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Does "maintenance sex" really keep the spark alive?

Does "maintenance sex" really keep the spark alive?
Sex and relationship expert Monica Karpinski explores the idea of "maintenance sex", investigating whether it does more harm than good
When I was in high school, the boys tried to convince us girls that if they didn’t have sex when they wanted to, their genitals would start hurting.  
They had their facts wrong, of course—what they were thinking of is actually a benign, yet uncomfortable sensation that can happen during arousal—but their message rang loud and clear: it would harm them to not have sex whenever they pleased.
"'Maintenance sex' is when you have sex with your partner despite not wanting to, ostensibly to keep the spark alive"
Today, a version of this logic can be found in arguments for “maintenance sex”, which is when you have sex with your partner despite not wanting to, ostensibly to keep the spark alive. It’s billed as a kind of relationship admin that sustains intimacy between you while keeping both your libidos satiated.
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Does "maintenance sex" really work?

Call me sceptical, but I’m not totally convinced it works. Can simply going through the motions really lead to a better sex life
For those in the “yes” camp, maintenance sex is about pushing through your initial lack of eagerness to get to the bit where you start having fun.  
Intimate couple - what is maintenance sex?
For some people, being open to sex is how they give desire time to develop
Among those in favour is comedian Caitlin Moran, who in 2018 wrote in The Guardian that “you need to ‘do a sex’…to keep everything ticking over…for the first 10 minutes or so, you’ll be a trifle desultory…but then, sex being what it is, you’ll suddenly get into it.” 
Here, the partner who wasn’t keen initially changed their mind once play began—and so happily went through with sex in the end. By being open to sex, they were able to give desire the time and space to develop.
This can absolutely be a great thing for your relationship, but I’d argue that it isn’t maintenance sex. It’s just how sex drive works for some people.
"It’s a myth that if you fancy your partner, you should spontaneously want to tear their clothes off all the time"
Desire bubbling up after there’s been some physical stimulation is normal, and in fact, most women experience libido in this way. It’s a myth that if you fancy your partner, you should spontaneously want to tear their clothes off all the time.
Okay, so in this case, you’re nurturing your sex life by giving intimacy a chance and ultimately, getting frisky because you want to. Doing it because you feel like you have to is another thing entirely: when you consent to sex despite not wanting it, what we’re talking about is compliance.

The dangers of going along with it

Many folks who comply with unwanted sex—mostly, this is women partnered with men—do it because they believe it will improve their relationship by keeping their partner happy.
But while it might superficially smooth some tensions between you, studies have shown that sexually compliant women are less satisfied with their romantic relationships than their peers, especially if they only agreed to avoid conflict.
Unhappy couple in bed - what is maintenance sex?
A great sex life comes from a mutually-respectful relationship, not pressure to have "maintenance sex"
This isn’t really surprising. If you felt you had to please your partner by doing things you didn’t want to, would you feel respected? Would you trust and feel safe with them?
And yet, unwanted sex is still a thing. We can thank the patriarchy for that: the idea that women should be available to satisfy their male partners stems from centuries-old notions of gender roles—men have higher libidos and therefore need sex; it’s a woman’s duty to please. And it still plays an implicit role in our bedrooms today.  
"It’s trusting, mutually-respectful relationships that are the true foundation of a great sex life"
In one study of 41 women partnered with men, 27 per cent gave in to unwanted sex because they felt it was easier than getting into an argument. Twenty per cent said they “knew what would happen” if they didn’t agree—they’d be psychologically or physically pressured into it.
Even my teenage peers understood on some level that they, as males, were uniquely entitled to sex. 
A dynamic where one partner is obliged to “top up” the other isn’t a healthy one. And I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s trusting, mutually-respectful relationships that are the true foundation of a great sex life.
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