Monday, August 31, 2015

Near Daily Sex

We counsel married couples to 'aim for near daily sex', but what does that mean exactly?

It doesn't mean that we make love every night, seven days a week and 365 days a year! It is rather a mindset, in that our default expectation each day is that we will be making love. 

Life happens, and circumstances intervene, and some nights we are just plain tired, so in practice we probably average only 4-5 times in a normal week, and sometimes one of us is sick or travelling and we go a whole week or more without making love, but the mindset is still important - rather than our default expectation being that we will not make love unless something special happens to put us in the mood, we expect that we will make love unless something extraordinary intervenes to stop us being intimate.

And that mindset is with us through the day, so we consciously build margin into our day so that we will have the time and energy left to make love, and we think about what we want to do that night, which helps to prepare us by building anticipation and desire, and we make sure that we head up to bed early enough, and together. And C is in the habit of wearing matching and attractive lingerie every day, with the expectation that I will be undressing her later!

As I have blogged before, many (most?) women in a long-term relationship, C included, do not regularly experience spontaneous physical desire or arousal ('horniness') in the way that us guys know it. So if we waited for C to be physically 'horny' before making love we would have a whole lot less sex. But once we start making out, she quickly gets into it and gets mentally turned-on and then her physical arousal follows, from which point she wants and needs sexual release as much as I do. Aiming for near daily sex means that C is in the mindset to start making out with me even though she is probably not 'in the mood' to start with, and to see where it goes, which is usually in the right direction!

And this becomes a habit. In case you think near daily sex is only for the first passionate years of marriage, we have been married 19 years and it is part of the entrenched fabric of our marriage relationship. 

So the narrative is one of us asking if we can skip a night when we are not up for it, rather than one of us begging to do it.

Research says that it takes 66 days for a behavior to become a habit, so I challenge you to commit to 'aiming for near daily sex' for the next 66 days, and see what happens in your bedroom narrative.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds and the impact on male sexual response

This has been a surprisingly tough post for me to write, as it is very personal, but my calling for this Blog is to share on intimacy in marriage based on my personal experiences, so I feel that I have to share, even if it has taken me a while to get round to posting on this topic.

My doctor put me onto an SNRI, Lexamil (Lexapro) about two years ago as I was going through a particularly stressful period at work that was triggering episodes of anxiety and panic attacks. It worked a treat for the anxiety, but over time I started experiencing adverse side effects that began to impact negatively on my sexual response. The side effects crept up on me slowly, so like the frog in the old experiment that stays sitting placidly in a pot of water over the stove as it is heated slowly to boiling point until the frog cooks, it took me a while to put two and two together and realise the cause of the problem.

The Lexapro did not impact my libido or my ability to achieve and maintain a firm erection, but rather the intensity of sensation in my penis and eventually my ability to reach orgasm. Over time the sensation slowly became less and the intensity of my orgasms decreased, until eventually I started to not be able to reach orgasm every 2nd or 3rd time that C and I made love. This happened especially when we made love on consecutive nights or more than once in a day, which is not a problem I have ever had before. When I did orgasm, it took much longer and I really had to focus to get there, or I would get close and then 'lose it'. It got to the stage where I was sometimes not even able to orgasm from oral sex or even while masturbating.

In the beginning I think C enjoyed the extended sessions of intercourse, given her rare ability to orgasm again and again (and again and again...) for as long as intercourse lasts, but she also eventually became concerned by my increasing inability to orgasm when we made love. She likes to feel me ejaculating inside her, and while making love was still pleasurable it somehow made sex feel 'incomplete' for both of us when it did not end with my orgasm.

When I eventually made the connection to my medication and started to do some research, it all became clear that the Lexapro was the culprit. In fact, I discovered that this class of SNRI's is used as the primary treatment for men suffering from premature ejaculation! As one internet commentator put it 'it felt like my penis had been anaesthetised' and that exactly described my experience.

I think the fact that it did not impact my libido or my ability to easily achieve a firm erection is why it took me so long to identify that there was a problem and what it was. If either of those items had been affected you can bet I would have been doing my research much earlier!

When I eventually spoke with my GP he was horrified that I had not discussed this with him earlier. We agreed to stop the medication, given that my stressful work issues had largely resolved by that stage, and to see how I went without it. My anxiety has been fine and the panic attacks have thankfully not recurred, so I have stopped the Lexapro and have not switched to another class of SNRI or SSRI medication that does not have sexual side effects, which is the other treatment option for those experiencing this side effect of Lexapro.

Stopping SNRI's had a lot of its own side effects though. As the medication is stored in the gall of the liver, it can take up to 3 months to exit the system. I experienced a number of the withdrawal symptoms that are listed for Lexapro, including dizziness, difficulty in falling asleep and vivid dreams. These wore off quite quickly though over 3-4 weeks, while my sensitivity and ability to orgasm also recovered quite quickly over the same period.

Happily, the sensation in my penis and my ability to orgasm have been fully restored and are back to being as they were. It was fantastic to get the sensation back and for a period making love felt like new all over again - I had forgotten how amazingly intense a good orgasm can be! It is not something I take for granted anymore!

So if your doctor prescribes an SNRI or SSRI for you, please consider the possible sexual side effects and discuss them with your doctor before you start taking them. And if you are experiencing any of the side effects that I had, or start to experience these, please chat to your doctor sooner rather than later, as there are alternative treatment options available.

Related older post: Hormones

(Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional and am not qualified to give any healthcare related advice; I am writing here purely from my own experience. Please do not start or stop taking any prescription or over the counter medication without first consulting with your GP!)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Some open survey links - I would love your input

With Facebook's new sharing policy, it has become increasingly difficult for me to collect survey responses from my Facebook followers, which is where most of my respondents used to come from.

So I am listing here on my Blog, which averages around a thousand hits a month, all my recent surveys that are still open because I do not yet have enough respondents and data to publish meaningful findings for them.

A lot of the findings and comments to date are interesting, so I just need to get enough additional respondents to be comfortable that the published findings are statistically relevant.

If you have a couple of minutes please fill out a couple of them, they are all very short.

Lights on or lights off? -

Wives, when in the your monthly cycle is sex best for you? -

Hubbies love breasts but we know very little about your intimate relationship with your breasts and what you experience, like and don't like when it comes to the role of your breasts in intimacy. Wives, please help educate us! -

Kissing after oral sex - do you or don't you?

As soon as I have enough respondents, usually over 100 but ideally 200, I promise to write blog posts to publish and share the findings.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Horrible Sex!

So last night C and I had horrible sex. We should have given up about 3 times through the process, but we are too stubborn and were both determined to soldier on and not give up - neither one of us wanted to admit it was horrible and not working!

The point is, sex is not going to be wonderful every time for anyone, no matter what the movies want us to believe. I read once that for every 10 times a long-term couple make love, 6 times will be 'nice' and satisfying, 2 times will be blow your mind fantastic sex that leaves you gripping the sheets and gasping for breath afterwards while your world slowly stops spinning and as you start to focus again you look at each other in amazement and simultaneously go 'Wow!', and the other 2 times will be horrible. For us last night was one of those 2 times!

To start with, C was in the mood and I was stressed and grumpy, so she gave me some time to chill. By the time I had relaxed and was ready to go, C was tired and battled to get back into the mood. But we have had an unusually long break for us - almost 2 weeks - since C had thrush from antibiotics following a spider bite and then was on straight after that, and we felt like we were long overdue and had to break our drought, so instead of just calling it quits, we persevered. But we just weren't in sync and everything was off - our kissing, touching, everything just wasn't working like it usually does for us. Then I wanted C to be on top, and she wanted me to be on top - another sign we were both too tired and should just have called it quits - but by that time I was aroused and after a two week break stopping at that point would just have been painful (literally), so we settled for missionary and eventually managed to grind out our respective and rather resentful orgasms before rolling to our opposite sides of the bed and falling asleep.

Why am I (over)sharing this? Because some readers think that those of us who blog about sex in marriage have easy and amazing sex lives and that we are somehow special and different and thus not relevant because we don't have the same struggles with intimacy that they do. But that is not true. Even though we are sex positive in our relationship, and have lots of sex, most of it pretty good most of the time, we also go through our ups and downs. We are selfish, we fight, we take out our stress on each other, we go through high and lows and sexual dry spells and amazing spells and long ordinary spells of quiet intimacy in between.

But we persevere, and we forgive and we move on, and most of all we never give up on our sex life or on each other. We aim for 'near daily' sex and although we don't generally get there, or manage to keep it up for very long when we do, it is always our goal, and we both work hard to get back to it.

This morning when we woke up, we both smiled sheepishly and said 'sorry about last night', and we both know that tonight, or tomorrow night, or the next, we will have one of those blow your mind fantastic sessions that leaves us gripping the sheets and gasping for breath afterwards while our world slowly stops spinning, and that as we start to focus again we will look at each other in amazement and simultaneously go 'Wow!'

Monday, January 5, 2015

Results of Survey - Sexual boundaries before and in marriage

Results of Survey - Sexual boundaries before and in marriage

This post presents the results of a survey that ran some months ago. The survey sought to analyse a couple of things – the average age at which respondents first tried different sexual experiences, the number of partners with whom respondents have engaged in different sexual practices, whether different things were tried before marriage or kept for the marriage bed, and the prevalence of cheating through engaging in different sexual experiences with others post marriage.
I must point out that this survey was poorly answered in relation to other surveys that I have authored. I only had 75 respondents, of which 30% (23) were female and 70% (52) were male. I usually like 200 or more responses, and a better spread of male and female respondents, to share the results of a survey, but have decided to present the findings anyway as they illustrate some interesting patterns. The spread of respondents across age groups was fairly even, from 18-64 year olds. Most respondents (63%) were married between the ages of 18-24 and 33% between 25-29. Only 4% were married after the age of 30, which in itself is interesting.

Summary and key take-aways
If nothing else, the statistics below on the age of first sexual experiences should have parents of pre-teens, tweens and young teens rushing off to have a frank and open discussion about intimacy and sex with their children. I think as parents we think we can delay ‘the talk’ until the mid-teens, but this is far too late as the data below illustrates. You need to be starting to have age-appropriate discussions with your children from an early age, and you need to include a discussion on orgasms, masturbation and the dangers of pornography in particular with your children from under the age of 10 (gasp!).

I remember experiencing my first orgasm at the age of 11 and thereafter discovering masturbation long before my parents thought to leave a rather basic teen guide to sex (‘where babies come from’) on my bedside table, that did not address at all masturbation, orgasm or any of the other physical or emotional aspects of puberty, sex or relationships that I was grappling with at the time. I muddled through a rather perplexing year until I managed to track down a more comprehensive text at our public library that shed light on my experiences and reassured me I was not abnormal after all!
Pornography is rampant, and for many tweens will be their first exposure to sex, together with all the negative implications that this brings – including a focus purely on the physical and not the emotional and spiritual aspects of sex and intimacy, the degradation of women and a lack of consideration for the woman’s pleasure, and violent and extreme forms of sex, or at best the ‘Hollywood myth’ of simultaneous orgasms from intercourse, being presented as the norm.

Couples are engaging in sexual activity before marriage as a norm rather than an exception. Only 40% of respondents waited until after marriage to engage in intercourse, while many more engaged in oral sex (70%), genital stimulation (85%) and breast play (87%) before marriage. As church leaders and counsellors, and especially in pre-marriage counselling, we need to acknowledge this fact and we need address it with dating and engaged couples, rather than assuming purity to be the norm.
The number of sexual partners in the responses to this survey were lower than the statistics I have seen quoted in other wider surveys. Again, the small population size, and the fact that most respondents are likely to be practicing Christians, may well have skewed the data in this regard.

My final take-away was the prevalence of infidelity, with roughly 20% of respondents admitting to having engaged in various forms of sexual activity with someone other than their spouse since their marriage.
Age of first sexual experience:

First Orgasm
10% of male respondents had their first orgasm before the age of 10, 27% between the ages of 11-12, 35% between the ages of 13-14 and the balance of 28% between 15-16 years old.
17% of female participants experienced their first orgasm before the age of 10! 12% between the ages of 11-14, and then a big jump to 30% between the ages of 15-16. 19% between 17-21 and the remaining 12% as adults over the age of 21.

First Masturbation
15% of male respondents started masturbating before the age of 10, 31% between 11-12, 30% between 13-14 and the remaining 24% between 15-16.

The female respondents were more widely spread. 13% of female respondents started masturbating before the age of 10, 17% between the ages of 11-12, 17% between 13-14, 26% between 15-16, 7% between 17-21, and the remaining 12% only started masturbating as adults. 4% of female respondents indicated that they do not masturbate.
Interestingly, the percentages for the ages of starting to masturbate and the age of first orgasm do not correlate for the female participants, indicating that for a portion of the women, they started experimenting with masturbation for a while before first achieving orgasm.

First exposure to pornography
20% of male respondents were exposed to porn before their 10th birthday! A further 23% between 11-12, 17% between 13-14, 23% between 15-16 and the rest between 17-18. No male participants have had no exposure to porn or were only first exposed to porn as adults.
There was a big gender differential here, with 21% of female respondents indicating that they have never had exposure to porn. 9% of the women first saw porn as 11-12 year olds, 13% as 13-14 year olds, 8% as 15-16 year olds and 22% as 17-18 year olds. The remaining 25% were 18 or older.

Again, as parents this is a sobering statistic, and we need to consider whether we want our childrens’ first ideas about sex to come from porn or from us.

Age of first sexual experiences with a partner, number of partners, stage of relationship, and cheating:

For these, to avoid too much detail, I have not differentiated the male and female statistics, and I have not provided the percentages for each age group, but just the median age and any numbers that really stand out for me.

French kissing
20% of respondents first tried this at 12-13 years of age and a further 20% at 14-15 and 27% at 16-17. The median age was 16.
The median number of partners that respondents have done this with was 3-5. 22% have only French kissed one person, and 26% have kissed more than 10 partners.

32% of respondents did this with their husband/wife for the first time before dating exclusively and 58% while dating exclusively. 4% waited until they were engaged, and 5% until they were married.
21% of participants admit to having kissed someone other than their spouse since they have been married.

Breast play
19% of respondents first engaged in breast play at 14-15 years, 27% at 16-17 years and 19% at 18-19. The median age was 16.
The median number of partners was 3-5. 28% have only done this with one person, and 13% with more than 10 partners.

18% of married spouses engaged in breast play before dating exclusively, and 53% while dating exclusively. 17% waited until they were engaged, and the remaining 13% until after marriage.
18% of respondents admit to having engaged in breast play with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.

Genital stimulation (3rd base)
12% of respondents first engaged in genital stimulation at 14-15 years, 31% at 16-17, 21% at 18-19 and 11% at 20-21. The median age is 16-17 with 54% of respondents having engaged in genital stimulation with a partner before turning 18.
The median number of partners is 3-5. 31% have only done this with one person, and 14% with more than 10 partners.

13% of married spouses engaged in genital stimulation before dating exclusively, 50% while dating exclusively, and 22% while engaged. Only 15% waited until after marriage.
22% of respondents admit to having engaged in genital stimulation with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.

Mutual masturbation
30% of participants have never masturbated together with, or in the presence of, a partner. The percentage of teens engaging in this practice is also low based on the responses, with only 14% doing this before the age of 18. 26% tried this for the first time at 18-19, which is also the median age amongst those that have engaged in this practice.
The median number of partners for mutual masturbation is 1. 30% have only ever done this with one partner. 10% of respondents have done this with more than 10 partners.

6% of married spouses engaged in mutual masturbation before dating exclusively, 37% while dating exclusively, and 9% while engaged. 21% waited until after marriage.
16% of respondents admit to having engaged in mutual masturbation with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.

Oral Sex
15% of respondents have never received oral sex, and 7% have never given oral sex. I think this mismatch is down to having twice as many male as female respondents, with more men than women willing to give oral sex. This is evident from the male respondents, with 6% saying they have never given oral sex, but 18% never having received it.
Amongst the sample, oral sex amongst teens is quite low, with only 20% having received oral sex and 11% have given it before the age of 18. The most common age for first experience with oral sex is 18-19, with 30% receiving it and 34% giving it for the first time at this age.

I then had a look at any gender differences with first time oral sex.  For the women respondents, 18% received oral sex for the first time before the age of 18, and 30% between 18-19. For the men, 20% received oral sex for the first time before the age of 18, and 30% between 18-19. 13% of the women respondents gave oral sex before the age of 18 and 30% gave oral sex for the first time between 18-19; while for the men, 10% gave oral sex for the first time before the age of 18, and 35% between 18-19.
These statistics are roughly equal and thus quite different to what I have read from other studies, where the prevalence of oral sex amongst teens is much higher, and where it seems that there is more pressure on young women than men to provide oral sex. Again, the limited size of the population for this survey, and probably also the Christian base of respondents, has possibly impacted the data here.

The median number of partners for giving oral sex to is 2. 43% of respondents have only ever given oral sex to 1 person. 12% of respondents have done this with more than 10 partners.
6% of married spouses engaged in oral sex before dating exclusively, 45% while dating exclusively, and 16% while engaged. 30% waited until after marriage.

20% of respondents admit to having engaged in oral sex with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.
First intercourse
No respondents in the sample had intercourse before the age of 14. 4% were 14-15, 10% 16-17 and 35% 18-19, which is also the median age. 12% were 20-21, 19% 22-24 and 15% 25-29.

The median number of partners for intercourse is 1. 50% of respondents have only ever had intercourse with 1 person. Only 3% of respondents have had intercourse with more than 10 partners.
7% of married spouses engaged in intercourse before dating exclusively, 46% while dating exclusively, and 7% while engaged. Only 40% waited until after marriage.

19% of respondents admit to having engaged in intercourse with someone other than their spouse since they have been married. Of this 18%, 7% have had one other partner since marriage, 6% have had 2 other partners, 3% have had 3 other partners, and 3% have had 5 or more other partners.
Anal sex
57% of respondents have never tried anal sex. Amongst those who have, 22% were 18-19 the first time they tried it, 22% were 20-21 and 26% were 22-24. The remaining 30% were evenly spread over the older age groups surveyed.

The median number of partners for anal sex to is zero. Of those who have had anal sex, over 70% have had only one partner. 5% of respondents have done this with more than 10 partners.
No married spouses engaged in anal sex before dating exclusively, 16% did it while dating exclusively, and 6% while engaged. The other 20% only tried this after marriage.

6% of respondents admit to having engaged in anal sex with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.
S&M and Group Sex
Just under 80% of respondents have not engaged in these practices. Of those that have, all were 18 years or older when they first tried it. The median age for those that have tried it is 22-24.

Of the 21% who have engaged in S&M, the median number of partners is one. Of those who have engaged in Group sex, the median number of partners is 2.
5% of married spouses engaged in S&M while dating exclusively, 3% while engaged and the other 15% after marriage.

Of the married couples who have engaged in group sex, 2% tried it while engaged and 5% after marriage.
No respondents who have engaged in S&M have done so with someone other than their spouse since they have been married.

It does not make sense to present this metric of infidelity for those engaging in group sex – the question also did not differentiate as to whether or not the spouse was included in the group or was aware of the activity.
Bi-curious and gay sex
84% (62 of the 74 respondents) of respondents have not experimented with gay sex. Of those that have, there was a pretty even spread from the 12-13 years old category through to the 30-39 years old category for first time experience. Of the 12 respondents who have experienced gay sex, 11 were men and one was a woman.

Of the 21% who have engaged in gay sex, the median number of partners is more than 10.
5% of married respondents admit to having had gay sex since their marriage to their current spouse.