As sex coaches, we often encounter clients who wonder if the amount of sex they’re having is “normal.” This is not surprising considering how prevalent the topic of sex is in society. It feels ever present, even looming in advertising it has no business being in, such as home improvement, sweets, even bread! Sex is all around us and wherever you look there’s an unspoken pressure to have “the best sex possible.” As a result, we think we should have sex often, have it last for hours, and end the lovemaking session with exploding orgasms. No wonder sex coaches so often hear questions such as “am I normal?” or “is the amount of sex we’re having enough?”
Whether it’s an individual client, a couple, a throuple, or a polycule that seeks your expertise, they may want to find out if they fit the norm when it comes to the amount of sex they practice. Women in relationships with other women may be especially interested on getting your professional opinion on this topic, because of the phenomenon known as lesbian bed death (LBD).
This article will help you to understand the lesbian bed death concept. You’ll learn what every sex coach should know about the origin of this phenomenon, its criticism, and the assumptions about it that are present in our society. Lastly, after reading this article you may feel more confident about educating your clients on this topic and helping them resolve their LBD concerns.
Definition & Assumptions about Lesbian Bed Death
Lesbian bed death describes a phenomenon first observed in a study by Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein in 1983. In their work, they compared how frequently lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples had sexual relations during the previous year. The results showed that women in a relationship with another woman reported the lowest number of sexual encounters. Nowadays, the term lesbian bed death is also used to illustrate the drop in the amount of sex that women have with each other as their relationship progresses. Although the term was originally coined in reference to lesbian relationships, this concept addresses what women in relationship with other women may experience, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Imagine that two women in a long-term relationship come to you and ask for your help because they feel stuck in their sex lives. When you talk to them, they reveal that they believe they’ve reached the lesbian bed death stage of their relationship. As a sex coach, the first action you can take to assist this couple is to explore how they understand this phenomenon. You’ll also want to explore with them the assumptions they hold about their sex lives and about LBD itself.
The Internet is one of many sources from which they may have heard about LBD. Have you ever googled the term yourself? If you do, you may find articles that describe different stages leading to the tragic end of sex lives of women loving women (WLW). If the couple you’re working with comes across such a perspective, they may think it’s unavoidable and that there’s no solution.
However, in a completely different scenario, another WLW couple may learn about lesbian bed death and feel a sense of relief. They just realized they’re not the only women in a relationship who don’t have sex every day, week, or month. They may grant themselves permission (an important part of the PLISSIT model we learn at Sex Coach U) to have sex as much as they need regardless of what is expected of them from society.
The main difference between these two couples is their belief that they need to change their situation. One couple is dismayed by the prospect that their sex life may be over, while the other couple feels relief when they learn it’s perfectly natural for their libidos to relax over time. A sex coach should not try to repair a situation that a couple doesn’t consider to be broken, but for the couples that feel distress, there is a lot a sex coach can do to help.
Another source from which your clients may have heard about the phenomenon of lesbian bed death is TV. Whether it’s a movie or a TV series, LBD is often ridiculed. In an episode of “How I met your mother,” Barney jokes that Ted’s “too busy being in a lesbian relationship” after he learns that Ted hasn’t been intimate with his girlfriend for a month. The popularity of such views may be harmful to your clients. As a result, they may develop internalized shame, thinking that they’re not enough in the bedroom.
Shedding New Light on Lesbian Bed Death
What else can a sex coach do to help their WLW clients who want to break out of a sexless cycle? As mentioned before, if you’re familiar with the PLISSIT model by Jack S. Annon, a great place to begin is to offer them permission to have sex as much as they want, and not as much as they *think* they should want.
Then, you may want to proceed to step two of the model and provide your clients with limited information about the criticism of lesbian bed death.
Even though the lesbian couples who took part in the study indicated they had lower amounts of sex in the previous year, the study was conducted at a time when sex was thought of as penetration only. For this reason, the majority of female participants could have assumed that “sex” only referred to the times they engaged in penetration. This would mean that the forms of intimate contact most often engaged in by women who have sex with women (passionate kissing, petting, clitoral stimulation, scissoring, or even mutual masturbation) didn’t count. At this point, you may want to ask your clients what each of them considers sex to be—it’s highly possible that penetration is not the only act they think of as sexual.
It’s also worth mentioning to your clients that this finding informs us only about the quantity of sex, and reveals nothing about its quality. To counteract the shame your clients may feel regarding their sex stats, you may want to share some more titillating numbers from a more recent study. An article published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2014 suggests that 75% of women having sex with women (WSW) experience an orgasm during sex in comparison to 65% of women who have sex with men. This discrepancy is much higher when it comes to first sexual encounters with a new person.
Additionally, if you’re dealing with a couple that’s been in a long-term relationship, you can explain to them that a fluctuation of libido is completely normal as a relationship matures. Passion in relationships is high during those romantic beginnings but often, as the couple settles into the relationship stage, it’s the commitment that peaks, and a passionate connection may be replaced by an emotional one.
It’s also true that the everyday routines of busy lives plus external stressors can take a toll on a couple’s sex life no matter what their gender. Remember, however, that minority stress is an additional factor that can highly influence various aspects of the lives of women in relationships with other women, including their sex lives.
Working With Clients Who Struggle with LBD
So how can you work with WLW clients who want your advice on dwindling sexual encounters? First, explore whether LBD is actually something the couple wants to change. The issue arises when the low amount of sex the couple is having negatively impacts their lives. If they would like to make a change, ask your clients exactly what they know about the lesbian bed death concept.
You don’t have to introduce this term to them if they haven’t heard about it before, because the name of this phenomenon can have negative connotations, which could cause unnecessary concern in your clients.
If they’re familiar with the term and say it to you first, it’s worth exploring where they learned about it, and how they feel about it. Be sure to educate them on the criticism of LBD and normalize that libido often decreases in long-term relationships of all sexual orientations.
Next, you can explore what sex means to your clients—together, you can find that sex can fulfill various needs. If your clients want to have more sex and struggle to ignite the spark between them, you can teach them about ways to introduce novelty to their relationship.
In a situation when the amount of sex your clients want to have is unrealistic, you can work with them toward finding other creative ways to fulfill their needs—maybe instead of having sex three times a week, they could find connection through a massage session or a weekly date night.
Lesbian bed death is a term that can strike fear in our WLW clients. While many couples do struggle with decreasing libidos in long-term relationships, this doesn’t have to be a source of shame or concern. As sex coaches, we have the opportunity to educate our clients and help them learn how to achieve their sexual goals, no matter how often they want to have sex.
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If you’re longing to help lesbians resolve their concerns about lesbian bed death and fully enjoy their sex lives and relationships, consider becoming a Certified Sex Coach. Attend our next Info Session to learn more about this career and the Sex Coach U training program.