How much sex are Indians really having?
The answer seems obvious, given our population, but it’s not so straightforward
Two people lock eyes from across the room. The energy between them is electric. Within seconds of being alone, they are tearing each other’s clothes off, moving in tandem. Everybody gets a happy ending before collapsing into a sweaty embrace. You’ve seen it all before – from steamy movies and OTT shows to the soap operas your mum would watch after hustling you out of the room. The credits roll, and you get recommendations for what to watch next as you look over to your snoring partner lying by your side who you haven’t been intimate with in a few months.
As the years pass, the initial fireworks in bed become a bi-weekly romp between doing the laundry and hopping onto the next Zoom call. Next thing you know, you’re asking yourself, “When was the last time my partner and I had sex? How much sex are people having when they’ve been in a committed relationship for as long as I have?”
The truth about what happens behind closed doors is kept mum other than perhaps from your closest group of girlfriends. It is natural to wonder if the passion took a spontaneous vacation without telling anyone. Is it on a secret island in the Maldives, or did it ghost us for good?
But once you start running your mind in circles questioning how much sex are people having, your brain will fry like sputtering jeera in garam tel. You’ve been standing in the colosseum staring down work responsibilities, Chintu uncle who can’t handle his daughter setting boundaries, and a broken AC leaking water on your head all night. It’s tough to make time for sexy shenanigans when you’re too busy adulting.
But you’re not the only one stuck in analysis paralysis. Multiple studies and research projects have been looking into the changing attitudes and approaches to sex and intimacy in long-term committed couples. Some want to analyse if millennials have done things differently – considered a more open-minded generation. Others are following the impact of the stresses of a fast-paced, competitive world on a couple’s sex life (or lack thereof). The Archives of Sexual Behaviour’s published work notes that married couples should get in some private coupling time about 51 times a year (approximately once a week) to be happy and satisfied.
Times of India also reports a study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science that surveyed over 30,000 adults for 40 years. Their findings stated that couples who have sex once a week were happier, and those who had it four or more times a week didn’t report any significant increase in their levels of happiness in comparison to the prior.
Research conducted by the University of Chicago found that around one-third of the couples surveyed reported getting intimate two to three times a week, and almost half said they have sex a few times every month.
“Frequency doesn’t correlate to more happiness or closeness in a relationship,” notes psychotherapist Nisha Khanna.
With the studies in hand, we wanted to understand our ground reality. Taking the question to the Tweak tribe, we were surprised by the result. Of 2,113 people surveyed, 33% or 701 voters said they have sex at least once a week. With 650 votes, 31% said they get physical a few times a month. Interestingly, 52% of voters said they think that other married or long-term partners have sex at least once a week.
When we shared the stats of our poll and the happy finding that a majority of people were regularly having sex, Khanna was a little surprised too, but glad to see that people are getting more comfortable in their own skin, asking for pleasure and building deep intimacy with their partners.
Pallavi Barnwal, sexuality coach and founder of Getintimacy.com, adds, “Millennials and Gen Z have more sex than the prior generation primarily due to an emphasis on pleasure compared to survival. Sexual behaviour is closely linked to the financial, intellectual, and political progress of society as a whole. I can say with 100% confidence that people are more aware and demanding their right to pleasure, including sexual pleasure. Our choices have become more individualistic, even in sex.”
However, Khanna’s addendum is worth noting. “It’s wonderful that people are changing their mindset when it comes to sex, given such a high response to your polls. But who knows how much of the sex is consensual, especially for women?”
It’s not only cases of marital rape that Khanna highlights, but our “subconscious training” that providing sex or giving in to requests/demands of sex is a wife’s duty – even if she’s not in the mood or doesn’t feel like having sex.
Sexless marriages are more common than we think
Tweak readers like Namrita* and Damini Malhotra wrote to us, shocked that ‘Few times throughout the year’ and ‘It has been over a year’ were even options on our poll. And yet, the former had 461 votes and the latter, 301.
“Sexless marriages are a lot more common that you think. Tradition says sex is for reproduction. When that is out of the way, what is the need for sex? Even among the younger generations, you may be caught up dealing with whatever the world is throwing at you, or living with sexual disorders and other health matters that you’re too embarrassed to address. So, before you realise, it’s been close to, if not over, a year,” says Khanna.
If you find yourself in a rut, you can always change things if you and your partner are willing. Esther Perel, psychotherapist and author, says that often couples try to “rekindle the flame” or “recapture the magic” of their early courtship, but that approach is a waste of time.
The honeymoon phase of a relationship is like working on a puzzle. You have an image in mind of what you want to achieve. You try to fit all the right pieces together. It’s new, fresh and exciting. Working on it together, you bond as partners. But there are only so many times that you can complete the image before you get bored. Eventually, you set it aside.
Intimacy and relationship coach Caitlin V says it’s normal for that to happen. “Over time, your body and mind get used to having sex with this person. The excitement, uncertainty and novelty fade away for comfort and security. It’s not good or bad, just different,” she explains.
In the words of Perel, relationships, love, sexuality, and desire are realms where we are all students for life. Instead of breaking your head over how much sex are people having, Perel says to focus on treating your relationship (and sex life) as something that “demands focus and attention.”
It’s about more than trying different positions and investing in sex toys and other accessories. Though, that can make a difference. It’s also about mindset, says Perel, and how you experience yourself, your partner and what you see reflected in each other. “The concept of spicing up has desire at its core.”
Rebuilding that desire for each other after a long-term relationship can mean rebuilding your emotional connection (or creating a new one) and shaking up your routine as a couple (we have some expert and celebrity tips here).
“What can I do if I want to revv up my sex life?”
For those who want to change this up or shift into the next gear, Barnwal says it’s important to understand that sex includes intercourse; sex is not equal to intercourse. “Most of the sexual problems arise today because we use sex and intercourse interchangeably, synonymously. Sex is like a picnic with a bunch of options available in the menu. Starters, soup, salads, breads, curry, and more. You pick and choose, and sexual play does not have to go in a set fashion – foreplay – intercourse – orgasm. Maybe you have an orgasm without intercourse (yes it is possible for both men and women) or oodles of foreplay and call it a day.”
Her recommendation can be easily applied to anyone who wants to feel more connected and intimate with their partner, by making sex a sensual experience that involves all the senses.
Practice sensual foreplay
Barnwal says that pleasure includes all five senses, and if you haven’t already been tapping into them, this will definitely take things up a notch for you and your partner. Starting with what she said is the most obvious, the sense of sight.
“It’s true that the eyes are the windows of the soul; gazing into one another’s eyes deepens and enhances your soulful connection. As you make eye contact with your partner, talk about what stimulates you visually – a colour, a piece of clothing, or how they move toward you. Find out what’s visually arousing to you both.
Tune into your partner
Forget making the perfect sensual playlist to get into the mood, Barnwal recommends we listen to the sounds our partner maked during sex. “It is such a powerful aphrodisiac. Pleasurable moans and groans heighten the feeling. When we surrender to the moment, these moans, groans and sighs signal harmony and let us know that we are in concert.”
Your nose knows what you like
Taste and smell are not something a lot of people might think about while in the bedroom, but Barnwal says it can make a big difference in how you experience each other’s bodies. “Whether kissing and licking or enjoying sensual foods, the mouth is an integral part of experiencing pleasure. Likewise, the natural odour of your partner can be very arousing, as can scents you pick and choose together. Body oils, perfumes and the smell of the heat between you can be a source of high arousal.”
Give in to the tingles of touch
Touch is a big element of erotica, says Barnwal. An off-chance graze of your partner’s hand against yours. Feeling their fingers intertwine with your own. “The sensation of our bodies touching, caressing, or brushing against one another sends a clear message that we’re wanted.”
She says to slow down the pace of touching, and you’ll automatically feel the experience heightened. “Take time to slow your pace of touching your partner and see the experience heightening. Curb your eagerness to move on to their next body part and instead use a beginner’s mind so that you’re navigating your partner’s erotic body with presence and gratitude.”
The question of how much sex are people having isn’t about numbers and statistics but rather, the story of how love evolves and grows in the bedroom (and beyond). A “healthy sex life” can mean different things for different couples. For some, it could be having sex once a week or exploring each other’s kinks while communicating openly. For others, it could be more about emotional intimacy and mutual respect in and out of the bedroom to meet both partners’ needs.
These thoughts are echoed by our Tweak readers, who all agree that a healthy sex life after a long-term commitment is subjective. “When sex is happiness and not a chore,” as one reader puts it, you can talk about it without apprehension. In the grand theatre of life, we are all stars of our own romantic epic. So, dim the bedroom lights and cue the music.