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.

soundoff (584 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Dear Dr. Gupta,


    Signed, Lonely Bachelor in Texas

    August 19, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Walter

      Uh, the article was by Ian, not Dr. Gupta.

      August 19, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse |
    • petrus

      @Walter, maybe he has the hots for Dr. Gupta

      August 25, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  2. Kunst

    What a useless article!

    August 19, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WWRRD

      No he's right. No s3x means no intimacy. No intimacy means your relationship is going down in flames unless it is purely a business relationship, or based on other mutually beneificial factors like the trophy wife, gold digger syndrome, or cohaitating for economic reasons.

      August 19, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse |
  3. Enlil

    Why does CNN bother with such tripe? There's sooooo much more to life than just s3x – especially s3x that's seen as "just another thing to do" or a chore. If s3x is all that's keeping your relationship together, then -well- you're wasting your time.

    August 19, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AFGuy77

      You're a woman aren't you?

      August 19, 2011 at 03:39 | Report abuse |
    • WWRRD

      Been a while, Huh?

      August 19, 2011 at 07:33 | Report abuse |
    • chenz66

      AFGuy77 – You nailed it. That does sound like something a women would say.

      August 19, 2011 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
    • Katrina

      Hey! I'm a woman but I still know that it's important not to be selfish when it comes to s3x. If my man is having a bad day and I know that will cheer him up, so be it. He's the same way when it comes to me. Who knows... maybe we are just oddballs in a really good relationship. 😀 Sometimes having a good relationship requires a little sacrifice!

      August 19, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
    • alex

      go get laid

      August 19, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • torn

      To Enlil, see I think you are part of the problem.

      August 23, 2011 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
    • noni

      @AFGuy77 lmao!!!! 10000 x like this

      September 4, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
    • To AFGuy77

      Any woman reading your response would automatically file you under category 4 man: not even if he was the last man on Earth. Men like you make it so much easier for those inclined to hate men. Go ahead, keep it up. You do it well.

      September 8, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
    • Lis

      Sarah August 27, 2011 Where did you stay in Costa Rica? It looks beautiful. Andrew and I did an all-inclusive for our ooenymohn too and it was great. We stayed at Couples in Negril, Jamaica. We loved Jamaican food! Callaloo and jamaican patties and jerk chicken and curried goat and ackee and breadfruit it was all wonderful. We had lobster a couple of times at the resort, but the best lobster we had was when we wandered away down the beach and found these crazy old Jamaican fisherman cooking over a fire on the beach. They served lobster (caught just before cooking) with fresh lime and scotch bonnet peppers. It was amazing. They called it the Office of Nature and I don't know why, but it worked!

      March 4, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
  4. andrew

    You sound just like a woman. Duhhhh.

    August 19, 2011 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Steve

    Since some of you clowns don't like the article, then beat it.

    August 19, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Beam

      Heeehheeee – he said "beat it".........Bunghole – where's my bunghole..........Cornhulio!!!!!

      August 19, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
    • beavis

      t.p. I need t.p. for my bunghole.

      August 24, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
  6. Healthcheck

    The article represents the standard of the writer. You are is what you produce after all.

    August 19, 2011 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thatiana

      I’m happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with three kids. A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn’t love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited. {{{{https://robinbuckler. com }}}}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn’t call me for the past seven {8}months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than as it were before,by the help of a spell caster. He also cures Herpes So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same and you can also reach him through Robinson.buckler @t[yahoo] com

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      December 19, 2020 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
  7. Juke Longlan

    Terrible article. Journalism is dead.

    August 19, 2011 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hehe101

      Journalism's been dead for awhile, mate, that's why my dad left the business five years ago. No more good stories on real issues. Just gossip. The way of the writer and correspondent will die off with the boomer generation. Hopefully my generation ( Who I think will grow up to be like that of WWII, but with less racisim) will save this rare profession.

      August 23, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
  8. Dr Bill Toth

    Worth it only if the relationship is important to you. Live with Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    August 19, 2011 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. In canada

    The article is good. The fact that it is an issue is sad. No wonder so many marriages do not work.

    August 19, 2011 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laaiaa

      bhai aadarneey shukl ji ka to jabab hi nahi hai .... jo bhi likh dete hain vh kahin na kahin metnran ko chhoo jati hai... anterdwand aur vh hi yua hai apne ap me lajabab parikalpna hai ... thnks sir .

      April 14, 2012 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
  10. Emma

    Definitely try not to fake it. I got in the habit of doing that in my last relationship and then I felt like I had to keep doing it. It was a big mistake and not worth it.

    August 19, 2011 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chenz66

      If you have to "fake" it all the time than your either doing it wrong or your partner does not know what they are doing. Time to move on to find someone who knows how to please you. Why do it if you don't get anything out of it.

      August 19, 2011 at 08:22 | Report abuse |
    • kitty

      U should have taught him how to do it right! Im not shy, I will tell him how to work it..

      August 20, 2011 at 00:11 | Report abuse |
  11. chief

    i thought they meant with a red cross worker

    August 19, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • always in doubt

      Thanks for the laughs. Wonder if the Red Cross will comment.

      August 19, 2011 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Sadie Boyd

    Its the boots he is wearing...I have to fake it when he wears those weird boots...

    August 19, 2011 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lincoln

    Very well written. Regarding, "but if you start going through the motions, your desire will likely catch up", what if the desire never does return despite a very willing partner? Both partners are physically able and attractive too.

    August 19, 2011 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ID10T

    My left hand had a headache and the right hand was not home, whats a guy to do?

    August 19, 2011 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Amanda

    Charity s3x as described in the article is a good thing in my opinion. I was not in the mood a few weeks ago...but started when my friend arrived in town after a very long time apart with just a kiss. From my perspective, that is when the charity s3x started – but it did not stay charity for long. It ended up as a hot 4 days and a total reconnection of our relationship. Just awesome. I am having more fun now then I have in YEARS.

    This 'I have a headache' excuse is just a pile of crap, too. The chemical rush in your brain during s3x is one of the best pain relievers ever.

    August 19, 2011 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kitty

      U got it woman! I think most women that dont like s3x, havent had good s3x.

      August 20, 2011 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
  16. DaveinGeorgia

    If you are Christine O'Donnell reading this message. Please call me if you would like to go on date with me. Find my email address here. You are that hot one.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. erich2112x

    Or if the wife offers a hand job? If that isn't the most ridiculous notion. "Sure babe, but we'll need to sit over here by the computer so i can........"

    August 19, 2011 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. eutuxio

    This is first class juvenile writing: shallow, ignorant, and sort of sad. I hope no one is fool enough to take this silliness serious.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Chris

    What a total load of crap!

    August 19, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jim in Colorado

    I just attempted to post....and not sure why it didn't go through! If you see an earlier post from me....please forgive my lack of posting prowess! I'm a 52 year old, born with a cleft lip and palate. I am 5',10" and 190. I am in fairly decent shape for a guy my age. I am clean cut/well groomed, I dress nicely, have good teeth and practice good hygeine. I have had a gigantic libido since I was 12 or so! I have NEVER been able to even come close to satisfying even the slightest molecule of my libido. In my experience, women are tremendously shallow where I am involved. I have had women tap me on the shoulder and start laughing at me when I turn around, or they have a look on their face as if they've seen Frankenstein or a ghost....or they run away as if I have leprocy! Although it is nice to read that there are people with strong libidos that are enjoying intimacy in their lives....but what can I do to share in that satisfaction and happiness? It's not easy trying to keep a good face on when I am desperately wanting to have some human interaction with almost any female I may see during the day. Talk about having a pair of blue ones! Mine have just about turned into a withered carrot along side of a couple of raisins! And don't suggest that I pay for it....I'm not that kind of guy....nor do I have the resources to pay for what I would need! Where ARE all of those women who have guys who can't keep up or don't want to keep up! I'm available! ;o)

    August 19, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kwazy

      I would try you out in a heartbeat!

      August 19, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      If it is any consolation, I know a guy with the same issue and he has been happily married for well over 30 years. My point is that there is somebody out there for you ... and I would never suggest resorting to paying for s3x, but I just wonder if you have explored all the avenues available. Good luck to you. Nobody deserves to go through life without physical intimacy.

      August 19, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
    • kitty

      Wow Jim! Im sorry to hear about the stupid ppl u have met... Dont always assume women do not like you because of your cleft lip. You have to get past that also, ppl like confidence. U need to walk proud like anyone else and someone may hit on you first.

      August 20, 2011 at 00:22 | Report abuse |
  21. Ginger

    It's not charity when you get things for it. It's amazing what you can get for a BJ.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • a guy

      can you talk to my wife for me? withholding something that is the best feeling in the world is nothing but cruel.

      August 22, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
  22. Jim in Colorado

    Dangit! Not sure why I am unable to post....but here goes again! @Kwazy....thank you for the vote of confidence! It's very funny....in my first attempt at posting I said...."Some people have told me that even Quasimoto can get laid....but not me!" Amusing that your screen name is Kwazy! It's not healthy physically or mentally to go without intimacy! Decades have gone by without even a hug! It sometimes makes me feel like the freak that others seem to think I am!

    August 19, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kwazy

      Kwazy it is. I agree – it isn't healthy. Maybe that's why many people get pets! Jokes aside, most humans crave intimacy on some level. I believe inimtacy fills a need, or void, if you will. I feel for you – craving a hug is no crime! Please don't feel that way....it sounds like you have many good qualities. People can be cruel – one would hope for more from the human race.

      August 19, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  23. Grimsby

    If you deny him, don't cry when he gets it elsewhere.

    August 19, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Summer

    If she denies you she is prob getting it elsewhere. too 😉

    August 23, 2011 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jo

    I think it is a necessity at least in marriages. I have always beeen well dressing..attractive ... not so intimate person but my husband is 3 times a week person so in that dept I do compromise and its well worth it. I dont fake it but I do let him know its good to be with him. I think compromise is way to go in a marriage and it feels good for a woman that your hubby has it for you after pregnancies and years of marriage.

    August 23, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Jenna

    Can I get a tax deduction for my donation to charity?

    August 29, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. married 20 years

    what's an orgasm?

    August 30, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Wes

    This kind of sh!t really scares me in terms of marriage. I'm 24 and this whole "getting bored of one-another" really makes me rethink the marriage thing. :-/

    August 30, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tina

      You only get bored when "both" people are not open to trying different things. People change after marriage that is for sure. Key factor is ensure you really know the person prior to marriage and ensure you do not become stuck in the marital "rut" of paying bills, raising kids, and doing what grown folks do. Keep dating after marriage.

      September 6, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
  29. Alexa

    Hi Jim in Colorado!! Yoo-hoo {wink-wink}...lol... I have a fella living in my house who supposedly is my "boyfriend" and "loves" me - but he NEVER wants any sort of intimacy with me. I am a laid-back, fun-loving, kind and forgiving, pretty-enough female and - NOPE! NOT HARDLY A PECK (and that's after a lot of begging). You're NOT ALONE Jim! I'm a 45-year-old young lady and THAT makes certain desperate measures I might have tried when younger no longer effective!!

    Signed, Lonely Too

    September 1, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim in Colorado

      Hi Alexa,

      Thanks for the advise! It is not so easy to be Mr. Confident when there aren't many aspects of my life that have been worthy of building any confidence! I can't imagine that your significant other is not interested in intimacy with you. I can definitely relate to your not being able to meet those most intimate of needs. As I said in my earlier posting....I have gone decades with little more than a hug. I couldn't buy a date if my life depended on it. And forget about intimacy. I never get that far! And I would be thrilled to death if some nice female somewhere between 35 and 55 would hit on me. But it would have to be a direct hit because I'm not the type to pick up on inuendos and subtle references.

      Thanks again for the reply Alexa! I wish you the best of luck in your situation!


      Jim in CO, lonely too!

      September 12, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
  30. Tina

    It is NOT always the woman SAYING NO!!!!

    September 6, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • flipside

      Tina, I'm with ya. Misery loves company. My soul has been sucked dry dealing with that problem.

      November 14, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
  31. Clotilda

    I don't understand especially women faking it or making the headache excuse so often, and even guys at times, when I have been married to my hubby for over 3 years now, have 3 kids (a set of twins:)), and still having fun almost daily. I am a woman too and I don't complain of that, I think it is ridiculous. Besides, one of the many wonderful things about marriage and my husband in particular is that I can kiss him and have him any time I want or viceversa!! We are still very much in our honeymoon and we love it. To all women out there, love your men like there's no tomorrow!!:)

    September 12, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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    we dont care where you do it, well actually we do, just as long as you slog it at http://www.slogreport.com

    September 12, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. flipside

    I wish someone would have written this with the roles reversed. Husbands with lower libidos than their wives seems to be the best kept secret.

    November 14, 2011 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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