October 25, 2006

Q&A: The Role And Importance Of Sex In Healthy Relationships

Dr. Debby Herbenick answers a question from a gay male reader about the role sex plays in health relationships (relevant for heterosexual couples as well)

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Question: I am having a relationship problem, and I believe that one of the reasons is because my partner and I are not having sex. I am gay, and I would like to have intercourse with him. He is not opposed to the idea but he is not able to have sex (he is too tight). I am curious about what you can tell me about the importance of sex to a healthy relationship, and possibly how being gay or male may be related to this. Thank you for your help.

Sexual and relationship problems often do influence each other.

Although you didn’t go into detail about the ways in which you feel your sexual sharing may be affecting your relationship, we would encourage you to explore other aspects of your relationship as well (e.g., communication, compatibility, comfort with each other).

For example, what kind of understanding do you each have about your relationship — what is it and what is it not? How similar are your values and meanings about your relationship and the role that sexuality plays in it?

Sexuality And Quality of Life

Researchers consistently find that sexuality plays an important role in quality of life for many people regardless of their gender, age, or sexual orientation.

That said, people have different sexual needs. Some individuals are perfectly content to never have vaginal or anal sex in their lives, or to only have it in certain relationship contexts (e.g., in a long-term relationship, with a committed partner, or when they are in love). For others, intercourse and the physical and emotional sensations that come with it are more important to sexual and relationship satisfaction.

Talk To Your Partner

You and your partner might consider talking about to what extent intercourse is important to each of you, and the meaning that it has for you, as well as whether there are other ways that you can find similar meaning through other intimate acts.

For example, you two may find that oral sex, mutual masturbation, sharing fantasies, shower play, making out, and the numerous variations on each of these can be just as exciting, orgasmic and bonding.

Books like The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex and The Guide to Getting It On are both full of suggestions for both communicating about, and exploring, a wide range of sexual possibilities.

Anal Penetration and Intercourse

Most people are physically able to experience anal penetration, though it can take time, patience and practice while exploring alone and — while exploring with a partner — communication and comfort are critical.

If your partner is interested in exploring anal intercourse as an option, you two might consider reading Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women together.

Although the phrase “men and women” is in the title, don’t be fooled — it is not a heterosexual-focused book. The title refers to its relevance for men and women as people, not as heterosexual couples. This book is widely recommended by sexuality educators as it provides positive portrays of various anal play techniques while simultaneously offering information about how to explore anal sex in ways that are comfortable and safe (anal sex should NEVER be painful). I hope this helps.

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