I’ve come to realize that a lot of sex drive incompatibility might come down to how people are defining sex. Some people really do just have very incompatible sex drives, but other couples end up not having as much sex as both people want.
I remember I had a boyfriend who’d reject sexual advances with “I’m not up to intercourse” and I felt like “Why does sexual contact have to be leading to intercourse? Why are you assuming I want intercourse? Why do we have to turn down things we want because we can’t enjoy them independently from the cis-het end goal?”
Which is not to say that intercourse or specifically vagina-around-penis / penis-in-vagina intercourse has to be cis and heteronormative. I’ve experienced it not being that. I’ve been fucked “organically” by women and had genderless fun with various people, with those particular body parts interacting in that way.
Intercourse is one of many sex acts I enjoy. I enjoy these various acts in different moods, at different intervals of frequency, and different amounts overall.
For most people (at least in my culture), whether or not they truly enjoy this act the most, penis-in-vagina or sometimes penis-in-anus sex is considered “real sex” and everything else is the lead up or a sub-par substitution.
I think because of that, sometimes people think they “don’t want sex right now” when what they don’t feel like is putting all their weight into thrusting into or onto someone for 5 minutes or 20 minutes or 2 hours or whatever is their norm. This is not to say you should ever be like “I don’t think you mean that, come on,” but I think it is important to be clear about what you really want, because a lot of times saying you want “sex” or implying you want “sex” is automatically met with assumptions about intercourse (or sometimes oral sex, or other orgasm-seeking sex acts).
Sex doesn’t have to be that though. There are so many acts that “count as sex”. And you can define them anywhere you want. You can evaluate how much you personally enjoy things and so can your partner(s), and from there decide what you want right now and what you’ll do together, if anything.
Different people find different things most pleasing. If someone bites me (a good, serious bite) and I give them a blow-job, I consider that “reciprocating”. Those things are of equal value to me (and both are fun for me!) Most people don’t understand that–trading a standard “nearly real sex” move for something people tend to be either not into, or consider just scratching the surface or foreplay, or delving into “the weird stuff”.
It’s not orgasm, but satisfying sexual acts don’t all have to include orgasm.
I’m not of the opinion that it’s good advice to tell women whose partners ignore them or pressure them to orgasm faster to “just not worry about it”, but if you are truly satisfied with sexual encounters that do not involve intercourse, or orgasm, or your genitals touched by another person or at all–that’s fine.
For me, sex is “acts which deliberately cause sexual arousal, when both/all parties are consenting to those acts for that reason”. That does not sound sexy, ha. But that’s where I am. I used to define it as genital touching, but as a trans person and sexual assault survivor who’s been with other trans people and sexual assault survivors, I’ve learned that not everyone wants those bits touched at all, or not all the time, so just like I had to revise my definition of sex away from “sexual intercourse without toys” when I decided I wanted to fuck other people with (just) vaginas, I had to revise my definition of sex again once I found myself sexually satisfied while playing with others in ways that did not include either of us touching the other’s genitals.
And my definition of sex is subject to change and is not a definition that can be expanded to everyone! Some people definitely need pursuit of orgasm to consider something sex, and that’s okay. Some never ever want to pursue orgasm with a partner or at all, and that’s okay. Some people like touching themselves during partnered sex, some don’t. Some people love intercourse and some hate it. And that is all okay!
Sex doesn’t have to be at all defined by what I consider sex except when the sex is sex I’m having.
The same is true for you too! You can define sex however you want.
I think if more people could express more concrete, specific needs about sex, sexual couples (or whatever size group your regular sex life includes) would be having more sex and more of the kind of sex they wanted.
Do you want to feel sexy? Do you want to have orgasms? Do you want to touch the other person or people? Do you want them to touch you? Do you want intimacy? Do you want a quickie or really slow build sex date? Do you want sexual validation? Do you want to explore their body? Do you want cuddles with sexual stimulation? Do you want to be naked or not naked or partially naked?
Really sit down and think about what it is you want when you want “sex,” “more sex” or “better sex”. Sit down with your partner and find out what they consider sex, more sex, better sex.
A lot of people get “too busy” for sex, but sexy cuddling before bed can be sex. Showering together and groping can be sex. A 10 minute make out can be sex. Those things can take less time and energy than “we are having sex now” sex (or maybe that is your “we are having sex now” sex).
I think there is a lot of all-or-nothing thinking, where all is penis-in-a-vagina (or sometimes anus) sex, that most of us experience, and it comes from patriarchy and our society wanting to enforce that “real sex” is that which makes cis dudes orgasm when they are partnered with cis women, bonus if it looks procreative!
We need to stop assuming that sex has to mean intercourse. We need to stop assuming that everyone likes intercourse, including, yes, cis dudes. I think we need to stop assuming sex means anything, really. This isn’t just about intercourse. If you have similar parts (like two people who have vaginas and do not have penises) there can be pressure to do oral sex for it to be considered “real sex”.
I want it to be comfortable for people to define “real sex” any way they please. Because really that’s the point, for it to be pleasure, and/or intimacy, and/or whatever else you want out of sex.
I know my own sex life is a lot more fulfilling when everyone involved is open to defining sex for ourselves instead of assuming what the other must want when we say “I’d like to have sex with you.”
I think if we, people who like sex, could get to a place of communicating rather than assuming, of asking and explaining, of experimenting and leaving our minds open to different definitions of “what is sex”, we’d feel a lot safer to explore, we’d be able to enjoy things without the pressure of the implication we must then do everything else, and we’d more often let sex be an ongoing experience, rather than a set performance or obligation or nothing at all.
Basically? I think the world would be a happier, safer, more sexy-endorphin-filled place. And I am abundantly in favor of that.