My girlfriend only enjoys sex when she initiates it

Sex advice with Suzi Godson

My girlfriend and I have been together for four years. Generally, we are very happy. But whenever I initiate sex, it can sometimes feel like she is just going through the motions for my benefit. When she initiates it, it’s a different matter, and she is really enthusiastic. The problem is that she doesn’t initiate very often.

Don’t take it personally. The reason she behaves so differently when she initiates sex might well be that she has spent the entire afternoon daydreaming about it, so is already actively engaged with the idea and ready to go when she gets home.

By the time she meets up with you, she has intent in her kiss and sex on her mind.

It’s the same (in reverse) for you. If you initiate, you are likely to be much further ahead in the arousal process too, and unless you spend enough time on foreplay, she is left playing catch up.

If your girlfriend is in any way distracted or preoccupied when you initiate, it may take a lot longer than normal for her to reach orgasm. When a woman feels out of time with her partner, it can create a kind of low-level performance anxiety, which further impedes the arousal process. If your girlfriend realises that you are in a more urgent state of arousal than her, she may just weigh up the odds and conclude that the best thing to do is go through the motions.

Many people think that women take a lot longer to become aroused than men — but that’s not necessarily true. What is true is that female arousal is not exactly an obvious process. In men, blood flow to the penis creates visible evidence of arousal but in women, blood flow to the genitals is not a terribly accurate gauge of female arousal.

Recent research shows that when women feel really turned on, the temperature of the clitoris and labia escalates as a result of additional blood flow. Temperature also seems to correspond accurately with how aroused women report feeling. Thermal imaging studies also contradict the widely held assumption that men are instantly arousable.

In a study carried out by the psychologists Tuuli Kukkonen and Irv Binik at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada, men watching pornography took an average of 11 minutes and 5 seconds to reach peak arousal, not so far away from the average of 12 minutes and 23 seconds for the women in the same study.

When you explore the complexities of female arousal, you understand why the issue you describe is fundamentally one of mismatched timing. I know that in an ideal world everyone would want to have sex at exactly the same time, but in reality it’s not like that.

Although sex shouldn’t be entirely goal-driven, orgasm is an undeniably important motivation, and while it seems that many women are happy to take the occasional rain check, if you are predominantly focused on your own orgasm, she is likely to be less interested in having sex. I’m not suggesting that you neglect your girlfriend’s needs, but I think you should consider the possibility that your girlfriend is someone who thrives on romantic build-up.

I would suggest that you increase anticipation by engaging in psychological foreplay. Whisper teasing comments in her ear. During the day send her cheeky messages. These cues will prime you both equally for the idea of sex, so that when you get home you’re more likely to be on the same page.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com


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