'Lesbian Bed Death' Is A Myth (But Sexual Issues Can Still Happen To You)

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lesbian bed death

The term “lesbian bed death” kind of makes my skin crawl. My blood pressure surges and my eyes roll to the back of my head.

How does it make you feel?

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Take a couple of seconds to get a picture in your mind as you focus your attention on this phrase: lesbian bed death.

Really… Close your eyes and picture it… lesbian bed death.

What picture did you get?

For me, it’s a rather macabre image. I see two, Dia de los Muertos-type skeletons lying in a bed together holding hands. Death in bed.

The term "lesbian bed death" was coined by sociologist Pepper Schwartz in her 1983 book American Couples. Schwartz’s research concluded that lesbian couples in committed relationships have less sex than any other type of couple and that they generally experience less sexual intimacy the longer the relationship lasts.

Modern researchers and psychologists have criticized the study by Schwartz, and argue that the concept of lesbian bed death is mythology.

The idea that there’s a real phenomenon that has earned the title lesbian bed death is simply wrong! It’s an outdated stereotype that’s still being used to insult gay and bisexual women.

Don’t we (lesbian, bi-sexual, and queer women) have enough of an uphill climb when it comes to proving to the world that we are normal people? It’s time to debunk the negative stereotype and squash the insults.

I say that we stand together collectively and denounce the popular myth of lesbian bed death.

Ladies, let’s shout “Hell no!” to the idea that women in same-sex relationships unconsciously agree to a sexual suicide-pact a few months after getting together.

The real truth is that all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, generally experience a decline in the frequency of sexual intimacy over time. Not just lesbians. It happens to straight couples, too.

Here’s the thing. If you’re a woman in a same-sex relationship, I want you to stop worrying about bed death. You are in no way destined to a terminal sex life.

If you’re in a loving, secure relationship and you’re both happy with your sex life — the frequency, quality, spiciness, and novelty (or lack thereof) — then you have nothing to worry about. If you are both satisfied with your sexual relationship, you do not have a sexual intimacy problem, regardless of the amount of time you spend screwing.

On the other hand, if either you or your partner are unhappy with some aspect of your sex life, you have a problem (hey, maybe it’s just a little problem) that you should address.

Here are 4 things you can do to spice up your sex life, when your intimate life needs a reboot:

1. Stop thinking that sex with your partner is a life or death situation.

If you let yourself stay hugely worried and act like it’s a monumental (and now probably very awkward) thing to slide between the sheets and make love with your partner… Well, you’re amping up the tension and anxiety around sex. Possibly to the point of paralysis. Stop that.

Instead, start thinking about sex like all the other regular and sometimes mundane activities you and your partner do together. Like cooking a meal, sitting down for dinner, going for a walk, working together in the garden, cuddling on the couch while binge-watching your favorite TV show… You get my point.

Think of it as just another fun, pleasurable way of hanging out with your favorite person.

2. Set a time and place to have a sex talk.

If things are really off in the sex department, let your partner know that you want to talk about your sex life. Tell her you’re not going to blame or shame her, that you just want to explore the topic together. And then honor your word.

Agree on a time when neither of you will feel too tired. Pick a public, but semi-private place to have this sex-talk date. Maybe like a coffee shop or a picnic table in the park. Don’t have the conversation when you’re walking or driving. You need to be sitting across from one another to reduce any feeling of threat.

Let your partner know your thoughts and feelings about your sex life, and ask her to tell you hers.

Talk about all aspects of sex: how to initiate sex in a way that works well, the frequency, the best time to do it, sexual desires and fantasies, favorite ways to give pleasure, favorite ways to receive pleasure, and how you might together explore and experiment with novelty.

3. Agree to no sex or masturbating for 30 days.

I know, this sounds counterintuitive. The reason for this is to gift yourselves enough time to allow the pressurized build-up of anxiety about sex to neutralize. And also to have enough time to grow the anticipation and the good kind of sexual tension.

4. Practice habits that increase sexual desire.

There are several activities and habits that will set the mood and increase libido in your relationship. These include:

Remember, the grim reaper is not looming and ready to take away your sex life.

You and your partner have the power to revitalize your sexual relationship if you want to. And if neither of you wants to, then all is good.

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Lynda Spann, PhD, LMFT is the founder of The Lesbian Couples Institute and a couples counselor. For more information visit the LCI website.