To be sure, you're in good company if you've ever wondered, Do I have less sex than normal? According to the recently released 2022 Sex Report by sexual wellness brand Hims & Hers, 95 percent of the more than 7,000 people surveyed said they assume other people have had sex in the past month, but 25 percent of participants said they had not had sex within the month themselves. So, why do people assume they're having less sex than others? And, more importantly, why do they care?
Do I have less sex than normal?
First, let's get clear that there's no "normal" amount of sex to be having. Furthermore, it’s natural for sexual frequency to ebb and flow for folks of any relationship status; it’s also natural for someone to go months—or even years—without having sex. So long as the person in question is happy with the frequency of sex they're having, there is no issue. Consider that the Hims & Hers sex report also found that only 22 percent of people said having more sex would improve their sex life.
But, when it becomes a common practice to compare your sex life to that of others, things can inch into a less-healthy mental space because you're more so focused on what you think you should be doing than what you want to be doing. Rachel Zar, LMFT, CST, a relationship therapist and AASECT-certified sex therapist, says she often comes across the issue with her clients: "A lot of these messages stem from the media and poor sex education.”
“If you think everyone else is having a better sex life than you, you may be assuming you are not desirable compared to the people around you.” —Megwyn White, sexologist
In addition to lacking education regarding the full scope of what a healthy sex life can look like, scrolling through images of happy-looking couples on Instagram can have the effect of leading folks to falsely assume they're having sex constantly. “With social media, it is very easy to compare our lives to others and assume someone else has it better, but the reality is, many people are often in the same boat as you, and you would never know,” says Megwyn White, certified clinical sexologist and director of education for sexual-wellness brand Satisfyer. “If you think everyone else is having a better sex life than you, you may be assuming you are not desirable compared to the people around you.”
Though based on false assumptions, the inclination to believe others are having more sex than you is natural, says ACS-certified sexologist and sex therapist Gloria Brame, PhD. “It's very human to harbor the belief that somehow other people are having more fun than we are, particularly when we are frustrated or disappointed with our own situation," says Dr. Brame. "So we project that onto others whom we believe to be freer or better than us in some way, and assume this means they're having better sex.”
Possible effects of assuming other people are having more sex than you
Assuming other people are having more sex than you can compromise your self-esteem, as you might feel less desirable than the people you falsely assume are having more sex than you are. “Living in a place of envy about how much better others live leads us to question ourselves, believe we are flawed…get angry at ourselves, or become depressed because we imagine others are somehow having more fun in bed,” Dr. Brame says. “Sexual frustration and sexual insecurities in themselves erode mental health, so if we are not getting our sexual needs met, our emotional health may suffer.”
“Sexual frustration and sexual insecurities in themselves erode mental health, so if we are not getting our sexual needs met, our emotional health may suffer.” —Gloria Brame, PhD
And if you have a partner who has a higher sex drive than yours, making you feel the need to match it, this can also warp your perception of how much sex others are having, namely by focusing how much you’re not having. “Pressure to have more sex is actually a really bad motivator to have more sex, especially if it’s coming from an external assumption instead of an internal, intrinsic motivator,” Zar says. “Over time, couples who push themselves to have sex when they don’t authentically want to may notice an increase in conflict around sex, avoidance of sex overall, and a lower libido overall. After all, we don’t desire things that don’t leave us feeling good about ourselves or our relationships.”
How can we deal with these thoughts?
If you believe everyone else is having more sex than you, White reminds you consider quality over quantity—and, more importantly, that the frequency has no bearing on your self-worth. “When you are catching yourself thinking this way, try redirecting your thoughts or doing an activity you love to improve your mood,” she says, adding that talking with a trusted loved one or mental-health professional can also help.
And if you want to be having more sex than you're having, White reminds that you don't need a partner at all to experience pleasure. "Shift your perspective on your season of singleness as a time to discover what you like and dislike in your sex life,” she says. “Masturbation is one of the best ways we can encourage the many wonderful benefits that come along with sexual pleasure, such as boosting mood, confidence, heart health, better sleep, glowing skin, improved immunity, pain relief, and the list goes on.” The more you get to know your body and what really revs you up, the less you will feel like your sex life doesn’t “add up” to that of others.
Above all, it’s important to remember that every person has different sexual wants and needs—so the very notion of a "normal" amount of sex lacks validity. With this in mind, work to de-emphasize how your sex life compares to that of others, suggests White: “Once you relieve yourself of the pressure of feeling the need to be having sex, you will feel more relaxed and confident, which could then bring some great people and sexual experiences into your life.”
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