How much sex is normal?

Reader's Digest Editors 2 February 2019

If you have to ask, it’s possible you’re getting “too much” or “too little.” Statistics reveal that if you’re among the group just not getting enough, you’re not alone. Whatever the cause, does a lack of frequency affect intimacy? 

Most people are reluctant to talk about their sex life, and that’s fair. Some things are sacred. But do you get the feeling that people are reluctant to talk because the event typically fails to live up to all the hype? 

When I confide to friends that I’m having sex less often than the much-quoted average of “a couple of times a week,” my friends then typically admit the same. “Sex life? What sex life?” is a common refrain among my peers. Female friends often voice a wish that their husbands didn’t want sex so often, while male friends occasionally admit to daydreaming about sex with other women. 

There’s nothing shocking about these divergent attitudes to sex; what is surprising, though, is that each gender tends to forget the other’s biological hard-wiring. 

Read more: The truth about mature women and sex


Biology lesson 

how much sex is normal

In his book Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, John Gray describes the different ways in which men and women reach arousal. Men tend to respond to the sensual—touch, taste, smell or visual cues. For women, arousal is usually a mental operation, requiring time to “switch off” from the day’s activities and then to “switch on” for pleasure. Quite often, it’s the delay between women’s and men’s responses that leads to sexual incompatibility. The solution? Sexual therapists the world over say the fastest way to a good sex life is to communicate with your partner. 

Lots of long-term relationships see libidos bottom out during busy, stressful or child-rearing times. The secret to intimacy, say therapists, is to ensure that “not often” does not lead to “never.” But apart from that rule, almost anything goes.

Sex therapist Heide McConkey sometimes sees clients who believe they have a sexual problem when they really don’t. Men, she reports, often cite anxiety about their performance. “A lot of men complain they’re only maintaining their erection for three to five minutes,” she says. “ ‘Congratulations,’ I say. ‘You’re normal.’ ” 

McConkey saw a couple recently who was clearly deeply in love. But, they admitted, after almost 20 years of marriage, they weren’t having sex often. “They wanted to know what they should do,” she says.

"The secret to intimacy is to ensure that not often does not lead to never"

She probed and both partners admitted they were content with the status quo. “If both parties are happy having sex three times a day, then that is a satisfactory agreement. Similarly, if a couple both feel okay about sex once a month, then it’s ample.” 

McConkey, who has counselled many people over the years, feels there is still a lack of real education in our society about sex. “I get people in their 20s and 30s, asking what will happen to them if they masturbate. I tell them masturbation is not only normal, it’s healthy!” 

Therapists suggest it’s best to talk about what you like and what you want more of, rather than emphasising the negative. 

When you can relate honestly and openly to your partner, that’s when the juices flow.