Why Are You Having Sex and Have You Told Your Partner?

When I gave lectures on sexuality, whether the audience was students or professionals, I often began with a question that seemed silly to those there: “Why do people have sex?” After a few giggles someone would call out “because it feels good” and “to make a baby.”  More snickers, then silence. Eventually I would receive a few more responses as those in the audience went beyond the obvious:  to show love, to bond as a couple, to demonstrate power, for money, out of boredom, to touch and/or be touched, to exercise  dominance, to enjoy submitting, because refusing would cause a fuss, because a willing partner was available.

I have listed only a dozen reasons why any one person might have partnered sex.  Once when my audience of graduate psychology students really got into it we came up with a list of 32 reasons.

Whatever the number you can list (and what a great party game this would make!) we can now agree that any person  at any particular time can have any of many possible reasons to initiate sex or to agree to have it. So you, feeling distant from your partner after a quarrel, might reach over in bed and initiate sex in order to feel connected again. Or your date, after spending money on dinner, taxis, and a show, might initiate sex because s/he feels you owe it.

Sometimes the other person in your life will initiate sex and you won’t question whether there is a motive or not; you will, because you are not in the mood, simply decline (nicely, I hope.)  Sometimes you will try to start something sexually without any deep soul searching for a reason, but your partner will indicate that s/he isn’t interested at the moment.  This could cause a problem of hurt feelings, but not necessarily.  Let’s say one of you initiates and the other agrees.  Does that mean that no problem could exist here?  Maybe.

If one of you is wanting to  create or deepen a loving connection by having sex and the other is agreeing because there is nothing interesting on tv, one of you is likely to be disappointed by the quality of the sexual connection.  If one person wants a long, languorous, session of sensual lovemaking and the other intends a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am (or sir)”  one person is going to be very disappointed by the sex they have .

What I am suggesting to avoid many such sexual mismatches and frustrations is to look into yourself and know what you want (and don’t).  I always say that you’re much likelier to get what you want when you know what it is.  Don’t you agree?

You know that “Let’s cuddle” is nowhere near the same as “Let’s get hot and nasty!” so if you have one or the other in mind as the two of you hit the bed speak up.  If you’re missing skin contact from your sweetie, let him or her know  very clearly so that your touching and hugging isn’t misinterpreted and no one is disappointed when the clothing hits the floor.

This doesn’t have to be verbal if you find asking for what you want sexually too daunting.  Look at how your cat or dog requests attention.  Does the cat want to be picked up?  Does the dog want its ears scratched?  Body language in any creature will let you know.  Rub against your sweetie or offer a very passionate kiss.  Your message will come across quite clearly, just as a peck on the cheek says something quite different.

A note, if you are not up for what your sweetie suggests make a counter offer. “I’m too tired for anything strenuous tonight.  Can we just be sweet and cuddly?” or  “After the kids are asleep, okay?”

Anyone is disappointed when she or he doesn’t get what is wanted and feelings are especially delicate when it comes to sex, so once you know what you want and once you’re clear what your partner wants  and if you are not on the same page be gracious.   Good communication, verbal or not, is especially important when initiating, refusing, or negotiating sex.