Help me cure lesbian bed-death!
October 11, 2005 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me cure lesbian bed-death. Lesbians and non-lesbians alike are welcome to reply. It's a not-so-funny joke in the gay community that a few months into a serious relationship. lesbians stop having sex. My partner and I have been together for six years now, and, although we talk about sex (especially how much we miss it!) we don't have sex. Maybe once a month, possibly less often than that.

We are young (20's) and although we have both struggled with weight and body issues we are currently getting fit and feeling awesome about our bodies. We used to think that it was that we felt fat and not at all sexy, but with the fat part disappearing, we still don't feel sexy.

Last year we had a threesome, with a man. For my partner it confirmed that she was definitely a lesbian. For me it was like having a hands-free dildo. Neither of us got our rocks off that night, but for a couple of weeks afterward we had the best sex of our lives. This, however, is not a solution to the problem. I don't want to have to bring another person into the relationship periodically just so that the two of us can have good sex later.

Other than that experience, we are each other's only sexual partner. We were each other's first. We are open and experimentative, we talk about everything, and we are open to trying just about anything - that is, if we haven't already. When we do have sex it is very enjoyable, but for the most part (and we have discussed this) we would both rather, ahem, take care of it ourselves.

So my question is: how can we get interested in sex again? How can we get interested in each other? We cuddle, we chat, we do all those love-dovey things every single day (what can I say, we are affectionate), we just don't have sex. And yes, it is a problem, because we both miss it very much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I highly recommend a book called Passionate Marriage. The premise is that enmeshment -- the blurring of emotional boundaries -- causes dimming of the sexual fires, and that developing one's ability to tolerate anxiety and conflict can help reignite them.

Enmeshment is a chronic problem among long-term couples, and even more so between women, who are socialized to merge their identities with that of the beloved.

My partner and I found this book very helpful when we were struggling with the dreaded LBD.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:28 PM on October 11, 2005

Fixed link.
posted by fleacircus at 6:16 PM on October 11, 2005

I strongly urge you to not diagnose yourselves with "lesbian bed death." All sexual relationships slow down. Limerance wears off. Millions of heterosexual women would envy your loving relationship.

Have you talked with a lesbian therapist about your decreased libidos? Discussing this with a third party might uncover stuff that's cooled you off; e.g., maybe your partner isn't comfortable with the memory of the three-way you had?
posted by Carol Anne at 6:38 PM on October 11, 2005

From experience with a friend's situation, if you want to have sex more often, put it in your schedule. Put down the dates, the time and the place. Send reminder emails. Consider even doing the hotel room thing. Yes, to an extent, scheduling "sex time" is crude and unspontaneous but it seems to work really well.
posted by nixerman at 6:48 PM on October 11, 2005

how can we get interested in sex again?

FWIW, I have been in the same situation in a heterosexual relationship. I think the only thing that helps is to pursue things that turn you on - one of you or both (but at least one of you). Sometimes you have to face the fact that you have set up your lifestyle to be very unsexy. Try something different, even if it involves pushing boundaries. It sounds like you tried that once and it worked. Keep trying. Try anything. Going out to a different restaurant. Watching porn. Jogging together. A Pride Parade. Cooking desserts naked. Having sex in front of someone or a camera. In public. It sounds like you have a strong, experimentative (like that formation) relationship and can handle pushing boundaries a bit. Try living a more sensual life in general - always having nice music on, setting aside time to take a bath together, spoiling yourselves with good food, getting high when you feel like it. And stir the pot with a variety of different things until you tap into your sexual energy (which is clearly there).

I am not a big proponent of "putting it in your schedule" because nothing's unsexier than an Outlook reminder to "have sex with partner" but you do actually have to TRY sometimes. Just setting aside the fatigue of the day or the initial sense of "mmm not in the mood right now" is often enough to crack the ice and get the juices flowing. Decide whether you're too tired or not in the mood AFTER 5 minutes of foreplay.

Needless to say, being clean and presentable at all times is important. Sometimes we settle into a domestic slump where we're so comfortable being casual and earthy around our partners that we never get to see each other at our best. Put on an outfit like you're going on a date. TRY to get laid just as hard as you would in that situation.
posted by scarabic at 7:32 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

One book that I would recommend would be The Five Love Languages. It helps you determine the actions that make your partner feel secure and happy with your relationship. That means different things for different people.

In my experience, women generally have lower sex drives than men, but that doesn't mean you have to accept "Lesbian Bed Death." I've been there with a few relationships, but I think it's a situation that's created out of resignation and habit. In my current relationship, I understand exactly what turns my partner on, and make it a point to exercise those actions every day. Even when I don't feel like it. It's the first relationship that I've been in that hasn't experienced Lesbian Bed Death. I can't say it will work for everyone, but it certainly keeps us hot for each other.
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:31 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I also recommend the book Passionate Marriage, by a sex therapist named Schnarch. (I believe he came up with an alternate title for those who thing the word 'marriage' is limiting.)

I have to warn you that the writing is very ponderous, and some chapters are just about unreadable. Just try to summarize it in your head as you zip along. And try not to let the author's ego get in your way. What he has to say is valid for a lot of couples.

Schnarch believes that it's actually normal for sexual interest to wane when two people compromise a lot and share a lot, both trying to do the right thing by one another. He says that some of the selfless things we do because we think we're being generous and considerate, actually end up making us feeling like we've lost a part of ourselves. If you get separate, find your separate selves again, you'll be more interested in being together sexually.

It, and a Scharch workshop, helped me and my mate when joint counseling and lots of well-meaning effort had done nothing to help us. It's not magic, but if it rings true for you at all when you look at the book, why not look a little deeper into it.
posted by wryly at 9:48 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

we would both rather, ahem, take care of it ourselves.

Maybe you should spend a week not doing that. Don't allow yourself to default to a guaranteed orgasm.
posted by nadawi at 10:05 PM on October 11, 2005

Believe it or not, "trying something new" is not the first step you should take. People seem to habitually fall into that silly trap.

What really works is just trying. Sex begets horniness begets more sex. It's a self-fulfilling cycle that just needs a little care and attention to get rolling along nicely. You can choose to get that kickstart by trying out all sorts of new kinks and shit... but it's not the new that's gonna do it so much as the fact that you're actually putting some effort into doing it.

So my suggestion is that you choose a "hedonism evening" once a week, one where you don't have to go to bed early or get up early the next day. Make it an expectation: on Friday, from 4PM to 9AM, you and your partner spoil yourselves.

Crack open a bottle of good wine. Prepare an excellent dinner - or order in pizza, whatever is truly hedonistic for you. Smoke a joint and watch some goofy-assed movie together. Eat some 80% organic, fair-trade chocolate (Green & Blacks is excellent). Have a shower together. Spend some time pleasuring each other, doesn't matter if that means backrubs or getting it on, just whatever is hedonistic for you.

When everything in your evening is all about you and your partner and the enjoyment of fine, wonderful things, you can't help but have a great time. I rather suspect you can find ways to make arousing and pleasuring each other a part of that great time.

I suggest this for all couples. It's one of the tricks to living a great life.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

There is this notion about sex being something one does at night.

Just for the sake of fun, try it at a different time of day.
posted by Goofyy at 2:11 AM on October 12, 2005

Maybe you should spend a week not doing that. Don't allow yourself to default to a guaranteed orgasm.

Excellent advice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:47 AM on October 12, 2005

First off, let me tell you that I and I think all of my lesbian friends have all experienced the same thing at some point during long-term relationships. Yes, it also commonly happens in heterosexual relationships, but in my experience it's different with women.

I frequently wonder why. It might have something to do with the fact that women tend to be a bit less aggressive in bed than men. Or that it generally takes longer to turn a woman on than a man. Or that it requires more effort for both women to orgasm together. Or that if one partner wants an orgasm (not self-induced), the other can't just lie back and think of England but has to be actively involved.

Anyway, enough theorizing. Here's what my wife and I have done about it:
- Whenever one of us is horny, we make sure to grab the moment and it's the horny person's job to turn the other one on. That way the roles are clearly defined and at least one of us is already ready to go.
- We don't schedule time to have sex because that just feels contrived to us and doesn't mean that either one of us will be in the mood. What we do try to do is schedule some downtime in bed during the day on the weekend. If it leads to sex, great, if not, we just cuddle and love on each other.
- We get turned on by seeing each other turned on. So one of our best tricks is simply to slowly go down on the other person until she really gets into it, which will almost always turn the other person on along the way. If you're willing to say 'I'm not really in the mood right now but I'll keep an open mind', you're on the right path.

My strongest suggestion to you both would be to act on it whenever you feel a twinge of horniness, even if it's not the 'right time'. Get back into the habit of having sex and don't wait for the perfect time when every household chore is done and the angels sing. Just do it.
posted by widdershins at 10:18 AM on October 12, 2005 [2 favorites]

I want to reinforce that this is an affliction of all couples, lesbian gay bi or hetero (try having a baby and hitting your mid-thirties, honey). That "new relationship smell" will keep most people's sex lives cooking for a good while. General excitement and enthusiasm with the partner spills easily over into an active sex life. I suspect that the novelty of the third partner, outside your usual sexual pattern, simply refreshed that aspect for a while.

I think it's pretty easy to see why it's easy for it to drop off. Good sex with a partner is work as well as fun: it takes time, energy, and there can be anxiety over whether it's going well. Suddenly something that should be a good time, a source of contentment and satisfaction, is a big deal and yeah, why not just masturbate and scratch the itch and go to bed. No anxiety there. Well, you know why - because you're not satisfied or happy in a sexless relationship.

Although it isn't my way, I want to say I know for some "scheduling," despite the anti-sponteneity onus, has worked - perhaps because it takes the burden off the whole silent "will we/won't we" dialog and anxiety over whether an advance will be rebuffed. Knowing it's just gonna happen can be a turn on. But truly, for others the feeling that "I have to whether I want to or not" is the ultimate turn-off. Depends on the couple, but don't reject it out of hand.

I'd really second widdershins' sentiment: it is one of these things where the main thing is to cut through all the cognitive clutter and just do it. When the urge strikes pounce, and agree together to do your best to be game when the other decides they wanna and you're not quite in the mood. Advanced technique, not for the faint of heart - one says, I'm horny, the other says, I'm not in the mood? The horny one says fine then, I'm going to do myself - and you have to watch. You'd be amazed how often that "not in the mood" proves unequal to that enticement.

And be aware it is an ongoing thing. There is no one solution or magic bullet. I've been in a committed relationship for a decade and you gotta keep working at the sex, just like everything else. And you know what? It's worth it.
posted by nanojath at 9:19 PM on October 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

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