Not getting any tonight, or last night for that matter? Unfortunately you are not alone. A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled, The Art of Lesbian Sex, in which I referred to the oh-so-dreaded lesbian bed death phenomenon. Far too many of us have faced this issue at one point or another. But not enough of us are talking about it. I am not sure what the silence is about, except that there is still so much shame around sex among women in our American culture. The irony is that we have a dichotomous approach to our shame; Sex sells everything from cars to shaving cream, but God forbid we actually talk about real sexual health... Really?! Okay maybe that’s a soapbox for another article. As for lesbian dead bed, it is a real thing. When I talk to women privately I usually get one or all three questions: What is LESBIAN BED DEATH? Why does it happen? What is the solution? So let’s take a look at all three here.
WHAT IS IT?
First, make no mistake, lesbian bed death is a real issue identified by a sociologist named Pepper Schwartz. She coined the term in her 1983 book, American couples. Schwartz purported that lesbians have less sex than any other type of couples, including gay men. So we know it is not a “gay thing”, but something certainly happens when two women come together. According to Schwartz, the longer lesbians are together the less sexual intimacy they seem to have.
I have worked with couples who have gone months and even years without sex. I worked with a couple many years ago that had gone three years without sex (they had been together for 10 years at that time). However they had a very close emotional connection and even romance. But when it came to sex they simply parted ways, slept in separate bedrooms, and bid each other good night with a sweet peck on the lips every night. When they came to see me there weren’t experiencing any turmoil, but they wanted to revive their sex life. This brings me to the next frequently asked question – why?
WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
I think the answer is as complex and unique as the diverse spectrum of couples experiencing this dilemma. Sometimes it is a combination of different issues and sometimes it is simply a bad habit. Nevertheless, let’s explore the possibilities:
1. HABIT-Perpetuating a bad habit or pattern was the case with the couple I
referenced earlier in this article. Sometimes we can behave our way into a bad habit. Life happens while you are not paying attention, such as work gets busy, a family crisis arises, new projects happen, etc. And one little interruption to a regular sex life can easily get you stuck in a sexless pattern. One week goes by, two weeks, and then it just seems like an inconvenience to stay up late enough or get up early enough to make “it” happen.
2. AGING-As you get older, obviously, your body will change. You may have new ailments, a new body size, or other things that alter the way you hold, recognize and/or use your body. Sometimes these things can get in the way of comfort and sexual desire. Then there are the affects of menopause – oh the joy! While I like to think of menopause as a natural transition into our feminine wisdom it certainly carries with it some very frustrating realities for some women, including a decreased libido.
3. SEXUAL INCOMPATIBILITY-- What a curse to fall deeply in love with someone with whom you have no sexual chemistry. You can’t imagine spending your life without her only to discover you are simply not compatible in bed. I can hear some of you saying, “if I’m not sexually compatible with her I would not be in a relationship with her”. Well that may be true for some of you but there are others who filter relationship compatibility through a different lens. Or maybe the incompatibility is more that your sweetie wants to swing from the chandeliers while wearing a lace corset, but you would be satisfied by pulling up the covers, turning out the light and making love from the June Cleaver handbook. There’s nothing wrong with either of those. The issue is finding someone with your same proclivity.
Then there is the incompatibility of someone who won’t listen to your needs. You’ve told her time and time again, “don’t do that”, “do more of this”, but she wants to do only what is in her tried and true lesbian playbook-- regardless of your desires. Yikes, who wants to do any of that? Instead you just settle for a good snuggle with the woman who has 13 of the 14 things you asked the Divine Intelligence/God to send you. Whatever the incompatibility you may have found yourself stuck in a sexless pattern. The good news is that there is a way out.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Luckily, I truly believe there is a solution to every challenge. Here are a few tips for recovering from lesbian bed death and restoring your sexual relationship:
Self-awareness and self care-- It is true that the more in-touch with your body you are, the more sexual you will feel. Getting regular checkups and practicing good self-care is an excellent solution for anybody. And there is nothing sexier than a woman who loves herself enough to nurture her body, mind and soul. So make a checkup for your annual physical and become an active participant in your healthcare. Make sure there is no physical or physiological reason for your depleted sex drive.
If you are adjusting to new changes in your body discuss them with your partner. You may need to do things differently, or make adjustments. Don’t let insecurity, shame, or vulnerability keep you from the intimacy you crave. To the contrary, sharing them will deepen your connection and give your partner an opportunity to honor you.
Incompatibility is no reason to stop having sex. This simply means that in the absence of a natural sexual chemistry you will have to both become the student and the teacher for your lover. There are great books, videos and resources to get you open to the idea. Not every woman likes the same thing and there is no one size fits all approach. Be open to trying new things to satisfy your mate.
Be intentional. Make date night a regular priority in your relationship. However, if you have not been sexually engaged with your partner for a while now is not the time to go in like a kid with a new toy. You may need to move a little slower than usual. Start with simply touching and no expectation of sex for the first night. (REMEMBER: Touching releases the pleasure hormone, oxytocin.) Then the next night you may want to take it a step further. Try reading an erotic story together and talking about the parts that turn you on. On night three you might consider progressing to the next step. There are no rules. Do what makes you both comfortable and, more importantly, whatever works!
Finally, deal with any emotional baggage in your relationship. Don’t let the fear of confrontation, resentment, or hurt feelings derail your sex life. Whatever you refuse to deal with will, in fact, deal with YOU. Couples counseling is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of a joint commitment to save, support and nurture your relationship. HELP is not a dirty word.
Lesbian bed death is very serious and, for many women, a very painful experience to have in a relationship. If you are grappling with this issue there is nothing to be ashamed of. Seek out resources, counseling and support. You deserve to have a healthy, quality sex life as part of your relationship. I wish you great success as you embark on this journey to CREATE LOVE.
Nya Akoma! (Take Heart)
Imani Evans, MA