Meet The Johnsons, the boisterous couple that live next to me in my thin-walled apartment building. Mrs. Johnson has vocal cords that could put opera singers to shame, and Mr. Johnson has the stamina of a professional athlete. I’m convinced that this couple rarely leaves the house in the evenings (or mornings, or during the day for that matter) as I can clearly hear all of their rambunctious, unrestrained, ear-splitting monkey loving (and yes, on one occasion I’m sure I heard an actual monkey).
Comparing ourselves to noisy neighbours
On one particular evening when Mrs. Johnson was hitting a solid G6 in her vocal range, I pondered the effect the Johnsons were having on our other neighbor’s assumptions about the normality of sex within a long term relationship. Were these couples inflicted two-fold with the inevitable question of how often they ‘should be’ having sex? And what other factors lead us to want to classify what is normative in the bedroom?
The cause of our inferiority complexes
My belief? The social and cultural metamorphoses that have taken place in the last fifty years (from women’s liberation and sexual revolution to the widespread availability of the birth control pill) has redefined our views of modern relationships. Mix that transformation with the media’s continual pushing of sexuality – conscious and unconsciously presented -in the majority of our mainstream outlets, and the drug companies ability to convince us that we’re all in need of pharmaceuticals (Viagra, Cialis etc), and the result is a heightened fear surrounding our sexual normality. All of these changes within our society have therefore helped to produce the “common couple,” who worry that they don’t measure up, as they don’t have sex often enough, or sustain erections long enough.
What is normal
So what do I tell this ”common couple” about what is ‘normal’?
My answer is always the same: Studies will come and go placing you above or below average, science will continue to prove itself wrong, society’s acceptance and expectations of you will constantly change, and you and your relationship will continue to evolve and vary as years go on. All that really matters is if you and your partner are satisfied. If that means you’re having sex for ten minutes once a month, then that’s fine, if it means forty-five minutes a day, seven times a week, that’s fine as well. Simply put, trying to live up to The Johnsons isn’t a positive goal to strive for, or a good metre to judge your sex life by. Why? Quality and quantity are two different things, and often one is traded for the other. So, I can quote you studies that say two to three times a week is “average,” and I can quote you recent ones that profess to the fact that anything more than once a week is above normative. But in reality, as long as you and your partner are satisfied, numbers are simply a moot point.
Dr. Teesha Morgan is a sex therapist based in Vancouver, BC.