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Are Americans having less sex than they used to? And if so, is this a problem? As with many topics, it depends on who (and how) you ask.

Photo from Unsplash by Anete Lusina. In public domain.
Photo from Unsplash by Anete Lusina. In public domain.

How much sex is enough? How much is not enough? This stuff is pretty subjective, but obviously important to people. Luckily, we’ve got research to back us up here.

That’s why I adore this piece by Dr. Debby Herbenick about how Americans are having less sex…and that’s just fine.

Herbenick’s main message is not to panic, though the data does indicate that adult Americans are having less sex than in decades past. For one thing, there’ve been significant social and economic upheavals in American society, and increasing technological and medical changes too. Also, the question of “what counts as sex?” looms large over such studies.

Further, Herbenick points to her (excellent) research, in which many of her interviewees emphasize that they want greater connection and intimacy during sex. Thus if people are having less sex, but it’s more connected sex, that’s not necessarily a problem.

As Al Vernacchio reminds us in his TED talk, many Americans are acclimated to the idea of sex as a competition. Of course more=better under that (highly problematic) model. But if we fight the metaphor – as many metaphors, like that of sex addiction, should be fought – maybe we arrive somewhere healthier, somewhere happier.

See also: What I Believe About Sex

Personally? I think it’s a sex-positive move to emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to sex. I believe better (as in, more accurate and inclusive) sex education would help in terms of adjusting expectations around sex to be more realistic. There’s no magic number in terms of exactly how much sex to have in order to be happy, as everyone has different needs, and our contexts are constantly shifting and impacting what we want.

Anyway, just some food for thought!

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Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...