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Is charity sex better than no sex?
August 18th, 2011
01:21 PM ET

Is charity sex better than no sex?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

Is pushing yourself when you’re not in the mood an investment in your relationship?

You may be bristling at the phrase “charity sex.” If you’re a woman, perhaps it brings to mind past, award-worthy, faked orgasms. Or maybe it reminds you of that time you bit your tongue and had sex because you were sick of hearing him ask for it. If you’re a guy, you might be thinking, “better than nothing.”
Or possibly, just possibly, you assume I’m referring to guilt-induced sex…... the sort you engage in because you feel bad for not throwing your partner a bone lately... the sort you suffer through, only to feel resentment later on.

But don’t equate charity sex with pity sex. Rather, see charity sex as a means of reestablishing a connection with your partner, and of making an important investment in your relationship.

Think of it as a donation, rather than an assessment. As blogger Heidi Raykeil has written, “The other night I was enjoying some “me” time, curled up on the couch watching the latest episode of "Grey’s Anatomy." Meanwhile, my husband was tossing and turning in bed, stressed out over his latest work project.

Frankly, between McDreamy and McSteamy, I was already pretty satisfied. But if I know one thing about my husband, it’s that sex helps him sleep. So I put down the remote and headed upstairs to take one for the team. That’s right: I had charity sex. And you know what? It was actually pretty hot.”

Pity sex is about checking sex off your to-do list. Charity sex is about checking in with each other. It’s not about meeting someone else’s physical needs—it’s about meeting your relationship’s emotional ones. It’s about opening up, quite literally, to each other.

Why might you engage in charity sex? You might do it because your partner is all wound up from work, and sex relaxes him or her. You might do it because she’s feeling a little down, and sex gives her a boost. Or maybe you do it because —- like some 41 million Americans - you’ve both gone too many days, weeks, or even months without sex.

It’s easy for sex to fall to the bottom of your to-do list when you have so many other things on your mind. The bills? The housework? The kids? The latest episode of "Breaking Bad"? Who has time for sex!? Unfortunately, the less often you have sex, the harder it is to get back into the groove. Testosterone levels drop and, as a result, libido levels drop, too. Before you know it, you’re experiencing the longest dry spell of your life.

Charity? You feel you don’t have enough to give! Fortunately, if you dig deep, you can still do your relationship some good. How?

Fake it ’til you make it. No. I’m not advocating fake orgasms. But there’s definitely something to be said for putting in a little effort. With charity sex, you may not initially feel as if you’re in the mood, but if you start going through the motions, your desire will likely catch up.

As Emily Nagoski has written in the "Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms," “Putting your body through the moves of faking one could actually lead to having one.” So start slowly, with intimate touching. Allow yourself to enjoy some pleasurable sensations. Try not to think about anything —- your to-do list; that meeting tomorrow morning -— but how it feels when the two of you touch. Before you know it, that offering of charity sex will start to feel like a gift to both of you.

Take away the pressure. When you’re not in the mood for sex, an orgasm may seem out of the question. And you may ask yourself: Why even have sex if I’m not getting the big payoff? But there’s a lot to be said about the stuff that happens before the orgasm. So don’t fixate too much on the end result. Rather, enjoy those moan-inducing caresses and toe-curling nibbles as they’re happening. Remain in the moment. You never know. Your body may surprise you.

Remember how good it was. Remember all the reasons you’re together. Remember what things were like when they were still new and undeniably hot. And then think of how much things have changed. How can you give back to that relationship? What are you willing to do to revitalize it?

Is charity sex better than no sex? And can it be a good thing for your relationship? You tell me.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.