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Tracey Cox reveals your pals are having much less intercourse than you suppose

In a world obsessed with success and comparison, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one not living an exciting, sex-filled life.

The reality is our perceptions of sexual frequency are heavily skewed and hopelessly inaccurate: most of us believe everyone else is having much more sex than they are. And it’s making us miserable.

Time for a reality check.

How often we have sex is dependent on so many factors, it’s almost impossible to predict what anyone else is up to.

Forget drunken boasts and sexy Instagram posts, these are the things that really reveal what’s going in other people’s bedrooms.

Read – then relax!

Tracey Cox says our perceptions of sexual frequency are heavily skewed and hopelessly inaccurate (stock image)

Tracey Cox says our perceptions of sexual frequency are heavily skewed and hopelessly inaccurate (stock image) 

HERE’S HOW OFTEN I THINK COUPLES SHOULD HAVE SEX

If I had to settle on one statistic for a frequency that’s sensible to aim for, it’s once a week.

This figure seems to span different ages, nationalities, gender and length of relationships: a lot of couples have sex once a week.

The statistic sticks regardless of what’s being studied – the frequency needed to reap the health benefits of sex, the amount of sex needed to stay connected, the amount most people are happy with. All conclusions tend to settle around this figure.

If you must measure yourselves against your mates, this is what I’d assume they’re up to.

But the only real answer to ‘What’s the right amount of sex for us?’ is what makes you happy. The amount of sex that suits both of you.

Find your own normal and – whatever that turns out to be – you can’t go wrong.

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How old you are

The younger you are, the more sex you have. The older you are, the less sex you have.

No-one’s going to be surprised by this: our energy levels fall as we age, so do the hormone levels that fuel our sex drives.

What you might be surprised by is how quickly our peak frequency drops – from a very young age.

Men and women in their mid-20s to mid-30s have sex an average of eight to nine times a month. Two years in, this drops to six times per month. People under 25 have sex around eleven times a month but even they have it less often the longer they’ve been with their partner.

Which leads me to the second most crucial factor affecting frequency…

How long you’ve been together

One study (the Archive of Sexual Behaviour) estimates couples have sex 146 times per year in their first year together. This drops to 86 times in the second year.

Yep. It falls that fast.

Why does desire decline the longer we are together? Because desire likes new things – and a new body to have sex with is the best thing of all! We also want what we can’t have: sex on tap 24/7 can dampen the liveliest libido.

Then there’s overfamiliarity which produces ‘the sibling effect’. The closer you get to your partner, the less you desire them. Cosy and connected fuels love not desire. The drop of frequency over time is even more dramatic if you’re a woman.

The drop of frequency over time is even more dramatic if you’re a woman.

British expert Tracey Cox (pictured) revealed the statistic that ¿most people have sex 2.5 times a week¿ was never correct

British expert Tracey Cox (pictured) revealed the statistic that ‘most people have sex 2.5 times a week’ was never correct

What gender you are

The longer a relationship lasts, the more a woman’s desire for sex decreases.

A German study found while 60 per cent of women want frequent sex at the start of a relationship, in the four years that follow, that figure drops to less than 50 per cent and after 20 years falls to about 20 percent. 

Four years into a relationship, less than half of the 30-year-old women wanted regular sex. Men’s libido generally remained stable throughout the duration of a relationship.

Why do women go off sex more quickly than men?

Boredom is a big factor.

US sex therapist Ian Kerner researched 341 respondents in committed relationships: women were twice as likely as men to report that they were bored in the first year, and in the first three years, of a relationship.

Women are also more strongly influenced by another important factor that determines how often a couple ‘do it’.

How good the sex is when you have it

The better the sex you’re having, the more often you’re likely to have it.

The ‘quality trumps quantity’ rule runs through all reputable research and studies: couples who report higher levels of sexual satisfaction have sex more frequently. About twice as often as couples who don’t score high on satisfaction.

No-one has great sex all the time. It’s normal for five to 15 per cent of sexual experiences to be mediocre or unsatisfying. (If you aren’t ‘failing’, you aren’t trying new things.) Clock up more than this, however, and you could be heading for trouble.

WHY DO SEX STATISTICS DIFFER SO MUCH? AND THE REAL SEX FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

A lot of what we believe about sex, isn’t based in fact.

There’s a reason why you’re always finding contradictory sex statistics. You’ll find some within this article as well because…

Some data is self-reported. They rely on people telling the truth – and they often don’t. 

Men tend to overestimate the number of partners and frequency they have sex, women underestimate. Even though surveys are usually anonymous, there’s still a deep-seated fear that someone, somehow will find out it’s you.

The average can be skewed by people on the extreme ends. An ‘average’ isn’t an accurate way of measuring anything. 

This means the numbers have simply been added up and divided by the number of respondents. 

The 18-year-olds who are at it like rabbits are pooled with 80-year-olds who have it annually or not at all. The median or mode (most common value) provides a more accurate picture but is less often quoted.

The media simplify or exaggerate to make a clickable story. 

Everyone knows you can massage statistics to suit your point; a lot of statistics are quoted in the popular media without full explanation of the course or nuances of the data. 

The journalist writes to the style of the publication they are writing for and very few want detailed explanations.

The seven-year itch is a myth

 It was the title of a movie starring Marilyn Monroe that had a fictional book in it, by a fictional author, who claimed men have affairs after seven years of marriage. There never has been any evidence to support it but it remains an often-quoted statistic.

The ‘most people have sex 2.5 times a week’ statistic never was correct

It originated from early research and was misinterpreted by the media. Modern, more reliable surveys and studies suggest people have sex far less frequently.

Your friends really aren’t having more sex than you

In one university study, students estimated their friends were having sex 14 times a month. The actual figure was four to six times a month.

We’re having less sex than ever before

We in the middle of a worldwide sex drought. More British adults are reporting no sex at all in the past month, compared with data from a decade ago. The number of adult Americans who reported no sexual activity in the last year reached an all-time high in 2018. The sex recession appears to be global, with Australia, Finland and the Netherlands all seeing similar declines. In Japan, in 2015, forty-three per cent of people aged 18 to 34 were virgins.

Most people don’t leave sexless relationships

According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, 74 per cent of spouses who are constantly refused sex stay in their relationship because of love.

A US study of more than 70,000 people (The Normal Bar’s online survey) included 8240 participants who were 50 or over. Thirty-three percent of those couples said they rarely or never had sex – and one quarter of those rated themselves as being ‘extremely happy’.

But taking a break from sex can be dangerous

Lots of reputable studies show that once a couple stop having sex, even for a few months, they slip into ‘non-sexual relationship mode’ where it becomes difficult to initiate sex.

Around a quarter of the sex couples have, is about pleasing their partner rather than themselves

In my experience, couples who have regular sex say about 20 to 25 per cent of their sex sessions are done to please their partners, rather than themselves. Some therapists say only half of all sex encounters in long-term relationships are mutually satisfying for both partners.

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What your natural sex drive is

How often we crave sex is partly preset: there’s a genetic element. The messages you get about sex during childhood also influence adult desire, as do any traumatic experiences.

If you both have a strong drive for sex, you’ll be the couple having the most sex. Even though everyone’s libido is boosted at the start, this tends to become apparent quickly.

How often you have sex in the first year you’re together dictates how often you will have sex from then on. Research shows it sets the pattern – if you’re having an above average amount of sex, this continues even after two years when there’s a drop off point.

It’s also true that the person with the lowest sex drives sets the amount the couple have sex. It rarely, if ever, settles on how much the higher sex drive person would like to do it.

Check out traceycox.com for Tracey’s blog, books, podcast and product ranges.