Q: Is there such a thing as too much or too little sex? What’s the normal amount — and does it change with age? I’m getting older and haven’t had sex for a long time. What happens to your health if you don’t have sex for a while?
The short answer? There’s no such thing as too much or too little sex. What’s normal depends on your individual needs and desires.
But if you’re uncomfortable with the amount of sex you’re having — whether that’s too much or too little — or are in a partnered relationship and feel as though your libidos are mismatched, then it’s worth examining further.
Before we do, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what sex is.
For many people, the word “sex” brings to mind penis-in-vagina intercourse. But that’s not the only way to have sex!
What counts as sex is personal and can include any kind of kissing, touching, or other play that you want to try — solo or partnered.
If your brain wants to have sex, but it seems like your body doesn’t
Many underlying conditions can affect a person’s libido.
Some medications, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly prescribed to treat depression, are also known to have a negative effect on libido.
It isn’t uncommon for folks with cardiovascular problems to experience decreased arousal, vaginal dryness, or erectile dysfunction.
Using alcohol or other substances may also increase your risk of sexual dysfunction.
If you suspect that your symptoms are the result of an underlying condition or prescribed medication, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns. They can advise you on next steps.
According to sex educator Emily Nagoski, MD, author of “Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life,” 30% of women experience responsive sexual desire instead of spontaneous sexual desire.
Responsive sexual desire means the body responds after it’s been stimulated.
If you feel as though you “should” want it, but don’t feel the same urge as before
Stress is one of the most common reasons for an unexpected change in libido. And in 2020, there’s plenty of stress to go around.
Worrying about the effects of COVID-19, feeling powerless over social justice issues, or dealing with another issue that hits close to home can make it difficult to desire or relax enough to enjoy sexual activity.
If you find that you’re distressed by this change in desire, it may be helpful to talk to a sex therapist.
At the end of the day, an ebb and flow in desire and activity is normal
If you’re getting older and haven’t had sex for a long time, try not to panic. We promise this isn’t a “use it or lose it” situation.
There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that your sexual organs will stop working or waste away if you don’t have sex. And no, you won’t die from a lack of sexual activity, either.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling and what you want to do next. Working with a sex therapist may help you answer these questions and create space for the sex life that you desire.
Janet Brito is an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor who also has a license in clinical psychology and social work. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota, one of only a few programs in the world dedicated to sexuality training. Currently, she’s based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is the founder of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Dr. Brito has been featured on many outlets, including O: The Oprah Magazine, HuffPost, Playboy, Women’s Health, Thrive Global, and Midweek Publications. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.