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Sex

How Couples End Up Sexually Bored

Low desire, sexual monotony, and lack of affection.

Key points

  • In a new study, researchers explore the question: What does sexual boredom mean to you?
  • Several predisposing and maintenance factors of sexual boredom, including low desire, sexual monotony, and lack of affection, were noted.
  • Sexual boredom may be multifaceted; solutions range from expanding ones sexual repertoire to addressing underlying relational issues.

Sex typically brings up a myriad of emotions and reactions. The thought of sex can titillate and arouse, leading to feelings of lust, longing, desire, curiosity, or arousal. Sex can also illicit shame (i.e., “good girls don’t have sex”) and may bring about feelings of disgust or fear. For better or for worse, sex tends to illicit, well, feelings.

But, as many of us know, sex can sometimes lack this level of intensity. Sometimes sex feels sort of average, lackluster, disappointing, or even… boring.

The New Study

In a new study, just published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, researchers asked a sample of Portuguese individuals about their perceptions of sexual boredom. The sample included 653 participants between the ages of 18 and 75 (the average age was 33.14 years old). With regards to gender, 72.1 percent were women, 26.6 percent were men, 0.6 percent were non-binary, 0.6 percent identified as “other,” and 0.8 percent were transgender. Most participants (78.8 percent) were heterosexual, followed by 10.0 percent bisexual, 4.3 percent gay, 3.2 percent pansexual, 2.6 percent lesbian, 0.8 percent “other,” and 0.2 percent chose not to say.

The authors asked participants to respond to the open-ended question: “What is sexual boredom for you?”

The authors noted that 17 participants indicated that they had not experienced sexual boredom. The remaining 636 participants’ responses were grouped into the themes outlined below.

1. What Is Sexual Boredom? In terms of what sexual boredom meant to participants, about half the people in this study referred to times where sex felt routine, monotonous, and repetitive. Others said that sexual boredom came from the feeling that having sex was “mandatory” or, in other words, that sex was perceived as a duty or an obligation in their relationships, while others said sexual boredom was simply the result of having sex with the same person over a longer period of time.

Descriptions of sexual boredom were also associated with participants’ sexual responses. Specifically, many participants highlighted that having low or decreased sexual desire was associated with sexual boredom, and a smaller number identified that sexual arousal issues, difficulty reaching orgasm, and reduced sexual pleasure contributed to their experiences of sexual boredom.

Additionally, some participants described sexual boredom as the result of lower sexual frequency as well as lack of affection or emotional connection with their partner.

2. Predisposing and Maintenance Factors. In terms of participants’ descriptions of what led to sexual boredom, the authors identified three themes related to a) Individual Factors, b) Interpersonal Factors, and c) Practice-Related Factors.

Individual Factors included participants’ descriptions of having challenges concentrating and being present during sexual activity, feeling sadness or indifference during sex, as well as fatigue.

Interpersonal Factors included partner-related factors and relationship factors. For example, participants described boring sex occurred when sex was not seen as a balanced interaction between themselves and their partner, whether this was because their partner was perceived as being sexually “selfish,” or whether they felt their partner wasn’t enjoying sex as much as the participants were.

Participants in this study also noted that a lack of attraction and “spark” with their partner, general wanes in relationship satisfaction, and longer relationship duration could contribute to sexual boredom.

Finally, participants mentioned practice-related factors such as disappointment with their limited sexual repertoire (e.g., one participant said “there is much more to sex than penetration”).

3. Managing Sexual Boredom. The authors reported that some participants in their study described ways that they attempted to navigate sexual boredom. Specifically, a minority of participants identified acknowledging the problem and adopting new sexual practices. That is, a few participants described adopting new practices such as trying new sexual positions, experimenting with BDSM, or opening up their relationship.

However other participants described that there were circumstances preventing them from being able to circumvent their sexual boredom including a perceived lack of time to prioritize sex and “moral limits.”

Take Away

Ebbs and flows in our sexual satisfaction and sexual enjoyment are normal and common. The descriptions of sexual boredom in this study touched on numerous contributing factors, including sexual response (i.e., desire, arousal, and orgasm), monotony and routine, negative mood, difficulty concentrating, lack of closeness with a partner, and not having a partner be equally enthusiastic about having sex. Depending on the reason(s) for experiencing sexual boredom, there may be different, and perhaps more appropriate, ways of addressing the issue. While trying new sexual positions to spice things up may work for some who feel their sexual boredom comes from a limited sexual repertoire, others may need to address deeper relational or personal issues if they are looking to experience improvements in this area.

Facebook image: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

References

de Oliveira, L., Carvalho, J., & Nobre, P. (2021). Perceptions of sexual boredom in a community sample. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, http://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2020.1854405

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