The average man has sex only 4.9 times a month. The figure for women is almost identical, says Suzi Godson.
Q. My boyfriend wants to have sex at least once a day. I didn’t even think about it at first, but now that we’re a year into the relationship it’s still the same.
He gets stressed, moody and anxious if I say no — so I end up having more sex than I would like. Is he a sex addict?”
A. The term “sex addict” is now acceptable vernacular, but it shouldn’t be.
A sex addict is someone whose ability to work, have relationships and be a functional member of society is compromised by an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with porn, masturbation and risky sex.
That doesn’t sound like how you have described your boyfriend — so be careful of casually labelling someone as something that they are not.
I’m not suggesting that you should accept what is happening in your relationship, but try to put it into perspective.
You and your boyfriend certainly seem to be mismatched in terms of how much sex you want, or need, but you both fall within what would be considered an average spectrum.
According to the most recent British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal 3), the average man has sex only 4.9 times a month. The figure for women is almost identical.
When it comes to sex, there is no such thing as “normal” — but ultimately, it’s not a numbers game. In the long run, it is not how much, or how little you have that is important. What matters is whether it is making you happy.
Clearly, your boyfriend has sex because it makes him feel good and he’s not alone in that. A number of studies confirm that people experience an improvement in mood in anticipation of sex, and that the positive effect peaks during the act itself, of course. The rush of good feeling also lasts for a little while afterwards.
These findings inevitably led researchers to investigate whether some people might, consciously or unconsciously, use sex as a way to regulate their moods and emotions.
When psychologists Cooper, Agocha & Sheldon (2000) looked at the motivations for sex and risky behaviour in adolescents, they found that young people who were neurotic or suffering from low self-esteem were particularly likely to use sex as a way of coping with aversive or negative moods.
Your boyfriend doesn’t fit the profile of an addict, but he does sound like someone who relies on sex to regulate his mood, and that really isn’t fair on you.
Although your letter is framed in terms of your/his libido, the real problem is that when it comes to sex, his demands seem to be the most important thing.
Sex is supposed to be a democratic and pleasurable experience — but to stop your boyfriend getting stressed, moody and anxious, you are having it more regularly than you would like.
You do it because the alternative makes him stressed and ratty, but you don’t know whether that happens because he is unwilling, or unable, to regulate his mood.
It’s an important distinction, because to be “unwilling” is a choice, whereas to be “unable” is a pathological condition.
Basically, you need to find out if your boyfriend needs daily sex because he has a high libido, or whether he might be using you as a proxy antidepressant.
He probably doesn’t know the answer himself, but he is much more likely to open up if you present the issue to him in terms of the distress it is causing you.
A better understanding of whether his behaviour is driven by libido or emotional vulnerability won’t change his appetite, but it will give you much more confidence when it comes to saying “no”.
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