Americans aren’t having sex as much as they did in the past, and the decline has been steady over the past three decades. Earlier this year, "The Washington Post" crunched the numbers from the General Social Survey, noting the United States hit an all-time low in in 2018 with one in four people reporting they’d been celibate for at least a year.
"The Great American Sex Drought", as the Post dubbed it, can be blamed on a few contributing factors, several of which we can tie to concrete data.
Why are Americans having less sex?
First, people are living longer and generally having sex less as they age. Second, men and women are staying single for longer — the median age for marriage is 28 for women and 30 for men — and presumably focusing on things like career and hobbies versus romantic entanglement. Sex for established couples is also on the decline, and while there's no clear reason why, a recent study points to a few factors that may be at play, namely the rise of social media, video games and Netflix.
“People don’t want to answer the phone, but they also can’t put it down, and that’s not going to lead to connectedness with your partner. If we are moving away from intimacy as a culture, of course we’ll also see a decline in sexual activity,” says Antonia Hall, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life.
What you can do about it — starting tonight
The fact that society’s experiencing an ever-spiraling sexual decline may not seem like the biggest problem we're facing, but sex plays an integral, foundational role in the health of any relationship. Studies have shown that post-coital cuddles promote a greater sense of satisfaction within a relationship, which can improve communication and affection, says Hall. Sex also keeps us mentally healthier as individuals.
“Sex, in its fullest expression, is a mind, body, spirit love union with another person. Sex can also be a cathartic stress release, an expression of one’s unique sexuality, and an opportunity for pleasure, deep intimacy and connection,” says Joyce Marter, a psychotherapist and founder of Urban Balance. “From a mindfulness perspective, it’s opportunity to unplug from technology, stressors, pressures, as well as our own ‘mind chatter,’ and simply connect with our breath and body (as well as our partner’s) in the present moment.”
Reigniting or further enhancing your sexual relationship can be done, and perhaps even with less effort than you might have imagined. As Hall says it’s really about getting back to the basics.
1. Talk about it
A recent meta-analysis conducted by the University of Texas found that when couples talk more freely and openly about sex together, it naturally leads to an increased desire for each other, improved satisfaction in the relationship, and more orgasms, Hall points out. “Give your sexuality a voice in the context of your relationship,” urges Marter. “Detach from any shame or fear and ask for what you need and want. Communicate any healthy limits or boundaries you need to set in order to feel safe and comfortable.”
2. Put it on the calendar
In addition to having more candid conversations about sex in general, get downright flirty with your partner by planning your next bedroom session, advises Lisa Concepcion, a life coach and relationship expert.
“Set the intention to have sex tonight and text your partner something sexy. Continue having flirty banter all day,” she says. “From there, arrange your day around the goal of having sex that night. Set a house curfew where all kids need to be in their rooms by a certain time and go to bed with your partner at the same time.”
She says to give yourself a good 15 to 30 minutes to get into a sexy mindset beforehand. It’s hard to go from a hectic day to being “in the mood.”
3. Learn your partner’s love languages
Gary Chapman’s "Five Love Languages" — receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch — have become a part of our romance lexicon. The theory is that everyone has a specific way they want to be loved, and how they communicate their love for others. “In general, women tend to want to have sex when they feel emotionally connected to their partner. Knowing your partner and demonstrating your love for them in their desired love language can increase the likelihood that they feel emotionally connected with you and in the mood to connect sexually,” notes Marter.
4. Put down the electronics
Not only is staring at your phone or tuning in to the news a surefire way to increase stress levels, but lack of connection due to preoccupation with technology inhibits sexual desire. “Unplug from technology and create time and space to connect with people in person,” says Marter. “When you are having a conversation with your date or your partner, put down your device, look them in the eye, practice active listening, and reflect empathy. Share your own feelings and experiences with authenticity and vulnerability.”
Maybe this means a two-hour no-phones rule every night, limiting yourself to TV only a couple days a week, or instating a strict nightly cutoff for work-related tasks. The goal is to be more present with your partner. Cuddle, hold hands, talk. Forget the screen and turn your attention toward each other.
MORE RELATIONSHIP ADVICE
- How often do the happiest couples have sex? (It's less than you think)
- How one couple saved their marriage by asking this simple question
- How thoughtful communication can improve your marriage, according to a divorce attorney
- Why this marriage counselor says a "good enough marriage" is one that lasts a lifetime