real life

A compelling argument for 'duty shags'






In today’s politically correct climate, suggesting you have ‘duty shags’ – sex purely because your partner fancies it now and then – is guaranteed to offend.

When I first suggested this in my book Supersex for Life, I got more than a few sniffy remarks – and the odd ‘How dare you!’ But I still stand by it. And hell, someone’s got to say it regardless or we’re all going to end up divorced, celibate or so desperate the old man next door in the button-down cardi looks hot.

So here it is: if you’re in a long-term, monogamous relationship, I think you should accept that you will have to have sex when you don’t feel like it sometimes. Maybe more than sometimes…

The argument for having sex with your partner, even if you’re not drooling with anticipation, sliding off your seat or frothing at the mouth for it, should simply be that you love them, value the relationship and want to make them happy sexually. And because you know they would do the same thing for you.

Let’s be realistic here: you might not say ‘to love, honour and shag’ but that’s what’s implied when you make a commitment to only sleep with each other. You promise to satisfy each other’s sexual needs on a reasonably regular basis. If either of you stop doing that, you can’t expect your partner to be either happy or faithful. And vice-versa.

I want to make something else abundantly clear at this point. By ‘duty shag’ I don’t mean say yes, roll your eyes, purse your lips and lie there like a cadaver, checking your watch behind their back. It must be done gracefully rather than begrudgingly or it’s pointless doing it at all.

This means seeing, rather than ignoring, the naughty glint in your partner’s eyes and acting on it rather than pretending you didn’t notice.

Grabbing the hand that creeps over to your side of the bed even when you’re up to a really good bit in your book, rather than pushing it away or (worse) patting it in a patronising, ‘There, there’ fashion. I want you to see lust in their eyes and find it a turn on rather than something to feel annoyed or threatened by.


And – here’s the clincher – I want them to see lust – or at the very least enthusiasm – reflected in your eyes.

How is that possible if sex is about as appealing as getting up and cleaning the oven at 2am? Well, if you’re not feeling sexy, think emotively instead: about how happy your partner is that they’re about to get something they want. Think generously, think ‘This is something I can give him or her’.

That will get you through the first bit, then who knows? Study after study proves if you make the effort to try to get it in the mood for sex, a lot of the time, you actually end up feeling like it. Even if you don’t, most long-term couples know each other’s bodies well enough to press at least enough of the right buttons to mean it’s not an unpleasant experience.

Desire isn’t the only motivation for sex. Love, fairness, generosity and wanting to make your partner happy are damn good motivators as well. If your entire sex life consists of duty shags, you’re in trouble. But even couples who rate their sex lives as ‘highly satisfying’ say around 20-25% of their sexual encounters are done to please their partners, rather than themselves. Some therapists claim only about 40 to 50% of sexual encounters are mutually satisfying and good for both of you. Sometimes one needs, wants and enjoys it more than the other. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes that will be you. Sometimes that will be them. Assuming you’re not in one of those periods where sex necessarily takes a backseat – babies, exhausted from kids, major work stress, death of a parent etc – would it really be so bad if you turned off The X-Factor and turned your partner on instead?

Tracey Cox is an internationally recognised sex, body language and relationships expert as well as a TV presenter. She’s  appeared on Oprah, CNN and The Today Show in the US, as well as numerous prime-time chat shows in the UK and world-wide. Her first book, Hot Sex: How to Do It, was an instant worldwide success and is now available in 140 countries. Her other book titles include Hot SexsupersexsuperflirtHot Relationships andsuperhotsex. She also has her own range of Tracey Cox Supersex Toys and Lubricants.

Follow Tracey on Twitter @TraceyCox or on Facebook here.   Her website is at and you can buy her books here.  Tracey also blogs weekly here.

“Duty shags”… what do you do when ‘the hand’ reaches across from the other side of the bed and you don’t feel like it? Or maybe you’re the one doing the reaching?