[SPOILER ALERT: There is no normal!]
If there’s one thing I wish for all couples in a sexual relationship to know, it’s that there is no such thing as normal. When it comes to defining your relationship, it’s more about what feels right and enjoyable for you both. So many different influences have influenced what you might think of as normal, and over time, your definition of normal will most likely change.
I love this quote by Maya Angelou, as it sums up my view of normality in a relationship:
"If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
Many different things will impact on your definition of a normal sexual relationship. How you view normal is dependent on your culture, the society you live in and even your time in history.
There's no such thing as normal.
It changes from one person to another. And this is what helps us all become unique and different.
When it comes to the research on societal norms in sexual behaviour, it can all be quite hard to ascertain. In part, this is because there are so many taboos in cultural society around it. Take the UK as one example. One of the norms around sexual behaviour is to be quite secretive around it. Many people don’t talk openly about their sexual relationships, due to shame and the message that it should be kept private.
As you get older, your preferences and viewpoint are probably going to change and adjust to everything you learn and the people you connect with.
When you look at the benchmarks and statistics below, but you can see how things shift as you age. How often we have sex, our sexual preferences, and even our health all play a part in these changes.
Although your view of what is considered a normal sexual relationship can and will change, it can still be useful to have some benchmarks to help offer some sense of what’s true for other people. Here are some statistics about sexual activity in the UK from the UK NATSAL sex survey taken in 2013.
The survey looked at the different ages for vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, and other genital contact. As you might expect, they show diminishing activity through life and the different age bands. But those shifts for vaginal sex aren’t that dramatic between the ages of 35 and 64. Oral sex is fairly widely practised by those aged 25 through to 54, which I would say is consistent with what I hear about in the therapy room. Anal sex is more popular with the under 24s and is less prevalent in the older age groups.
When we look at the statistics for orgasm, men orgasm most often through vaginal intercourse. It’s much more common for women to achieve orgasm through external clitoral stimulation or oral sex. As for the frequency of intercourse, the UK study indicated that people had sex on average three times a month, down from five times a month 20 years ago. Whether people are more open and truthful now, or whether they are having less sex - the answer is we don’t really know!
Finally, 25% of those surveyed reported they did not have the same level of sex interest as their partner. One in five said that their partner experienced sexual difficulties in the last 12 months, whilst one in six stated they had a health condition that affected their sex lives - but only 24% of men and 18% of women sought advice from a healthcare professional.
I find it very sad that many people just get on without the sex they want. Although it's getting better, with some really great work going on now to make sex support available in the healthcare system for patients with cancer and other illnesses.
So if you’re worried about your relationship or are experiencing sexual difficulties, please don't suffer in silence - there are many therapists, sexologists and support groups available.
I send out a regular email packed with ideas and free resources for creating a healthy, intimate relationship - join here. If you’re looking for one-to-one coaching on your relationship, check out my Clarity Consultations. Your sexual relationship offers so many benefits for health, relaxation, connection, confidence, vitality and love, don't let it get pushed to the bottom of your to do list!