High Sex Drive: What’s Normal?
TLDR; There’s no such thing as a “normal” sex drive — but there are ways to deal with perhaps a mismatched sex drive with your partner(s).
When people ask how much sex is too much or if their sex drive is too high, it’s usually because they’re wondering if their sex drive is normal. Here’s the thing: There’s no one measure of “normal” when it comes to arousal, desire, and how often you have sex. It’s a bit more complicated than that. But don’t worry – if you’ve ever worried that your sex drive is too high (or too low), we’ve got you covered.
What’s a sex drive?
When people say “sex drive,” what they generally mean is “how often someone wants sex.” How often someone has sex, their level of arousal, and experience of desire are all three unique things. Sometimes they overlap, but they can all also exist at different levels at the same time.
There is no set number of times it’s “normal” to have sex per week, per month, or per year. While there are sexual behavior national averages based on age brackets and relationship type, an average doesn’t indicate if something is normal, and it also doesn’t take sexual satisfaction into account.
Desire and arousal
If we think of desire as being our mind and body’s way of telling us we want something, then arousal is the physiological response to that desire. But the two can exist independently of each other – you can desire someone, and yet not become aroused, and you can become aroused but not actually desire someone. Humans are complicated like that.
Arousal, as Dr. Emily Nagoski explains in Come As You Are, operates on a two-lever system: the sexual inhibition system (your brake pedals) and the sexual excitement system (your gas pedals). We usually only think of the things that turn us on as affecting our arousal, but actually, for many people, the things that turn us off (both actively and passively) have a large effect on arousal. Someone might have a very sensitive arousal gas pedal, so they feel “turned on” easily, which might lead them to pursue more sexual experiences than they might otherwise. Some people have sensitive brake pedals, and even if their gas pedals are being pressed on, the brakes might be, too. And people can exist in any of these configurations.
Managing your high sex drive
If your high sex drive isn’t negatively affecting your life, then you don’t need to do anything to manage it. Seriously! If you’re having pleasurable experiences and your sex life isn’t getting in the way of other things, you’re good to go.
High sex drive can become a problem when it leads to sexual compulsivity, or having sex with people or in situations who you wouldn’t normally because your brain is telling you that you need to have sex. Other negative impacts include not going to work or wanting to hang out with friends so you can watch porn (hey, we all need “me” time, but if it’s starting to impact your work or social life, then it might be a problem). Something else to watch out for is putting yourself in unsafe sexual situations.
If that’s something you’re experiencing, then talking with a counselor about what’s going on can be helpful — just be sure to find someone who is sex-positive and who makes you feel comfortable and supported.
What to do when your partner has a high sex drive but you don’t
Mismatches in sex drive commonly happen. Plus, even if you and your partners were well-matched in desire at one point, life circumstances may have shifted that context and your experience of desire may have shifted with it.
Navigating this situation can feel murky and complicated. There are certain things you can do to try to get back in step with your partner(s) or to reshape your sex life to better meet your needs.
While some people hold onto the belief that you can’t or shouldn’t masturbate while you’re in a relationship, nothing could be further from the truth. Masturbation is an act of self-care, and if you’re experiencing a mismatch in sex drive, then the person with a higher sex drive might want to take matters into their own hands, so to speak.
Opening up or reconfiguring your relationship isn’t for everyone, but consider if it’s something that might make sense for you and your relationship. There are many different ways to open up a relationship, and everyone’s ground rules will look different. The one constant is that if you are going to shift to a non-monogamous relationship style, you must do so ethically: Everyone involved needs to be clear on what the rules and boundaries are, and you must put in a good faith effort to uphold those.
Talking about satisfaction and fantasy
Have you and your partners ever really talked about what turns you on, the fantasies that you have, and what most excites you sexually? Most people skirt around these topics, assuming their partners just know what they like by virtue of being with them. Which...isn’t true. As much as we’d maybe like our partners to be sexual savants, the reality is that no one is going to know what a fulfilling sexual experience looks like for you unless you tell them.
Talking about the things you fantasize about (and perhaps want to try) sexually can go a long way.
When should you see an expert about your/your partner’s sex drive?
If you find yourself fighting with your partner about your mismatched sex drive more often than you’re trying to work it out constructively, consider seeing a relationship or sex therapist. Disagreements or feelings of resentment about your sex life could be an indication of something deeper going on in the relationship, and it helps to have a pro extrapolate what that might be.
If you’re worried your sex drive is too high, the takeaway is this: There is no amount of times that it’s normal to have sex. As long as you communicate your desires and needs, know that you aren’t acting compulsively, and are having fulfilling sexual experiences, you’re good to consensually frolic as often as you’d like!