Question: How Important Is Sex?
I realize that is not an easy question to answer but how important is sex? Why have I been so obsessed with it for the last 11 months? Is is just hormones? Do I need to accept how good everything else is and just get over it?
I’m glad you began by acknowledging that this is a tough question to answer. And I think it’s worth considering why that is. Like so many questions about sex, this one doesn’t have a single answer. I wouldn’t even say that everyone needs to figure out their own answer to this question, because each of us has several answers. And so, like so many other sex questions, I think what is rich in this one is the asking, and the working through, more than the answering. Here’s how I’d work through it.
The Difference Between “How Important Is Sex” and “How Important Should Sex Be”
Sex questions are never just individual questions. Sex is social and cultural, tied to time and place. In your question, I note some of those influences and pressures. If my answer was simply “sex is as important as you want it to be and as insignificant as you feel it is” would you be satisfied? Probably not. I think this is partly because you aren’t only asking me about how important sex is, but rather you’re asking me, as a sexuality professional, how important I believe sex should be.
Whenever you hear or see the word “should” anywhere near the word “sex” you want to stop and think for a minute. There are very few aspects of sex or sexuality that conform well to objective measurement, and there is certainly no number, no quantity of importance that makes sense for sex in a person’s life.
Come to think of it, if there were some objective answer to your question, how exactly would the importance of sex be measured? Would it be that sex should be a little more important than work but a little less important than family? More important than a car but less important than a house?
For many people, sex is very important. It provides physical, emotional, spiritual connection, and sustenance. It bonds people together and sometimes keeps them together through the difficult task of living in this world. Some people point out that it’s required for the survival of humans, although that’s not sex, broadly defined. In fact overwhelmingly the sex we have and our sexual feelings have nothing to do with procreation (plus there are other ways to procreate now that don’t involve sex at all). So while I think it’s healthy and fine for sex to be very important to people, I don’t see the need to justify that importance in biological or evolutionary terms.
Of course, for others, sex is not important at all. You may connect with people in other ways that you don’t identify as sexual (even if others do). Sex can be a distraction or a source of pain or fear or anxiety. Some people who identify themselves as asexual are very clear about the fact that sex is not important to them, and their big problem is the challenge of living in a world that says sex should be important.
You might think about this as a continuum (although I prefer to think of it as a jumble). But a continuum is linear and there’s no doubt that among humans there is great variation in the interest they have in sex, the amount of time and energy they spend thinking about sex, trying to have it, having it, figuring out what it means to have or not to have it, etc…
Finding Your Own Answer
I encourage you to start by asking yourself how important you feel sex is AND how important do you think sex should be? Here are some other questions that might be helpful to consider:
- Where did you learn these lessons about how important sex “should be”? Who taught you what you know? What do you think about those messages now?
- Has the importance of sex changed throughout your life? Think back to when you were an adolescent, a teenager, a young adult. Can you identify times when it was more or less important? Can you identify other things happening in your life that may have influenced that?
- Do you have an idea of how important sex would be to you? If you could imagine a perfect balance of sex in your life, how much would you be thinking about it? How much sex would you be having? How much would you be talking about sex?
What Makes Sex Important
You ask why you have been obsessed with sex for 11 months. Without knowing more about your life it’s impossible for me to say much, but certainly, I’d look back to 11 months ago and ask if something happened around then to spark what you’re calling an obsession. I can say that it’s completely predictable that you’ll go through periods where you think about and want to engage in sex more often. Do you masturbate often and what happens after you have an orgasm? Do you keep thinking about sex?
Those periods may last a week, a month, a year. They may pass as quickly as they appeared.
I want to caution you about the idea that it’s “just hormones” making sex important. That sounds suspiciously like something someone else might have told you, at a criticism. Gender norms and expectations are such that people who identify as women can quickly feel like there’s something wrong with them if they think about sex “too much”.
The same expectations dictate that men are meant to be thinking about sex all the time (there’s almost no “too much” for men). Hormones do have an influence on our interest and desire for sex, and this is thought to be true for people of all genders. So if you are experiencing a surge in your sexual desire or interest it could be related to hormones. But that doesn’t discount it, or make it minor. Instead of trying to figure out what might be “causing” your interest in sex (as if your interest is like a disease with a cause and possible treatment), I’d suggest figuring out what you want to do about it.
Getting Over It
There’s something about the word “just” in your question that makes me wary. Should you “just get over it”? What exactly is the “it” in that sentence? Do you want to not care about sex at all? Do you only want to think about sex on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?
Unless you are experiencing actual obsessions, which is possible but less likely, I’d suggest that before you try to eliminate the thoughts or desires you make sure you know where they are coming from. Are you thinking about sex a lot because you have desires that aren’t being acknowledged or satisfied? Is this tied to a problem in your relationship? Is it related to the way you interact with other people outside of your primary committed relationship? Whatever it is that is causing you anxiety may very well be a warning sign not that you’re obsessed with sex, but that you’re unhappy with one or many parts of your life. And it could be a sign that there is a change you’d like to make.
If you are someone who always, or mostly, focuses on the negative, then maybe you could spend time thinking about the good things in your life, and it’s true that life is always a balance. But if things aren’t actually that good, then just telling yourself they are won’t likely lead to lasting satisfaction or happiness.
This isn’t an easy thing to figure out, but there is some middle ground between just being grateful for what you’ve got and wanting to acknowledge the parts of your life that you feel aren’t as you’d like them to be.
I’ll end as you started, by repeating that this is not an easy question to answer, and you shouldn’t expect to come up with one in a day or a week. Also, your answers will change over time.
Because sex can be tied to so many parts of our lives sometimes figuring this stuff out on our own is too tricky. It can help to do this work with a trusted friend or professional. A good psychotherapist or a sex therapist may not be necessary, but if you are feeling really stuck having an outsider who has experience talking with lots of people about their sex lives may make the questioning easier.