From anal to orgasms, there’s a hell of a lot of anxiety about sex in American culture. We wonder: are our sex lives normal? Are our bodies normal? Are we even doing sex right? And are we doing it enough? The answer to most of those questions is probably a resounding yes, as the spectrum of sexual experiences is incredibly varied and individual. Still, having more information can be helpful and reassuring. That’s why we set out to answer the question: how often should you be having sex?
It’s actually not an easy question to answer, as there are a myriad of physical, emotional, mental, biological and even sociocultural factors that go into having a healthy sex life. Sex isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience — and it’s certainly not an aspect of life that stays the same over the course of a life or a relationship. Fluctuations in frequency and feeling are common, regardless of your partnership status or orientation. Stress, health concerns, and the regular ups-and-downs of life can all affect your libido and your relationships.
Some people have sex with their partners every day, while for others two or three times a week (Or month! Or year!) is the norm. For some, especially those who are not in a relationship, sex might be even less frequent than that. Tom Murray, PhD, a AASECT-certified sex therapist in North Carolina says, “There is no magic number. Nevertheless, there is a positive correlation between sex frequency and relationship satisfaction. Married couples tend to have more sex than singles.”
While there is plenty of evidence that having sex regularly is good for your physiology, having more sex than you want may not really be that beneficial for your emotional state, or so found a 2015 study from Carnegie Mellon University. Another 2015 study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, examined more than 30,000 people over 40 years, and concluded that about once a week was the happy place for most people — having sex more often than that was not associated with a greater sense of well-being. That can be a bit of a revelation in our sex-saturated culture.
Still, sex begets sex, says Murray — as long as both partners are on board: “Sex is one of those things that when you have more of it, you want more of it. Sex frequency in and of itself may not increase emotional or mental or physical intimacy. However, the communication that’s involved contributes greatly to these types of intimacy, especially when the communication occurs outside of the bedroom.”
There’s also the fact that sex drives differ hugely from person to person. And while society used to assume that everyone had a desire for sex, people who identify as asexual (someone with no sexual desire, but who may have desire for connection/relationship) or demisexual (someone who only experiences sexual desire after a strong emotional connection with someone) are more vocal about their experiences.
While conversations with friends or images in the media may make you feel like you’re not having the right amount of sex, one of the healthiest things you can do for your sex life is to not compare yourself to others. Think of sexual desire and contact as an evolving journey, rather than something you engage in because you feel like you have to measure up to a certain standard.
The amount of sex you should be having is exactly the amount of sex you want to be having. That may look different from partner to partner, season to season. That goes for kinds of sex, too — you don’t have to be having the typical intercourse or oral sex to have a healthy sex life. Murray says, “People would benefit from expanding their definition of sex to include non-penetrative sex and non-orgasmic centric sex. When one’s definition of sex is expanded, so are the options to enjoy connecting in a sexual way!”
Keep in mind that there really shouldn’t be any “shoulds” in your sex life — other than the fact that you should always feel safe and respected in sexual situations and be able to communicate with your partner(s).