Dear Dr. P: How much sex is too much sex?
“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!” said Mae West, a flamboyantly glamorous and funny actress of the 1940s. West was also a strident feminist and possibly one of the first sexually liberated women of the 20th Century. When a strong double standard existed for men and women permitting men a lot more liberty and severely restricting women in things sexual, Mae West celebrated, if not flaunted, her dominating sexuality over her male co-stars (for example, Carry Grant) and the men in her personal life.
No man ever told Mae West what to do. She was the captain of her life and fate and lived life to the fullest. This included a shockingly active sex life with multiple-simultaneous live-in boyfriends who were all hand selected from groups of handsome, healthy, young body-builders. She also said, “I don’t worry so much about the men in my life as I do about the life in my men.” Today she would be called a “sex-addict,” but in her time, she wasn’t.
Hugh Hefner, originator of the Playboy Empire (magazine, clubs, the Mansions, and soon a new casino in Las Vegas) now at age 80, hopes to father a new family with Holly Madison, one of his three live-in girlfriends. He has had two wives, fathered six children, and has had hundreds of girl friends—all who have been the Playboy centerfold type. His whole life has centered about the topic of sexuality. However, I don’t think he considers himself a sex addict or that there has been too much sex in his life.
So far in history, the record holder for being the most prolifically sexually active and reproductive man is Moylay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, the emperor of Morocco in the late 16th and early 17th Century. He fathered about 1,042 children, and possibly more, as it was said that he stopped counting his daughters. He was also busy ruling the country, waging wars, and personally killing 30,000 people with his own hands. Morocco prospered under his rule.
The implicit definition of “promiscuous” is when you apply this to someone who you see is getting more sexual action than you are. The term is seldom applied to the self.
The gist of all of this is that there can be no absolute standard defining “too much sex.” The term “sex-addict” is itself controversial with some mental health workers denying the existence of the syndrome. Any behavior can become obsessive-compulsive with the activity dominating and ruining one’s quality of life. Attaching “addict” to sex stigmatizes sexuality. But, when is sexual activity too much?
“Too much sex” is when engaging in sexual activity 1) begins to produce soreness or pain; 2) keeps you from going to your job or classes; 3) interferes with the conduct of your life which otherwise would be productive; and 4) causes you or your partner(s) emotional or physical distress.
Differences in sexual appetite between partners, if extreme, can become a problem. In the film “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen at the psychiatrist says, “We hardly ever do it. Maybe three times a week.” And Diane Keeton in the other side of a split-screen complains to her psychiatrist, “We’re always doing it. Probably three times a week.”
Young couples can engage in coitus 3-6 times daily, every day, during the first part of their relationships. The frequency of masturbation can be similar. Some women are multi-orgasmic with 30 orgasms easily achieved during a lovemaking session. Most women (and all men) unfortunately can not do this. The sexual appetite, or libido, varies from person to person, and within the same person depending on age, general health, medications, and specific partner. For some people, sex five times a month or less satisfies their urges perfectly. But, can there be a situation of “too little sex?”
A British report on aging states that whereas the libido of males decreases with old age “the sexual interest remains particularly strong in elderly women.” Further, “Sexually active older people live longer and stay healthier than their celibate counterparts.” Sexual behavior tones up the cardiovascular system, enhances the immune system, relieves stress, improves the disposition, calms the angry heart, puts a smile on your face—and makes babies.
Sig Davidson: Reflections on a Jewish Roanoke
On February 18th, the second night of Interfaith week, Wortman Ballroom began filling with students, faculty and a large number of members of the community. As a college, this is our fourth annual Interfaith week at Roanoke College, a string of events that show we can [...]
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