We all do—for our health, happiness, and sense of connection
Sex is one of our most basic forms of communication.
So I was startled to read, in a New York Times op-ed, that more than a quarter of Americans hadn’t had sex even once in the past year, according to the 2021 General Social Survey.
No wonder Magdalene J. Taylor’s op ed was titled, “Have More Sex, Please!” As she points out, “sex reduces pain, relieves stress, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure and strengthens heart health.” So when we miss it, we miss out on a lot more than the obvious.
Why is sex going the way of cassette tapes and bowling leagues?
For one thing, all our social ties are getting weaker. Taylor notes that “the rise in loneliness closely parallels a decline in sex.”
“What rise in loneliness?” you may ask. Well, according to Taylor’s sources (and with apologies to my non-U.S. readers),
- The number of Americans who report having no close friends has quadrupled since 1990 (Survey Center on American Life); and
- An average American in 2021 spent 58 percent less time with friendsthan in 2013 (the Census Bureau).
That’s pretty horrifying.
But there’s another reason why the frequency of sex seems to be falling:
People are confused, intimidated, or unsure of how to talk about sex.
And strangely, in some cases, more awareness has made that worse.
During the “sexual revolution” of the late 1960s/early 1970s, all the previous rules for social behavior were suspended. Yet, somehow, people bumbled their way into sexual encounters, and even relationships.
Those of us who survived that unsettling and chaotic time would have thought that some new guidelines would be a relief.
But in 2017, when activist Tarana Burke’s phrase “Me, too!” went viral, a lot of people (including, I suspect, the 30 percent of American men under 30 who haven’t had sex in the past year) freaked out.
The “rules” aren’t that hard to follow!
Instead of embracing the idea that you should check that the other person really WANTS to have sex with you, many people saw this as an impossibly high standard they would never be able to meet.
But, as I hope you’ve concluded from my newsletters and blog posts, it’s actually not that hard to communicate well, whether you’re asking for a day off, a raise, or sex: You get clear about what you want; learn a phrase or two that will help you say the awkward thing; practice it out loud; and then push yourself into actually asking for it.
I wrote a whole blog post on the subject of how to ask for sexual consent. But the quick and dirty version is:
- Open your mouth.
- Say something like, “I just want to be sure that you really want to have sex with me” (you can use other terms, but be as specific as possible.”
- Wait to hear the words “yes, I do,” and if you don’t hear them, don’t proceed.
That’s basically all there is to it.
So, to the greatest extent that we can, let’s all carry the torch for more and better communication… and more and better sex.
I’m guessing that we’ll all be glad we did!