Ask Debby Herbenick | Can you change your libido?
Answers to your most penetrating sex questions.
Q My fiancé and I got engaged less than a year after we met. We’ve been engaged for a few months and are planning to get married in the spring. I can’t seem to get him as excited as I once did. I’ve tried dressing up in heels and lingerie, surprising him by masturbating in bed as he’s coming home, trying to go down on him while he’s watching TV and anything else to get him to have more sex with me. He says it’s not me, that he is stressed between work and school. Is it normal for a young, healthy guy to want sex only once a week or so? Especially so early in our relationship?
A Having sex once a week is well within the average for couples in their twenties and thirties—even new couples. Surprised? That’s because we’ve all been raised with Hollywood visions of frequent, passionate sex, and our cultural silence around sex doesn’t make it easy to find out from friends what’s a myth and what’s not. Are there couples who have sex almost every day? Yes. They pull the average up. Are there couples who have sex once every month or two? Yes. They pull the average down. You two are roughly average, which is not bad considering your fiance is working and going to school and admittedly under some stress (including from the life changes that come with being engaged). Although it’s great that you want to make your sex life exciting, you might talk to him about your strategies. If he’s überstressed, your constant attempts may be making him feel pressured. The two of you need to find a healthy balance in which you can have a mutually pleasurable sex life without unrealistic demands. And if you are feeling rejected or unnoticed, find ways that you can spend time together and feel good about your relationship or learn to look for ways that he expresses his affection for you other than through his penis (for example, by making you coffee in the morning, rubbing your feet, walking your dog, etc.). It’s possible that you may find solace in a vibrator for the time being and also that you may want to talk to your fiancé about his long-term ideas for your sex life just to make sure you two are on the same page over the long haul.
Q I am in my sixties and everything is working just fine, thank you. But why isn’t my cum milky, sticky and gooey as it once was? Now it’s kind of watery and clear (but there’s plenty of it). What can I do to change it back to the good old days?
A Changes to semen are common with age. Usually men notice a decrease in the amount of semen they spurt out—they also notice less spurting and more dribbling. What you’re noticing is a bit different, but also not unusual. Unfortunately, normal changes to the color and consistency of ejaculate are poorly studied and understood. You might see if it changes based on your fluid intake or how often (or seldom) you ejaculate. Some guys have even linked really hard workouts to changes in semen appearance. Clear, watery semen is typically not a sign of a health problem, and there is no magic food to return to your days of “milk and honey.”
Q How the heck do fat women do anything sexually? Neither she nor I can sometimes find or get to her vaginal hole. Should I tell her goodbye or can you help? I feel bad about it and she is mad.
A Wow—screw subtlety, eh? Although yours might seem like a crude comment to some, some people do find it difficult to have sex due to their body size or composition. Some men who are extremely obese may experience a “buried penis” which can make sex—and even urination—a challenge. Some women, especially if they have significant fat around their lower abdomen or thighs, may find it difficult to reach their own vulva or vaginal entrance and it can be challenging for a partner, too. If this is the case for you two, consider other ways that you might enjoy being sexual together. If she has had other intercourse partners while being roughly this size or body weight, she may be able to let you know how it has worked with other partners. For example, you may be able to lie down on an ottoman while she stands and squats above you for penetration. Or you may find that oral sex, breast touching or sex-toy play will make up the bulk of your sex play together. You may find, too, that you two enjoy other types of penetration. Although people rarely discuss other types of intercourse, many men enjoy sticking their penis in partners’ underarms, in between their thighs, under their knees or in between folds of fat. It can be especially fun and pleasurable for men if they lube up the area they penetrate since these parts don’t lubricate on their own (though they may sweat!). Make sure to ask what pleases her, too, as she’s unlikely to be overly excited, let alone orgasmic, from underarm play unless you or she is simultaneously pleasuring her breasts, her vulva or her mind (via fantasy play or dirty talk). Finally, check out Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them (Greenery Press, $55).
Q I have a question that I have been trying to get answered for a long time. I have been married close to ten years and we have two kids. We have a sexual discrepancy that is about as big as a couple can have. We have seen a sex therapist, and I’ve tried to increase intimacy and keep the house clean and all the things that are supposed to turn women into vixens. She does have just about everything going against her with a ridiculous work schedule, depression and sleeping issues. But the thing is, she is satisfied with our sex life as it is. If increasing her sex drive is impossible, then should I lower my sex drive to match hers? The frustration that this is causing the both of us is beyond describable.
A It’s extremely difficult to lower one’s own sex drive. And, although a man doing an equal share of housework counts as foreplay for some women, it doesn’t for all. Have you asked your wife—and not just a therapist—what excites her the most? The conversation could be a tough one because she may find herself having to allude to what she finds attractive in others. Maybe she feels aroused by certain body types or personalities. Maybe she needs you to try less so she feels less pressured. Or maybe she needs more sleep, which may be helped by sleeping separately on occasion. If she’s on antidepressants, she may have medication-related low libido and want to try a different drug regimen. And though most couples choose monogamy, some don’t. Do you want more sex with her specifically or do you want more sex itself? That’s a hard question to ask, but it may lead you and your wife, with your sex therapist involved, to discuss options including swinging or her giving her blessing to some level of involvement with others, whether it’s kissing, masturbation, oral sex or intercourse.