Sexual Intelligence, written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Marty Klein pic

Each month, Sexual Intelligence® examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.

Dr. Marty Klein is a Certified Sex Therapist and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and 100 articles. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.

Issue #221 – JULY 2018


How To Get Your Partner To Have More Sex

Back to top

As a sex therapist, I work with couples every week in which one partner wants more sex than the other. In heterosexual couples, about half of the higher-desire partners are female, and about half are male.

When it's a small disparity people generally work it out. But when one person wants sex twice a week and other wants it twice a year, many couples simply can't cope. And indeed, this is a difficult problem.

Ideally, couples would struggle over this together: what are WE going to do about OUR problem?

What's more common, unfortunately, is that each partner sees themselves as having the primary pain: one person struggles with feeling unfulfilled, rejected, and resentful. The other person struggles on feeling abandoned, judged, and resentful.

Each one feels the other's sexuality is problematic. And each person looks at the other and says what are YOU going to do about MY pain that YOU'VE created?

I see how couples collapse over this. Sometimes the higher-desire attacks the lower-desire. Believe it or not, that doesn't put the lower-desire in a sexy mood.

Sometimes the lower-desire criticizes or withdraws from the higher-desire. That doesn't make the higher-desire feel understood, and it doesn't encourage the higher-desire to self-soothe or to connect with the lower-desire in non-sexual ways.

As I often do with couples, I start by talking about the context of the problem more than the problem itself. So I invite people to talk about what they want as an alternative to their dreadful situation. Common responses are: to feel desired, to feel loved, to feel attractive, to feel important, to feel connected.

People are also eager to tell me what they don't want: to feel used, coerced, demeaned, guilty, awkward, or physically uncomfortable.

If they haven't mentioned it, I suggest that people in this situation often feel abnormal, inept, and lonely. Both the higher- and lower-desire partner typically agree. Helping people realize that both they and their partner feel similarly is an important part of the work.

I suggest that one of our main goals is to arrange for people to feel more of how they want to feel, and less of how they don't want to feel. Of course they agree (although sometimes warily). "Note how different that is from 'let's have more sex' or 'let's you accept we're not going to have more sex,'" I say.

But what about sex? The higher-desire invariably asks how we're going to arrange for more sex. That is going to be one of our goals, right? More sex, right?

Here's where the work really gets interesting. "You're not just interested in more sex, are you?" I ask. "I mean, I think you want a different kind of sex, right?" The higher-desire often looks at me, not sure where I'm going with this.

"The issue here isn't just more sex," I say, "it's that you want to FEEL different—whether it's more loved, or more attractive, or whatever, right? For years you've assumed that more sex will get you that, but it won't, will it–not more of the sex you two have been having. You don't want to settle for a bigger amount of what doesn't really nourish you, do you?"

"You're not ambitious enough," I gently tell the higher-desire. "Personally, I don't actually care how much sex you have—I want you to feel great about the sex you do have. Oh, and I also want you and your partner connecting physically, besides sexually, in ways that you both enjoy. That OK with you?"

Practically every higher-desire eagerly signs up for that. And that helps us get away from the simplistic goal of more-sex-that-neither-partner-enjoys.

Because the higher-desire doesn't just want more sex—they want more enthusiasm, more engagement, they want a partner who pursues sexual satisfaction for themselves. That's why so many higher-desires also complain "my partner never initiates." When initiating sex is a stand-in for "I really want to be doing this with you," people start keeping score. That always ends badly.

At this point in the therapy the lower-desire has started to have a little hope—maybe the entire focus of sessions won't be on ramping up their desire for sex they don't especially enjoy.

But they may also feel concerned. Because instead of talking about the quantity of sex (which they're sick of discussing), now we're talking about enthusiasm, authenticity, and a bunch of other stuff that my feel burdensome. "It's not enough that I do it once in a while, now I have to smile and chat, too? Or initiate sex I don't really want?"

Um, no.

Some lower-desires don't want to want more sex. That's a special problem, which I'll discuss in a subsequent article. But many lower-desires are genuinely distressed about their partner's distress. More importantly, many lower-desires would like to enjoy sex more—a crucial piece of information which typically has gotten lost along the way.

That's what I get them to talk about. Interestingly, the higher-desire partner is often skeptical about this. "If you want more sex, let's just do it!" But as the couple's life has unfolded (a miscarriage, a sister-in-law issue, parenting conflicts, weight gain, where the dog sleeps, etc.), it has become more complicated than that.

Frequently, the lower-desire wants more emotional connection on a day-by-day basis. Or they want their partner to do more household chores, or use a different approach to parenting, money, or the in-laws. Sometimes the lower-desire wants sex with someone who hasn't been drinking, or criticizing them relentlessly. Sometimes the lower-desire wants sex that doesn't hurt, which the couple simply hasn't been able to create.

Getting the higher-desire to notice the actual eroticism of a partner who seems apathetic or unresponsive can be quite a challenge. "Yes, he/she has seemed uninterested," I say, "But I don't think they're uninterested in all sex, under all circumstances. I think your partner is describing special situations under which sex isn't appealing, and over time those situations have become more and more common—to the point where they're almost always part of your relationship."

* * *

So while higher-desire is indeed struggling with not enough sex, they really need something else. And while lower-desire does spend a lot of energy inhibiting the sexuality in the relationship, they really want something more than just discouraging the sex they don't like, the demands for it, and the complaints about the lack of it.

Getting people to talk honestly about what they want—not just "more sex" or "less pressure"—is a crucial step toward getting a couple re-aligned erotically AND emotionally. Difficult discussions about how the couple lives (budgeting, timeliness, tidiness, personal hygiene) are often necessary as well.

What certainly does NOT work is making your partner feel bad about themselves: criticizing, shaming, diagnosing, manipulating, avoiding, or punishing.

This may sound obvious, but every week I see couples in which people are doing exactly these things, hoping they will resolve the struggles over sex.

They never do.

* * *

Clinicians: for much more on this subject, check out my webinar, at

Back to top



Congress Criminalizes Sex Robots

Back to top

The U.S. Congress—which can't figure out a way to treat actual children as human beings—has come together to protect abstract children from an abstract threat. It has voted to criminalize the importation or transportation of lifelike robot "sex dolls" that can be configured to look like children.

Robots. Sex dolls. Criminalizing.

A 1950s (or 1850s) approach to a 21st-century phenomenon.

These lifelike dolls are made of flesh-simulating silicon, and can be programmed with simple personalities. That includes being a child, either cooperating with or resisting sex.

Remember: they're robots. Machines. Toasters with smiles (or tears) and orifices.

Of course, throw the word "pedophile" into any American conversation and chaos ensues. "Child sex robot" gets you bonus points. Hence the McClatchy newspaper chain (29 daily papers, 2 million readers) headline: "Congress moves to ban child sex robots favored by pedophiles."

The legislation claims that the robot-dolls normalize sex with minors; teach rapists how to overcome resistance; and lead to actual rape. In case anyone misses the point, Congress puts its speculations on the record as fact: "the dolls and robots are intrinsically related to abuse of minors."

Very interesting. None of it true.

This law is part of a long series of attempts to corral our sexual imagination. It follows our government's attempts to prevent us from looking at sexually-themed videos, watching sexually-themed stage comedians, seeing sexually-themed movies, reading sexually-themed books, seeing contraceptive information, and sending one's sweetheart a sexually-themed postcard back during the Civil War—which popularized the then-new invention of photography.

Congress and other legislators may talk about the practical consequences of using various objects or perceiving various images (rape, child abuse, promiscuity, divorce, etc.), but they're really expressing their disapproval of our sexual imagination.

So House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) says "The very thought [of these dolls] makes me nauseous." Sponsor Dan Donovan (R-NY) refers to "these sickening dolls."

No calls for research. No curiosity about data showing that child sexual exploitation declines when child pornography becomes more available (not only in the U.S., but in Japan and other countries as well). Certainly no asking clinicians, sex researchers, or pedophiles themselves what they think.

We've seen this pattern before: overstate a danger; demonize anyone who uses the object or activity as "other;" explicitly contextualize the discussion in a larger, complex problem; and attempt to ban the fantasy expression that some people hate.

Over 150,000 people on have followed the same pattern. The petition refers to "disgusting, lifelike dolls that normalize and encourage sexual attraction to children…that encourage child abuse…dolls are for children, not people who want to rape them." Anyone who uses such a robot/doll is branded as "other:" as a pedophile, as being dangerous, as out of control and engaging in "sicker and sicker behavior."

Federal and local laws already attempt to control our sexual imagination as used in watching pornography, going to strip clubs or swing clubs, texting in chat rooms, and elsewhere. Tens of millions of Americans support these laws. They are terrified of their neighbors' sexuality—not only the behavior, but the mere thoughts. Straight men excited by fantasies of giving fellatio. Women who climax imagining being raped. Couples who get hot watching (not even touching) other couples. People who pretend they have an alternative life in a chatroom.

Society does condone fantasy (e.g., in literature) and simulations (e.g., in video games) of violent crime and other actions that are prohibited in real life. Logically, watching CSI or playing Grand Theft Auto should be banned if sex robot-dolls are banned. But of course Americans consider violence more "normal" than sexuality.

The law always lags behind real life. Laws attempting to regulate the internet were laughably obsolete before they were even implemented. Below Congress' radar, teledildonics and other sexual applications of computers are increasing. A black market will surely fuel the development of these new "child" sex robot-dolls.

And virtual reality? When enough parents come home to find 12-year-old son Timmy on the couch "having sex" with Beyonce or Johnny Depp via virtual reality, VR will be the next focus of legislative wrath and attempted control. But as always, it will be too late. And self-righteous outrage always feels safer to American parents than actually talking about sex.

As long as humans have imagination, our neighbor will imagine stuff about sex that we dislike. Over and over, we will fear it. Attempt to control it.

And fail to do so effectively.

Back to top

SCOTUS Gay Wedding Cake Decision—Victory for Free Expression

Back to top

In 2012, a gay Colorado couple walks into a bakery. They ask to have a special cake made to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. The baker refuses, saying his religious beliefs don't allow him to acknowledge or facilitate same-sex marriage.

He does, however, say that he'll sell the couple an off-the-shelf wedding cake. Unacceptable; the couple go to the state's Civil Rights Commission, which rules that this is improper discrimination. The baker—with strong backing from the conservative Christian community—appeals, and today, six years later, the baker has won.

While honorable gay groups like the National LGBT Bar Association are dismayed, this is NOT really a nightmare victory favoring discrimination. There's actually something fundamentally good about this decision, although you have to squint a little to see it.

The Supreme Court ruled to protect free expression, finely distinguishing illegal discrimination from protected private choices.

That's because the baker's commercial activity—selling off-the-shelf wedding cakes—was in fact equal for all couples. You want one, he'll sell you one no matter who you are. It was when the baker was asked to express himself artistically that he drew the line and said no. In America, you can't force someone to create an artistic, political, or other private presentation that expresses a point of view. Even if we find the baker's position ignorant or destructive, we don't want the government compelling anyone to state a point of view with which they don't agree.

If you're a musician, you must sell sheet music to everyone, equally. You can't be forced to compose a song celebrating the end of abortion rights. If you're a painter, you must sell brushes to everyone, equally. You can't be forced to paint a picture celebrating Nazis killing Jews.

While the baker's lawyers wanted to approach this case as one of forced artistic expression (the position of the amicus brief filed by a group of "cake artists" from around the country), the Supreme Court framed it as a matter of freedom of religious belief.

Remember, the baker claimed that requiring him to create a cake for a same-sex wedding violated his religious beliefs—as HE defined them. Once again, the Founders' exceptionalism around religion creates a terrible quandary for the rest of our rights. This is a serious sickness at the heart of our democracy, and it isn't going away.

Delusions of instructions from Napoleon—you get no special legal protection. Insistence on following instructions from alien beings—no special legal protection. Devotion to ideas of the dead coming back to life, and an invisible deity that controls the outcome of high school football games—you get special legal protection.

As long as you can claim that your beliefs are organized into a "religion," step right up and get your special legal protection.

Your religious beliefs don't even have to be right. After all, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs can't all be right about their deity. At most, one of these groups is right, and all the others are wrong. Either the one true god is Allah OR Jehovah OR Jesus (or Jesus' father, don't get me started). They can't all be. But all three beliefs (and others) get special legal protection.

America continues to struggle with the implications of valorizing religious belief over ordinary belief or nonsense. And since virtually all organized religions are obsessed with limiting sexual expression, sexuality will predictably continue to be the field of this struggle. Given America's tormented feelings about sexuality, that makes this problem even more complicated.

We've seen the religious belief vs civil rights vs free expression rumble in arenas such as birth control; sex education; adult entertainment; fertility technologies; and of course gay people's rights. We can confidently predict that two future battlegrounds will involve transgenderism and virtual reality.

By the way, here are some interesting notes about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:

~ When the original incident took place in 2012, gay marriage was NOT legal in Colorado.

~ The state civil rights commission had required the baker and his employees to undergo "comprehensive staff training," and to keep records of any refusals of service for two years.

~ The decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been responsible for the Supreme Court's decisions backing gay rights, including the landmark 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage. In this ruling he said "these disputes [about religious belief] must be resolved…without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."

Our cherished First Amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It was meant to prevent the creation of a law demanding that everyone follow the President's religion, as was customary in monarchies throughout the world at that time.

It's hard to believe the Founders meant to elevate religious ideas above others—but in America, the most religious of all wealthy and educated countries, believers have successfully created two centuries of law based on this destructive, nonsensical idea.

That's the real problem, not the wedding cake of an innocent gay couple, or the sincere delusions of a pious baker.

Back to top




You may quote anything herein, with the following attribution:
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence , copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("
  • Subscribe to Newsletter

    Contact Dr. Klein

    Featured Book

    • America's War On Sex book cover

    Recent Issues


    • 2010 issues #119 - #130
    • 2009 issues #107 - #118
    • 2008 issues #95 - #106
    • 2007 issues #83 - #94
    • 2006 issues #71 - #82
    • 2005 issues #59 - #70
    • 2004 issues #47 - #58
    • 2003 issues #35 - #46
    • 2002 issues #23 - #34
    • 2001 issues #11 - #22
    • 2000 issues #1 - #10

    Sexual Intelligence Awards

    Sexual Intelligence Awards honor individuals and organizations who challenge the sexual fear, unrealistic expectations, and government hypocrisy that undermine love, sex, and relationships--and political freedom--today.

    SI Award Nomination