By Emily King

5 Reasons Why You Should Give Scheduling Sex a Go, from a Sex Therapist 

Scheduling sex… Love it, or hate it?

To begin, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Scheduling sex is sitting down with a partner, or partners, to agree on a date and time to have sex. However, because the definition of sex is completely personal and subjective - as it should be - I prefer reframing this to scheduling intimacy. This avoids expectation, instead focusing on how you are feeling at that present moment, forming your needs from this.

In my sex therapy sessions the topic of scheduling sex is one that arises quite often. Particularly when I’m working with couples seeking my support to overcome an issue with their sexual and intimate lives. The most common issue I work with in couples therapy is the mismatch of libido which typically affects the frequency of sex, impacting their experience of connection. Often, couples will reminisce about how easy sex used to be. The most interesting aspect of how this is discussed between them is the common inability to actually provide details and insight into how it worked, or why it worked. It just simply… did. Like magic! 

Much of the time these tales of wondrous, spontaneous sex are completely devoid of co-creation, and I often wonder if this is the very reason why they are lusted over so much. Are these hormone-driven moments of desire placed on a pedestal because they didn’t actually require much effort? It is often said by many sexuality practitioners - including myself - that having sex is easier than talking about it. It is easier for people to participate in sex that they don’t really want to be having than to challenge it, to engage in introspection as a means to best inform interpersonal connection. Interpersonal connection which then offers the opportunity for change, for growth, which typically involves vulnerability and discomfort. This remains easy until it starts to go wrong.

A foundational pillar of my approach to sex therapy is choice. I believe that we all have the choice to experience specific feelings, emotions and sensations, through practice, effort and commitment. I support people to not only develop this capacity to choose, but also to exercise it. In the nostalgic accounts of past shared pleasures, couples speak in a way which almost implies that ‘good sex’ is or was something which just happened to them, rather than being a shared experience which two adults chose to create. It is great to get all of the joy with none of the work. Of course it’s satisfying! But is it sustainable? Absolutely not. 

Ever fascinated with the huge spectrum of opinions, beliefs and anxieties around sex, I took to my wonderful Instagram community to ask them how they felt about scheduling. Among the varied responses, 2 camps with 2 opposing ideals stood out:

Those in favour of scheduling and the positive consequences it’s had on their satisfaction and relationship:

“We always schedule! I can’t remember the last time when we haven’t. Being busy was our issue so we realised it was so much better (and actually happens) when we put time aside. We kept passing each other, having different schedules, so we had a chat and decided when someone’s in the mood we schedule and get it booked in. It has worked a treat. I feel like we were never really this open before and it has been great to just say when I want it and vice versa.”

“Yes to scheduling! I can get into the right mindset. I feel more present, and can relax better. Spontaneous sex just happens less.”

“I’m single and I’d never thought of scheduling it for myself. But now Masturbation Monday may be used!”

Those opposed to scheduling, more in favour of spontaneous sex:

“Feeling like I shouldn’t feel like I have to schedule because I’m in love… if I  have to schedule does it mean I'm not actually interested anymore? Is it like a chore if it’s scheduled?!”

“Feels forced, artificial. Another box to tick”

“Wanted to try it with an ex to try to reconnect but they didn’t because it would take away ‘romance & passion’.”

Now, I invite you to reflect on the beliefs you may - perhaps subconsciously - attach to ‘good sex’. Resist becoming critical here, welcome an investigative mindset. When did you, if you do, start associating spontaneity with ‘good sex’? Where did you learn this from? When did spontaneity in a long-term relationship come to represent the capacity for love that you have for your partner? How interesting, that we wouldn’t perceive effort- exemplified through planning and quality time - to be a more accurate signifer. Notice if you associate effort with failure. Effort really requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is key for opening, expanding, and this includes our capacity to feel, which impacts how we experience pleasure. 

Sex and intimacy throws up challenges for the majority of people at some point. One of the many issues we have with our understanding of sex is the extent to which we have ‘naturalised’ it. It’s normal! It’s healthy! When things are good, it happens. When things aren’t so good, it doesn’t. Simple! So, why then, is sex such a difficult area for so many? ‘Prioritise pleasure’ is a trending slogan, yet there’s little actionable evidence that people are actually doing this. Ask a crowd if they value sex and intimacy, and the majority will say, “absolutely.” Ask the majority: how? And they’ll likely look at you in silence. Scheduling intimacy is one way to start to walk the talk. To take your sexual and intimate life seriously. 

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m in camp YES for scheduling. Here’s my top reasons why you should give it a go:

1.Embodiment practice

Scheduling sex doesn’t just mean at 7pm on the 2nd of November you will pick up your script of habitual sex and start going for it on autopilot. It’s about reflecting on how you are feeling in that present moment and being able to ask for what you want, or offer to a partner. Being able to reflect on feeling is a skill which requires practice. By agreeing to explore this activity with a partner, you’re being held accountable to start noticing what is going on inside your body and what this might mean that you need. Desire is embodiment, plus action.

2. Taking responsibility for your pleasure

How many times have you silently huffed because you didn’t get what you wanted, because you never actually asked for it? Scheduling intimacy means that each partner has to take full responsibility for exploring their desires and communicating this. Asking for what you want, being able to express appreciation whether you receive it or are met with a ‘no’. Being able to respect and celebrate a partner’s no is a must for healthy communication.

3. Touch is a resource!

Touch, pleasure, sexuality, desire, sensuality, all offer huge benefits which give back to our entire lives. Intimacy and pleasure are so often neglected due to our culturally damaged relationship with them. They are commonly misunderstood as being frivolous, irrelevant from the daily workings of our lives apart from sex. When you make this a priority, you build on your depth of safety in yourself and in relation to others. You develop better self-regulation skills, your stress levels decrease, your productivity improves. If there’s one thing you take away from this reflection, it’s to start taking pleasure seriously. 

4. Disrupt cultural misconceptions about sex  

When we over-value spontaneous sex, believing that it’s a key ingredient for ‘good sex’, we make ourselves powerless. We are rendered paralysed, unable to conjure up desire and arousal, meekly waiting for spontaneity to strike! To slap us in the face and say IT’S TIME. With practice, with willingness to learn, you will be able to choose to participate in desire. A key part of developing the capacity to choose is creating environments in which this can happen. Scheduling sex creates space for creativity wherein you can explore what your ideal environment looks and feels like.

5. It strengthens emotional intimacy

Much of how we experience and relate to sex happens inwardly. When a safe space to share this experience, through conscious touch and communication, emotional intimacy develops. Being able to give, to receive, without routine expectation, allows us to be vulnerable and safe at the same time. Where safety, attunement and co-regulation are, as is hot, mutually fulfilling sex.