This piece originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.
Ask VICE is a series where readers ask VICE to solve their problems, from dealing with unrequited love to handling annoying flatmates. Today, we’re hoping to help a reader who finds sex with their partner boring.
I’m not really sure if my problem is really a problem; maybe I’m dealing with something very common. When I was a teenager, sex was the most exciting thing in the world, and I’ve always viewed myself as an open-minded and free-spirited woman. I regularly watched porn, my friends gave me a small vibrator as a gift when I was 13 and as soon as I’d lost my virginity (aged 15) I started sleeping around and experimenting. I went on the pill around the same time.
I’ve always really loved the slow buildup of tension before you sleep with someone, so I went looking for those moments. My favourite thing to do was go out on a Friday night, make out with someone I barely knew and, if I was in luck, go home with them. They were usually men, but I slept with women too. I enjoyed the sex but, to be honest, the excitement faded away after the first few minutes.
As I entered my twenties, I craved a more intimate connection. I began having serious relationships, but no matter how great they were, I quickly lost interest in sex. This has nothing to do with my partner’s bedroom skills. Quite the opposite: He knows exactly what he’s doing and is eager to try new things.
I still feel like having sex, but once we get going I lose interest and sometimes even feel uncomfortable. It all seems so monotonous and exhausting. I don’t feel like getting dirty, changing the sheets and being physically tired. In these moments, I have to really focus to get horny; something I usually accomplish by fantasising about having sex for the first time with someone else.
I’ve already tried several things to remedy the situation: I stopped taking the pill for a while, bought different toys, and tried watching porn together. He even tied me up once, and we’ve also opened up our relationship. It all helped for a bit, but then I got bored again.
My biggest fantasy is about group sex, but I’m afraid that would ultimately bore me too. My sex drive is very high, so for now, I squeeze in some quick masturbation when I get horny – it’s easier. But it’s also a shame, because I do miss the feeling that I used to get from having good sex.
Is there a way to make sex with my partner exciting and fun again? Or is everlasting sexual joy not on the cards for me?
It’s not surprising that sex with the same person loses some of its lustre as time passes: Studies show that the feeling of sexual satisfaction within a relationship reaches its peak after 12 months. Other research found that women are more likely to get bored of having sex with the same partner when compared to men.
“I constantly hear from couples who say that sex within their relationship isn’t as interesting as before,” said sexologist Yuri Ohlrichs, who works for Dutch Rutgers Center for Gender, Sexuality, Law & Policy. “For one couple it’s an issue, for another it’s a relief, because sex isn’t as important to them.”
You write that you miss the feeling you get from having really good sex. And I can reassure you: Just because you’re bored with the way you’re currently having sex, doesn’t mean you have to give up on having exciting sex, even with your current partner.
There are several possible reasons why your desire to have sex doesn’t extend into the act itself. Taking the pill as a contraceptive could definitely have something to do with it. “Other medication, too, such as antidepressants, can cause sex to be less pleasurable,” Ohlrichs explained.
Being bored during sex could also have a mental cause. Perhaps you’re experiencing a lot of stress, feeling out of sorts emotionally, or maybe your life – and all of the responsibilities that come with it – has been in flux, relegating sex to take the back seat for now.
Ohlrichs thinks this is a good time to re-examine how you feel about sex. Some questions that are important to ask in this context are: “Are you communicating well? How does the sex start? Are you in sync and do you want the same things, or do your wishes differ? And afterwards, do you treat each other with attention and care?” Ohlrichs said.
You write that you associate sex with dirty sheets. Does sex seem a bit dirty to you, even though it turns you on? “It could very well be that you’ve been told in the past that sex is dirty, which might cause you to never fully enjoy it and to have a more difficult time opening up emotionally during it,” Ohlrichs added.
This might also lead you to mainly associate sex with the physical act; a quick tryst with someone you hardly know. Consequently, you could have an easier time getting “dirty” with a stranger whose opinion you do not value as much as your partner’s.
What leads up to the sex and comes after it is important to take into consideration too. If you hate cleaning up after sex, that will influence how much you enjoy the act. If your partner can take care of that for you, for instance, that might take some pressure off your shoulders, Ohlrichs said.
Besides, “It may be that what you miss in sex is not purely physical,” he added. Maybe you just need to talk about your day after sex, making it feel less like a physical chore with only an orgasm as the goal. “Or you can try out tantra, which is all about building the tension between partners by delaying the orgasm,” he said.
Ohlrichs stresses the importance of not being afraid to keep voicing your desires. “You write that you’d like to try group sex, but that you’re worried that this would also bore you,” he said. “I’d advise you to still try it out sometime, without assuming beforehand that it won’t be good. That thought alone can cause the actual experience to be less pleasurable.”
Maybe you’ll discover that sex is a purely physical act to you. Maybe you’ll find that you actually prefer to have impersonal and wild sex with your romantic partner – treating each other like strangers, potentially with a third person thrown into the mix.
Another thing to consider is location: Home might feel like a place to get comfortable and unwind with a TV show rather than somewhere to get it on. “In that case, you and your partner can look for a different location together: someone else’s bedroom, or a hotel room,” Ohlrichs said.
While you give yourself time to figure this out, you should also ask your partner what they think of your shared sex life. Perhaps he’s also losing interest, and your answer lies in seeking out more excitement together. “Having a partner who thinks with you is half the solution,” Ohlrichs said. “And if you can’t figure it out together, it’s always helpful to talk to a sexologist. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”
Finally, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to worry about experiencing sex differently now. According to Ohlrichs, you’ve already put yourself on the right path by trying a bunch of different things. It’s also wonderful that your partner wants to support you on this journey. You’ve got plenty of jumping-off points to get you started.