real life

How much sex is enough?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Especially in a long-term relationship where there is almost always a disparity between supply and demand; a gap. A sex gap.

Here’s how you work out your sex gap: first, establish how many times each partner wants sex per week. Now subtract the lower number from the higher one and that’s your sex gap. He wants it seven times a week, she’d be happy with twice? The sex gap in that relationship is five. The smaller the number, the more perfect your sexual match.

Here’s how you work out your sex gap: first, establish how many times each partner wants sex per week. Now subtract the lower number from the higher one and that’s your sex gap. He wants it seven times a week, she’d be happy with twice? The sex gap in that relationship is five. The smaller the number, the more perfect your sexual match.

There are many things that can affect the size of a size of a sex gap but biology is probably the biggest. Generally speaking, the male libido is nothing short of bulletproof. Just like cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion, so too the male urge for sex can transcend any situation bar actual death. Hung over? Still want it. Acute, ugly food poisoning? Still want it. Bed-ridden with flu? Still want it. Haven’t slept for three months, lost your job, moved interstate and house just burnt to the ground? Still. Want. It. Just been in a lawn mower accident and missing a limb? Never mind my bloody stump, baby, let’s get it on!

But women? More finely tuned. More likely to be vulnerable to passion-killers like fatigue, stress, resentment and feeling fat. Oh, and distraction. Also known as the wandering mind, this is when thoughts unrelated to the task at hand keep popping into your head and then jumping around like monkeys.

I asked a group of girlfriends about this over dinner one night recently and everyone agreed it sometimes takes discipline to keep your eyes on the prize. “My boyfriend would be mortified to know what I think about during sex,” volunteered J as we got stuck into pre-dinner sourdough and a cheeky sauvignon. “Last night for example, we were in the middle of things but while he was getting really into it, I found myself wondering what I should wear to work today. He’s in the throws of passion and I’m mentally going through my wardrobe, trying to decide if I can wear my brown open-toed shoes with my black pants which may or may not still be at the dry-cleaner and if they’re clean and pressed and the open-toed shoes look OK, will I still have time in the morning to chop up some fruit for my breakfast? Mmm, that’s sexy, isn’t it?”

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Not sexy. And yet not uncommon.  “One night last week, I’d been reading a gossip magazine before sex and I found it really hard to change my focus,” admitted F as the waitress re-filled our glasses while inadvertently nodding. “At one point my partner asked me what I was thinking about – clearly wanting me to say something sexy and porno-like – and the truth is that I was thinking about Anna Nicole Smith’s baby and wondering which idiot father will get custody. It’s not that I wasn’t having fun. I just find it hard to concentrate sometimes. My mind wanders and before I know it, I’m thinking about whether I remembered to give the cat her worming medicine this month and is soy milk really bad for me?”

Of course, the sex gap works both ways. Sometimes it’s the woman who ventures the hopeful hand under the doona towards an unresponsive partner. “Getting knocked back is even more unpleasant than being the one doing the knocking back,” laments S who in her previous relationship was the not-tonight-honey one but whose current boyfriend suffers from depression and a low libido. Being on the other side of the sex gap has been a shock to her “because not only are you sexually frustrated but you both feel like failures. I feel like an undesirable sex addict and he feels emasculated. At least with the cliché of the man wanting it and the woman having a headache, you’re walking a well trodden path through millions of marital beds since the beginning of time.”

There’s a scene in the 1999 movie The Story Of Us, in which the husband and wife (played by Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer) are in bed one night. Married for a decade and with two kids, their relationship is unravelling for a bunch of banal reasons. They’ve recently returned from a holiday where things were better but as they’re lying in bed, Bruce tries to throw the leg over and Michelle rebuffs him. She’s not in the mood. She wants to read. Or talk. Or sleep. Miffed that his attempt at special cuddles has been rejected, Bruce’s character starts a fight, angrily asking why they’re only able to have sex ‘when there’s a concierge downstairs.”

This argument – and those just like it in the real world – could have been avoided had Michelle mastered the ancient art of the pre-bed sex dance. Step one: he’s on his best behaviour before bedtime in the hope of getting one away. Tea, darling? A backrub? Tell me again, how was your day? Step two: she makes a counter move by bolting to bed while he’s checking his emails and pretending to be asleep. Another night, another gap. Or as Time magazine recently noted: sleep is the new sex.

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