Not Tonight Dear…

After the asparagus post the other day, a friend asked me, “Why do women lose interest in sex when they’ve been in a relationship with me for a while?”

So, instead of having a meaningful and reassuring discussion with him about this topic, I thought, “Hey, this would make a good blog post.” Because that’s just how I roll.  (In my defense, however, I should point out that I could have said something really cruel and demoralizing — just to be a smartass — but I didn’t. Because I’m very nice.)

Having successfully avoided the discussion, I thought to myself,” Do women really lose interest in sex when they’ve been in a relationship for a while or is it just him a myth?”

I know it’s politically correct to think that men and women are exactly the same and that suggesting women might not be as horny as men is an archaic, anti-feminist thing to think, but from anecdotal evidence collected over the years, I had some suspicion that my friend might be correct and that perhaps it really wasn’t just him.

So, I did what all responsible social scientists do and googled the research of other social scientists. Because I know that you all, also really want to know the answer to this question. Except if you’re tired of reading about sex (like no-blog Paul the commenter), in which case you could just move on to the next blog on your blogroll.

The social scientists[1] say that men’s sexual desire is not only stronger, but also much simpler and more straight forward than women’s. Women’s libido is all tangled up in a whole sticky mess of more or less everything in their lives, their culture, their society and the entire universe. Ergo:

Men = Simple

Women = Complicated

Furthermore, sex psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, says (though not in these exact words) some of the main reasons a woman’s libido declines include: 

  1. The relationship sucks.
    • Her partner isn’t romantic or imaginative enough when it comes to lovin’; and/or
    • The partner is generally being a jerk or jerkette outside of the bedroom, not treating the woman like a desirable person until he/she “wants some”; and/or
    • Being generally inconsiderate, thoughtless, a drunk, emotionally distant, fucking around, etc., etc; and/or 
    • Despite having a full-time job, she is still the primary housekeeper and child care parent and is just too freakin’ tired and fed up with not getting any support and the end of the day to even think about sex.  
  2. Sociocultural influences:
    • Job stresses wear women down while they often energize men.
    • Women also stress constantly about how they look.  A few extra pounds, a few extra years and a lot of women no longer feel like anyone thinks of them as sexy. The media tells us what a sexy woman looks like and almost no real woman can measure up to that.  So we give up on the whole idea of sex as it relates to us.
  3. Low testosterone and loss of androgens:  
    • Testosterone affects sexual drive in both men and women. Testosterone levels peak in women in their mid-20s and then steadily decline until menopause, when they drop dramatically.
    • As well, blood levels of androgens  drop continuously in women as they age. (Really, we don’t stand a chance, do we? No wonder guys go after those young, hormone-drenched chicks instead) 
  4. Medical problems and Medications: When you’re not feeling well or are having to take medications, you’re sex drive is going to be affected both from a physiological and psychological perspective.  

Almost 100% of men under the age of 60 say they think about sex at least once a day. Only 25% of women say the same thing. And while we’re on the topic, I’ve heard (and Google evidence bears this out) that men automatically, however briefly, imagine having sex with all, even remotely-attractive women they meet. Do you guy-types agree with this?

Women have a lot of other stuff taking up their brain space, I guess. Because I think when women meet attractive men, they just  imagine how they would look without a shirt while doing the vacuuming or folding the laundry. Am I right?

Anyhow, according to other social-scientific research, most of the time there’s a lot of other stuff women think about and a lot of stuff they’d rather do than have sex.

Sixty-three percent of married women say they would rather do things like sleeping, reading or watching a movie than have sex with their spouse. 

  • Over 30% said that housework gave them more satisfaction than sex.  
  • 24% would rather give up sex for a month than give up their cell phones for a month. 
  • 46% would rather go without sex for 2 weeks than go without the internet for 2 weeks. (Really? Only 46%?)  A whopping 97% of the male participants in the survey thought the internet was sex. (Okay, I made up that last statistic…. I think.) 
  • And, most women fantasize more about food than about sex. 

And speaking of pornography, Northwestern University did a study where they showed pornography to both gay and straight men and women to see what turned them on. To measure arousal levels they used both anecdotal responses and devices attached to the subject’s genitals to measure arousal. (They’re nice devices, don’t worry. They don’t hurt.) Here’s what they found: 

  • Not surprisingly, straight men said they were more turned on by depictions of male-female sex and female-female sex, and the measuring devices backed up their claims.  
  • And, also not surprisingly, gay men said they were more turned on by male-male sex, and again the devices backed them up.  
  • However, while straight women and gay women said they were more turned on by male-female and female-female sex respectively; genitally, they all showed about the same reaction to male-female, male-male, and female-female pornography.   

I don’t know what that means, aside from that women don’t even seem to know what the hell turns them on. Or maybe that everything turns them on but they think nothing does. Or maybe that the genital monitoring device is turning them on? In any case, I thought it was pretty damned interesting.

So, in the interests of furthering all this research, and since most of you have been around for a while and have no doubt discussed some of this stuff with friends, family, co-workers and casual acquaintances in doctor’s offices or on public transit — I would be grateful for your input. I’m not asking for your personal information, of course (unless you want to give it). I’m just wondering what you think of all this not-tonight-dear-I-have-a-headache stuff  based on what people you know,  have known, or would like to know, have told you. 

I thank you and the annals of social science thanks you.

[1] Edward O. Laumann, PhD, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.