But many couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, do experience differences in desire which can be painful for both partners. Jennifer Levy, a Chicago based Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Therapist says it’s one of the biggest reasons couples come to her. “It isn’t always that men has stronger libidos,” she says. “I work with couples where women have stronger desire.” Under the right conditions, she believes maintenance sex can be a healthy and pleasurable part of a couple’s intimate life.
“Number one, it must be consensual,” says Levy. “You’re both open and willing to do this for the health of the relationship. Feeling connected, feeling close and cared for, and caring for the other—all of these things strengthen the relationship.”
Also, she says, the whole concept of sex needs to be expanded beyond intercourse and even orgasm. “Sometimes it’s better to have the experience not be about orgasm. It’s too much pressure, especially for the low desire partner,” she says. “Sex is anything you do with a partner that is sexually arousing. Like full body touch, manual, oral, one-sided, two-sided. Anything that brings pleasure and arousal, keeps you connected, and is agreed upon.” This definition opens up a whole range of sensuous possibilities for couples to enjoy.
The choice isn’t really between “taking one for the team” or being a good feminist. The thing that matters is the connection between you and your partner. “Every relationship creates its own sexual dance. There’s no right. There’s no normal. What will keep your relationship satisfying for you?” says Levy. If maintenance sex helps you both feel closer and more fulfilled, go for it. “Caring about your partner isn’t sexist,” says Levy. “If it’s important to my partner, it’s important to the relationship.”