I received an email from a reader the other day who read an article chastising a lot of popular magazines and websites for pushing the narrative that we should be having sex more often because it’s good for our health. The point of this article was to say that when sex becomes a utilitarian activity, it takes all the fun out of it—it becomes something we think we need to do instead of something we want to do. The reader asked what I thought about this idea, and my answer is simple: I completely agree. And here’s why.
While it’s certainly true that there’s a lot of research suggesting that sex is good for our physical and mental health, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that we’d all be better off if we started having sex for health reasons. For one thing, remember that most of this research is correlational, meaning we can’t always establish cause and effect, so it’s important to exercise a bit of caution before drawing too many conclusions. However, perhaps even more important is the fact that when people start forcing themselves to have sex because they think they’re supposed to do it, it doesn’t turn out well.
As some evidence for this idea, consider a recent study in which some couples were asked to double their sexual frequency while others were not instructed to change their sexual habits one way or another. The results revealed that the doubling group not only reported lower levels of happiness in the end, but they also enjoyed sex less and ultimately had less desire for it.
What this tells us is that when we start to see sex as a chore—as another thing we need to check off the list—it seems to reduce our sexual motivation. The fact that sex may benefit our health is great, but the way to think about this is that these health effects are just a potential bonus or side effect of being sexually active. They are not necessarily reasons to push yourself into having more frequent sex.
In short, don’t force yourself to have sex because the results of some study suggest that it might be good for you—instead, have sex when it’s something you want to do.
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