What to do if she never initiates sex

Friday October 18 2019

There are three ways in which one can experience sexual desire. One of them is responsive desire. The person with this type of desire will not proactively go for sex; they wait for their partners to start it off then they get into the mood. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Ann and her husband, Ted, were going through a difficult time in their relationship.

They had not talked to each other for three weeks, the longest time this had ever happened. They shared the same bed but faced different directions.

"He accuses me of being insensitive to his sexual needs because he is the one who initiates sex," Ann explained when she came to the Sexology Clinic.

"I do not understand why this is an issue now after living together for all these years." The couple, both in their early 30s had been married for four years.

They were both lecturers at a public university. They had one child aged two years. "But do you enjoy the pleasure of sex after he initiates it, or do you feel that he is raping you?" I asked, trying to get to the root of Ann's problem.



She always had a great time during sex, she divulged. She got orgasms most of the time.

Her problem was that she really never thought of or craved sex and so never felt obliged to initiate it.

The couple's ability to have sex was therefore pegged on Ted initiating it. Ted, on the other hand, was rebelling from this, saying that Ann did not love him.

I realised that I needed to talk to this couple together. I therefore asked Ann to request Ted to accompany her to the clinic the next day.

"But we are not in talking terms so how will I even invite him to the clinic," Ann reminded me. I called Ted on his mobile phone. He accepted to join us at the clinic the next day.

The couple was early to the clinic. I took them through an exploratory journey of their sex lives. I concluded that the problem was a difference in the way the two experienced sex desire.


Take it this way: there are three ways in which one can experience sexual desire. First, one can have the urge for sex spontaneously and without any provocation.

A big majority of men, almost 85 per cent of them, are known to experience this type of desire. Only about 15 per cent of women have this type of desire.

The second type of desire is known as responsive desire. This is the desire that comes after sex is initiated.

The person with this type of desire will not proactively go for sex; they wait for their partners to start it off then they get into the mood.

About 30 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men have this type of desire. People with this type of desire will generally not initiate sex since they do not have the urge, but will respond and get sexually stimulated during foreplay.

The third type of desire is contextual. It is the desire that develops when the environment is conducive. This can be the result of a romantic holiday.

It can also be the result of a bedroom that has been prepared in a way that is welcoming for sex; it can happen when a couple is watching a romantic movie.


Most people get a mixture of all types of desires. One type of desire is however always predominant in a person compared to the others.

When a couple is familiar with their desire tendencies, they can adjust their approach to sex to fit without a conflict.

"So my diagnosis is that Ted tends to get spontaneous desire while Ann is more inclined to the responsive type," I explained to the couple.

"You need to learn your partner to have an enjoyable sexual life." Ted frowned and stared at the horizon, avoiding eye contact with me.

There was deafening silence in the consultation room for almost three minutes as they both tried to digest what I had said. "Does this mean that Ann will never initiate sex in our marital relationship ever?" Ted asked.

I could sense anger in his voice. He felt rejected by Ann after four years of always initiating sex and my explanation had added to his frustration.

I repeated my explanation to make it clearer and help him appreciate the types of desire. I explained that it was nobody's mistake to fall into any of the categories of desire.

"I will try to initiate it," Ann interjected. She stood up, pulled him by the hand and hugged him.