the night. My stomach is in knots, but I’m glad we’re going and excited for a little getaway.

3 p.m. Spend time with my college friends and their boyfriends or husbands. Once again, I just feel like my boyfriend is so much more interesting than all of them. The relationships seem juvenile, like we’re all still in college. Frankly, all I want to do is run to the UES and see my guy. But I don’t. I drink rosé and try to enjoy the beautiful day.

7 p.m. Packing for the trip. I bring my sexiest bras and underwear. I think this tension over the past day or so will be good for our fucking, if nothing else.

9 p.m. Early to bed so I’m rested tomorrow.


10 a.m. My boyfriend picks me up in his car. We hardly ever use it, so I forget that it’s a convertible. Now this really feels like I’m living in a dream.

When I get in, he kisses me really hard and intensely. It’s the first time I realize that the past few days might have been hard for him, too.

2:30 a.m. We’re at a hotel and settling in, but of course we start having sex first. It’s weird fucking in the sunny daylight, but I’m into it. The sex is more emotionally charged than it’s ever been before. He’s kissing me really deep and fucking me extra-hard. I like it, but I also feel like laughing because it’s so unlike him.

So strange how the roles have reversed and it’s he who is perhaps afraid of me leaving. Our power dynamic is shifting … I’m very aware of that.

6 p.m. It’s lovely here. We’re at a charming little oyster restaurant. He reaches out for my hand. I say, “I guess we should talk?” He says, “I know, but … do we have to?”

I tell him we certainly do not.

9 p.m. Instead, we enjoy the night, have more great sex, and truly enjoy what we both know is a romance that cannot last forever.

Psst! The Cut and New York Magazine are conducting a survey about dating. We want to know all about your swipes, IRL hookups, bad dates, and everything in between. Interested? Click here.

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He fancies me but doesn’t want sex 

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My husband and I are in our late 40s and have been happily married for eight years, but he has gradually become less interested in having sex. Every other area of our relationship is good and he assures me he is still happy and attracted to me. Can that really be true? Has his libido decreased?

It is natural for libido to decline with age but it is less common for men of your husband’s age to have no interest in sex. Your husband is probably acutely conscious of the fact that he is not getting any younger and he is almost certainly aware that ageing causes a gradual decrease in testosterone, which can have a negative impact on libido and sexual function.

The tendency to focus exclusively on biological causes is not helpful, though. Most studies that look at sexual difficulties in men are conducted with university students (because it is easy to find them on campus), or with older men seeking treatment for sexual problems (because it is easy to find them in clinics). There are far fewer studies of domestic sex in middle-aged men who have been married to the same woman for decades, and those that do exist present a much more complex explanation for decreased sexual desire.

In 2016, relationship therapist Dr Sarah Murray conducted face-to-face interviews with 30 middle-aged men, with an average age of 43, who were all in long-term heterosexual relationships. For the majority of participants (73%), the need to feel desired by their partner was described as having the largest impact on their experience of sexual desire, and the most significant evidence of their partner’s desire for them was when she initiated sexual activity. The men in Murray’s study also appreciated receiving compliments about their physical appearance and they responded to their partner’s enthusiasm for sex. When Murray repeated the study in 2021, nearly all the participants said that feeling desired was very important to their sexual desire.

Although these findings sound like common sense, a lot of women don’t realise how much they rely on men to make the first move and they forget how important it is to communicate to their partner that they actually want sex. Men need some indication that their partner is interested in them. This is particularly true if a man is also harbouring concerns about sexual function. A man who is worried about his lack of sexual desire needs reassurance that if he tries to engage in sex and he fails to live up to expectations, he is not going to be judged or humiliated.

It is also important to help your husband to understand that the causes of low libido are hardly ever purely biological. Pressure at work, family obligations, relationship conflict, ill health, anxiety, alcohol, tiredness or a nasty gas bill can take the joy out of sex at any age, but when everyday stressors are exacerbated by fears about sexual function, it can leave men feeling anxious and impotent.

Being realistic about natural fluctuations in sexual desire can really take the pressure off. In fact, accepting the inevitability of these fluctuations during the course of a relationship can help to maintain desire. Likewise, knowing and talking about the fact that these differences often work themselves out naturally over time was found to be the best way for a couple to address any discrepancies.

Send your queries to [email protected]


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Heartstopper star doesn’t feel the need to explain sexuality

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Heartstopper star Kit Connor has once again spoken about the speculation regarding his sexuality, and explained why he doesn’t feel like he needs to explain it to anyone.

The actor, who plays bisexual Nick, previously expressed frustration with people labelling him on Twitter, and has now appeared on the Reign with Josh Smith podcast to explain why he wants to keep his private life private.

“In regards to my tweets, I just think that there’s a danger with things on social media,” he said.


Related: Doctor Who and Heartstopper share same fan problem

“In the cast, I’m 18 and we have a few people in their early 20s, and even with those older members of the cast, we’re all so young, and to start speculating about our sexualities and maybe pressuring us to come out when maybe we’re not ready.”

He continued: “I mean, for me, I just feel like I’m perfectly confident and comfortable in my sexuality, but I’m not too big on labels and things like that. I’m not massive about that. And I don’t feel like I need to label myself, especially not publicly. That tweet was slightly calling them out but also find it funny.

“It’s 2022, it feels a bit strange to make assumptions about a person’s sexuality just based on hearing their voice or seeing their appearance. I feel like that’s a very interesting, slightly problematic, sort of assumption to make.”

joe locke as charlie spring, kit connor as nick nelson, heartstopper


Related: Heartstopper‘s heart-wrenching detail fans missed

Following the release of Heartstopper, fans have been clamouring for confirmation of a second series. Thankfully, Netflix has officially announced a second and a third run.

Meanwhile, star Yasmin Finney has been cast in another major role: a character suspiciously called Rose in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary special.

Heartstopper is streaming on Netflix. Series 2 and 3 have been confirmed.

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I’ve lost weight and want more sex — but he doesn’t 

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I’ve been on a health kick and lost weight. I feel great – my confidence has been boosted and so has my sex drive. However, my husband and I are no longer on the same page when it comes to our love life. He’s happy to stay in the same old routine, but I’ve had a new lease of life. How can we bridge the gap?

Losing weight and getting fitter makes you feel better about yourself and it pays big dividends in the bedroom too. Feeling more confident about your body can make you less inhibited and there is a great deal of research to show that women who have higher levels of body satisfaction are also less likely to monitor, criticise or evaluate their bodies during sex. They also have more frequent sex, feel more desirable, experience greater sexual satisfaction and have fewer sexual difficulties.

You don’t say whether your husband is overweight, but people do tend to choose partners who have similar physiques to them, and weight changes that occur during a marriage also tend to be concordant. Unfortunately, the normal marital weight trajectory is up, not down. There is a psychological aspect to it too. When you pile on the pounds with a partner, it is very easy to get stuck in an unhelpful feedback loop where excusing your partner’s weight gain makes it easier to excuse your own. It is a comfortable conspiracy and one that is easy to fall into, because sharing food is so often at the heart of many relationships.

It would be great if your husband wanted to join you in dieting and exercising. If, as has happened with you, one partner makes a decision to change and the other partner doesn’t, it can create division. The person who is losing weight and working out starts to feel better about themselves, and comparatively, this can make their partner feel inadequate. In your case, it’s not just your body that has changed – you now want your sexual relationship to change too. From your husband’s perspective that may feel a little daunting, so try to be sensitive to that. The last thing you want is for him to feel self-conscious because negative body image has been linked to sexual avoidance and sexual dysfunction as well as lower self-esteem and assertiveness.

Getting your physical relationship back on track may mean reassuring your husband that you still love him and are still attracted to him. It could also be worth being clear about your motivations for changing yourself – presumably you are doing it for yourself, but sometimes people are not consciously aware of what is driving the changes they make to their appearance.

A study conducted in 2018 by Per-Arne Svensson at the University of Gothenburg found that out of nearly 1,000 obese patients in relationships who had undergone bariatric (weight loss) surgery, 90 had divorced or separated within four years of their surgery and after ten years 170 people in the surgery group had divorced. This shows what an impact extreme weight loss can have on a relationship. We are always evolving as people, and physical changes often occur in tandem with psychological changes, so to protect your relationship the most important thing is to keep a good flow of communication.


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Talking About Sex Doesn’t Make You Hypersexual

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I love talking about sex. I love hearing my friends talk about sex. I love reading about female sexuality. This, however, does not mean I am hypersexual. 

Let’s define hypersexuality. Also called sex addiction, it is a phenomenon that is not always accepted as a mental disorder but nevertheless is real. Hypersexuality refers to “an excessive preoccupation” with sex that “causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.” 

Despite any religious or societal views that say otherwise, enjoying sex is more than normal. Hypersexuality, however, is a problem because it makes sex the focal point of your life to the point where it disrupts your ability to function. People who embrace their sexuality by talking about it are most likely not losing their jobs due to an inability to control their fantasies. 

Embracing sexuality in a world still full of taboos surrounding sex is a whole different beast for queer and straight people alike.

I’ve noticed a misconception that people, especially women, who are open about their sex lives are hypersexual. Just because they talk about the sex that they are having, good or bad, does not mean they are more sexual than the average person. It simply makes them sexual — except they are more comfortable talking about it. 

The topic of embracing sexuality often suggests the process of queer people coming out. Sexuality, though, does not only refer to sexual orientation. Sexuality is broad and unique to every person — it includes how someone wants to have sex, how often someone wants to have sex, what values are important in sexual encounters and everything that has to do with a person’s relationship with sex. Embracing sexuality in a world still full of taboos surrounding sex is a whole different beast for queer and straight people alike.


Why Are Women Often Incorrectly Labeled as Hypersexual?

Why is it that men can walk around talking about sex however much they want, but when people of other genders do it, they are seen as too sexual or even “out of control”? It couldn’t possibly be good old misogyny at work here, right?

To answer this question, we need to look at the myth that men are biologically more sexual than women. It wasn’t until recently that we started questioning whether that’s actually true or if they are encouraged to be more sexual than women. Many past studies have found that men tend to have higher libidos than women. More recent findings, however, have shown that women are more likely to lie about their sexual habits in these surveys. In other words, women downplay their sex drives. 

A study has also found that men have a better understanding about their own sexual desires than women, who are less in touch with what they want or don’t want in bed.

Cultural norms and societal expectations play a powerful part in how people view themselves. It’s no different when it comes to the stereotype that women have lower sex drives than men, a misconception that has been used time and time again to justify sexual violence toward women. A study has also found that men have a better understanding about their own sexual desires than women, who are less in touch with what they want or don’t want in bed. Women may recognize only some of their turn ons, but the study found that their bodies get excited just as easily as men’s, even if it’s unconsciously. This could be because male sexuality has been accepted more to the point where a high sex drive is associated with masculinity. It wouldn’t be so surprising that women’s supposedly lower sex drives are due to centuries of repression and not biology.

I’m guilty of these misconceptions, too. Last year, I caught myself saying “I have the hormones of a teenage boy” when describing my sex life. Looking back, I question why I had to compare my sex drive to that of a teenage boy to justify my desire to seek out sex. What if I just have a sex drive, a very human thing, and that didn’t make me masculine? And what if it’s okay to have a high sex drive, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, and not feel the need to justify it? I use the phrase high sex drive with caution, though, because it’s hard to define such a thing. In fact, sex researchers have stressed that there is no such thing as a “normal” sex drive; everyone’s sex drive is unique and valid. 

Why Talk About Sex?

For starters, it can be fun. I enjoy telling my two closest friends about my day and hearing about their days. Talking about sex shouldn’t be any different, as it is part of many of our lives. Talking to my friends about our different sexual experiences, ranging from terrible to amazing to hilariously awkward, makes me feel closer to them. 

In the process, we can also learn about what we like and dislike, what we want to try, what’s stressing us out about sex, what kind of boundaries we want to set with our respective partners, and so much more. Just like how salary transparency can help people get the wages they deserve, sex transparency can be super informative as well.

While sex education in general is insufficient in this country, it dismisses queer sex entirely, leaving queer people to learn through exploring and researching on their own time.

My best friend was having sex for several years before she realized she was experiencing orgasms simply because no one had told her what orgasms in women looked or felt like. That whole time, both she and her partner worried that there was something wrong. 

Let’s say you were having other struggles in your sex life, like having different libido levels than your romantic partner or becoming prone to certain infections. How much less alone would you feel if you could share these things openly with those around you? Who knows, maybe someone would have helpful insights.

Open dialogue and accessible resources on the internet could also come in handy. This holds true especially for queer people. While sex education in general is insufficient in this country, it dismisses queer sex entirely, leaving queer people to learn through exploring and researching on their own time. Thankfully, there are many online publications nowadays with useful information on what queer sex is, how to have it and how to stay safe while having it. 

Seeing that other people have similar desires may validate someone or even help spice up someone else’s bedroom experiences. 

When it comes to kink-sharing on social media, there are pros and cons, but one huge pro is that it can make people feel less ashamed of their sexual fantasies. While there is nothing wrong with vanilla sex and kinks shouldn’t feel like a competition (like so many other things shared on social media do), desires that are considered outside the norm may not be so abnormal after all. Seeing that other people have similar desires may validate someone or even help spice up someone else’s bedroom experiences. 

Also, most allosexual people will find ways to have sex whether it’s talked about or not. The only way to ensure that people are having safe sex is to teach such practices in ways that are accessible to everyone. If not, people will remain confused, putting their and their partners’ bodies at risk. 

So, let’s talk about sex — all aspects of it — as much as you are comfortable sharing. And let’s stop labeling sexual women as hypersexual. Doing so only demonizes women who celebrate their sexuality and prevent them from having better sex. Only then will those religious and historical taboos start to fade away, giving us a deeper understanding of our sexual selves. 

Talking About Sex Doesn’t Make You Hypersexual

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Vaginal Dryness Sucks—But It Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Sex Life

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Image by Cathryn Virginia | Photos via Getty Images

A series about sex and stigma.

Although vaginal dryness is often associated with menopause, plenty of young people have a hard time getting wet, too. Temporary dryness can stem from a lot of different issues, like stress, anxiety, depression, and hormonal fluctuations (whether they happen naturally or because of medication); or from a lack of foreplay or arousal during sex. Some health conditions and procedures can cause more chronic dryness, too.

Vaginal dryness often comes bundled with itching and burning sensations, both of which can feel a lot more intense during sex—some people describe sexual friction without adequate lubrication as “sandpapery.” Dry sex can also make it easier for people to develop UTIs, or get cuts or abrasions that, in turn, increase their risk of contracting STIs. 

Despite its ubiquity, vaginal dryness is under-discussed among medical experts and patients. When it does come up, health care providers usually recommend using plenty of lube during sex, but caution that people should be wary of anything with scents or flavoring that can irritate sensitive skin. (That warning also extends to lotions, soaps, and douching products.) Doctors may also suggest more foreplay to hopefully maximize wetness before penetration. In persistent or severe cases, they sometimes recommend using vaginal moisturizers, or undergoing estrogen therapies (although the latter treatment can have painful side effects and may not be safe for everyone).

But sometimes, none of these treatments totally resolve a person’s vaginal dryness issues. Beth, a woman in her 30s, has Sjögren’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects up to 4 million people in the U.S. Sjögren’s leads a person’s immune system to attack glands and tissues that produce moisture. Symptoms of the condition vary, but typically include chronically dry eyes and mouths, as well as fatigue, headaches and concentration issues, and general joint pain. Beth and most other people with vaginas who develop Sjögren’s also experience chronic, severe vaginal dryness, which many say seriously disrupts their sex lives. 

Over the last decade, Sjögren’s experts have done some solid research on, and gotten better at talking about, how to mitigate its effects on vaginal lubrication. But even with treatment, dryness is a persistent problem for many people with Sjögren’s—which can also be the case for those who experience dryness for other reasons. VICE spoke to Beth and her husband, Greg, about how they’ve adjusted to sex with intense, enduring vaginal dryness. 

VICE has withheld Beth and Gregs last names for privacy reasons. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Beth: As a teenager, I had a lot of joint pain and constantly felt sick and tired. In 2013, when I was in my mid-20s, my father passed away, and stress and anxiety led those symptoms to get much worse. After many tests, my doctors determined that I had an autoimmune disorder of some kind. In 2015, I went to an arthritis specialist who asked if I had issues with dry eyes and mouth. I said yes, and he diagnosed me with Sjögren’s. 

Greg: Beth and I got married just before her diagnosis. We’d been together for a few years. I went to all these appointments with her, and I remember that doctor telling us, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have a disease that’s going to negatively affect you. The good news is that it’s not going to kill you. But you are going to have to use eye drops and drink a lot of water, and you may need sexual aids like lubrication.” 

Beth: When I was younger, I didn’t have any issues with natural lubrication. [Laughs] I could stay wet all day! I started to feel significant vaginal dryness right around the time I got diagnosed. It was awkward and confusing, because even though the doctor had told us dryness was a common issue with Sjögren’s, I wasn’t sure whether the condition was actually the cause—or whether the dryness came from my stress and depression around figuring out what was going on, or something else. For a while, I questioned whether I was still sexually attracted to Greg. Over time, it became increasingly clear that my level of dryness corresponds to my other Sjögren’s symptoms.  

This change had a big effect on my self-esteem. I kept thinking, I’m in my mid-20s, and already I’m this dried-up old lady.

Greg: Yeah, she said that out loud a lot. 

Beth: Getting mentally aroused, then seeing your body fail to respond to that, was frustrating. It made me not want to have sex at all. I felt like this condition had taken something away from me. I haven’t tried to put it into words before, because no one else has ever really asked how I feel about it. But I was embarrassed that I couldn’t get lubricated enough on my own—that I needed help with this thing that used to be so easy for me. 

But I’ve always been a sexual person—I like the feeling of closeness that comes with it. Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want these issues to stop me from having sex.   

Greg: Neither of us had experience with lube. When we realized that we would need to use it during sex from then on, we didn’t know what kind to use. Beth’s doctor told us we should try water-based lube, as that’d probably be best for her. 

Beth: He didn’t give us any more details. He just told us to try a few brands. 

Greg: Beth is pretty sensitive, in general. 

Beth: I’ve always had to be careful about things like the soap and shampoo I use, because a lot of the things they add to products, like scents, irritate my skin.

Greg: We had to go through five or six brands of lube before we found one that worked for us.

Beth: It wasn’t just about sensitivity. A lot of water-based lubes only last for a little while before you feel dry again. You have to stop and reapply, which isn’t something we want to do all the time. We needed to find one that would make me feel ultra-lubricated for a long time. 

Greg: We settled on a brand made by a regional sex store. We make several one-and-a-half-hour trips into a nearby city every year to stock up. There are times when we run out and want to have sex before we can get more. And we just can’t, because we know the discomfort involved would be too much. Sometimes, we deal with our frustration by going to a local 24-hour store to buy lube that works well enough for the moment. On our next day off of work together, we make a trip to buy our favorite brand, and a toy or two. 

Beth: Some days, I can get a little wet on my own, although not as much as I used to. (Sometimes, nothing helps at all.) I still want to have sex using as much of my natural lubrication as I can, as a personal preference. So we do more stimulation before penetration than we used to. (Kissing used to be enough to get me fully ready to have sex.) We’d never used vibrators together before, but now we use them during foreplay to help me get wet. I even try to lie in specific positions in order to be as comfortable, and get as turned on, as possible. 

Greg: Yeah, it’s a process.

Beth: We also have sex less often than we used to, because I find that the less frequently I have sex, the easier it is for me to get wet naturally. And when I’m having a bad Sjögren’s flareup, my entire body is in a lot of pain, so it’s too uncomfortable to have sex. I have frequent anxiety that affects how often we have sex, too.

In the early days of our relationship, we used to have sex three times a day. Now we have sex sometimes as rarely as once or twice a month. That’s depressing, and I’m insecure about it. 

Oral sex doesn’t really work for us because I can’t easily produce saliva due to Sjögren’s. My vagina is so sensitive now that I don’t really like receiving oral sex, either. But I don’t like either form of oral anyway. I masturbate occasionally—but maybe less than once every few months.

Greg: I don’t mind the decrease in the amount of sex we have. Whenever there’s an issue where I feel like sex but Beth doesn’t, or we try to have sex but it doesn’t work out, maybe one time out of five I’ll either go take a cold shower or masturbate. Most of the time, I just continue on with my day. So having sex a little less often isn’t a huge issue for me. 

Beth: We still grab each other around the house, and do playful, sexual things like that. But our “love language” used to be sex, and now it’s become more about emotional communication. We’re more emotionally intimate than we’ve ever been before, and I think that’s the most important thing. So, ultimately, I’m OK with these changes. 

With time, I’ve gotten over most of the shame and insecurity I felt about using lube. It’s become part of our sexual routine, so I don’t feel frustrated by having to remember to use it, and I’m not in my head anymore about what’s changed in my life when I do. And I’ve learned that sex just always feels better when you use lube. 

Greg: We always keep lube on the bedside table. It’s just part of life now. 

Beth: When we do have sex, I’d love go for a long time. We used to have sex for 30 minutes, an hour, or more. But even with a lot of lube, I have to stop after about 15 minutes because it starts to hurt. Especially right after I climax, I almost instantly get really dry, so I need more lube right away and can’t keep going for long. 

Greg: Because we know each other really well at this point, we can make each other come in just a few minutes if we need to. 

Beth: When I feel sore, I tell Greg he has to finish soon, or I ask him if he’s close. He knows what I mean by that. We usually start having sex in missionary. 

Greg: Beth finishes pretty fast in that position. 

Beth: But when I feel sore, we switch to a from-behind position, because… [Laughs]

Greg: It’s quicker for me that way.

Beth: I can’t do a lot of aggressive in-and-out thrusting like we used to do. 

Greg: The actual motion we do isn’t something you see in porn often.

Beth: Greg has to fully enter me, stay inside, and thrust and grind like that. Or else, thanks to the friction, it’s painful, even with lube. It does kind of suck that we can’t have aggressive sex like we used to—we have to be more careful.

Sometimes, when I feel pain, I don’t tell Greg about it because I just want to have sex like I used to for a moment. Afterwards, I usually end up crying because of the pain. I know that Greg feels so bad about that, but I always tell him that’s not his fault. 

Greg: If the shoe were on the other foot and I had a condition that affected my ability to have sex, Beth would be considerate and give me the support I needed to work through and feel better about it. I want to provide her with that. For us, that means me being nonchalant about everything that’s changed in our sex life, and trying to be as non-pressuring as I can. I know things are still hard for Beth. But we still like to express ourselves sexually with each other. Having to change how we have sex, or how often, isn’t going to stop that. 


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