Why is good sex important (especially compared to a good night’s sleep)?
In September we kicked off a series of shows based on this column at the Wilmette Theatre, and our first panel discussion focused on that question. The answer may seem obvious—duh, of course sex is important—but the truth is, many of us aren’t feeling all that hot to trot.
Married couples have more sex than their single counterparts, but the longer their relationship goes on the less sex they have, and 20 percent of married couples have almost no sex at all. One generational study showed that women in the 1950s (our grandmothers!) had more sex than women do today. Despite the so-called sexual revolution and being bombarded with explicit images in the media, experts say that lovemaking takes place less now than at any time since World War II.
Why are our libidos so lethargic? One reason is that we’re exhausted. A recent survey from the Better Sleep Council found that 79 percent of women prefer getting a good night’s sleep to having sex. Sleep and stress are the biggest enemies of desire and women—and men—are feeling plenty of both. Having to work at your love life often seems like one more chore on an endless to-do list, so why bother? Is it really that important?
Absolutely, my panelists say, and for a wide range of reasons beyond physical gratification.
Carol Moss, a licensed clinical social worker in Wilmette feels that sex is intricately connected to our identity and our life’s purpose. “Good sex is part of the life force and it’s part of why we’re here on earth. Our life force validates who we are.”
Andrea Gaines, an Evanston life and wellness coach, says women need to make experiencing pleasure a priority because it enhances their whole life. “We have a responsibility for our own turn on,” she says. “It’s not just about the bedroom. What are you doing to have a turned on life outside in the world that makes you feel good about yourself? What are you doing to cultivate that energy that makes you radiant? It’s part of taking care of yourself, that you have the capacity to feel pleasure and allow time for that.”
Wilmette psychologist Antoinette Saunders feels that good sex, which she defines as much more than intercourse, is vital to a marriage because it creates connection. “In our middle and later life we have to focus on the energy and importance of connection,” she says. “And that means affection and respect and intimacy. Touching, holding, cuddling and loving words are very important to a relationship.”
Evanston marriage and family therapist David Klow says good sex is mindful and mysterious and important. “It’s an expression of appreciation,” he says. “Most of us don’t realize we’re walking around with this low-grade resentment for our partners. Sex is such a validation of another person, it’s hard to live without that.”
“Gratitude is really sexy,” Moss agrees.
All the panelists say that having good sex is a process that requires ongoing attention and anticipation.
Klow asks, “How do you set a tone in your home and your marriage that is preparing for sex—days in advance, weeks in advance—so that the atmosphere in the relationship is one of sexuality?”
And you can’t depend solely on your partner to light your fire. According to Saunders, desire has to start by seeing yourself as desirable. “You can’t expect your partner to feel good about something that you don’t. It just doesn’t work that way; it’s not sexy. It takes some conscious effort on your part.”
So don’t hit the snooze button on your sex life. As my insightful panel discussed, the benefits to making it a priority are worth staying up for.