What is a sex schedule and should you get one?


Pencil it in.

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s going out for dinner and drinks and returning home later than usual, being engrossed in a book you can’t seem to put down, or you’re simply too exhausted from a big day at the office, sometimes being intimate just isn’t something at the top of your to-do list come end of the day.

But over time, you may notice this becoming a regular occurrence in your relationship as life gets in the way. Scheduling sex can be a handy way to combat this and while schedules and the spontaneous nature of intimacy wouldn’t seem synonymous with one another, you might be surprised at how seamlessly they can become linked.

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To reduce unintentional pressure, thinking of scheduled sex more broadly as scheduling your intimacy can be a means of making this more fluid. Sexologist Aleeya Hachem says scheduling your intimacy can be thought of like you would a designated date night. It’s a time where you can dedicate yourself to your partner and your relationship.

“I think the benefit of scheduling intimacy is that there is increased connection through having this scheduled time with your partner that’s purposeful,” says Aleeya. “It’s creating a stronger connection with your emotional and physical connection which can otherwise be neglected because other things are prioritised [over intimacy].” Below, Aleeya breaks down the benefits of scheduling intimacy, how to keep it fresh and why sometimes you might not be feeling up to rolling around in the sack.

What are the benefits of scheduling your intimacy and why should couples look at trialling it?

Simply put, because intimacy can very easily fall to the wayside, right? There’s so much going on in life like work, other commitments, family events, friends, and then sex and intimacy can fall to the bottom of the list. Rather than scheduling just sex, schedule intimacy. This takes the pressure off because when we do schedule specifically sex, it creates this pressure that ‘Okay, we are having sex at six o’clock tonight, so we must be in the mood’.

When this happens is, the body can shut down the mood because it’s been told it has to have sex at this exact time, whereas when you schedule intimacy more broadly, it allows you to experiment [with] where you want to take it. Do you want to have a massage? Do you want to go out for dinner? It kind of eases the body into the idea of sex, without the pressure.

Schedules are not typically associated with impulsiveness and fun. How do you keep your intimacy schedule exciting and can you be spontaneous within it?

I think it’s what you make of it. If you’re going into planning a schedule thinking that you’re going to have sex the same time, the same way, this is very much when planning can become quite rigid. However, when you plan something different, that’s how you make it spontaneous within the schedule whether it be you or your partner bringing something new into the experience or perhaps having sex outside the bedroom.

You can kind of take it any way you want to go to it doesn’t need to be penetrative sex. It could be oral sex, incorporating toys, roleplay, some type of BDSM. It can kind of go any way you want it. The language around how we present it can influence how we view scheduling. Having a broader picture and focusing on intimacy rather than simply penetrative sex can make it seem more exciting and fun. It’s about reframing the experience.

Are there hormonal and/or external factors that can impact why you’re just in the mood for sex?

Physical reasons can impact desire, and I believe this mostly influences female desire more than males. One of the biggest things that not many people speak about is how sexual desire can fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, and the biological impact of hormones. If hormones are out of whack or you’re on the pill or any type of hormonal contraception, your sexual desire will be somewhat flatlined because you’re not having that natural fluctuation.

When you ovulate, it’s your body’s way of saying ‘Come on, go get pregnant’ so you have a surge in estrogen, which means that your body is ready to go. Then, when you lower down to leading up to your period, naturally you’re just not that interested in sex and intimacy. What we work with in clinical sexology is the psychosocial impacts, as well as the context and how that can impact on sexual desire as well. If we believe there’s something going on biologically, we will always refer patients to speak with their GP and to find what else is going on.

The psychosocial impact on intimacy sounds intriguing. Can you elaborate a little on what these factors might be?

Yes, there could be many factors that influence sexual desire from a psychosocial perspective. Things like being in a lockdown, anxiety, a relationship conflict, sexual self-esteem. There are many factors that impact on how we feel sexually and how we’re then turned on in those experiences. A lot of the work we do as sexologists is unpacking turn-ons and turn-offs. We do an exercise called brakes and accelerators: accelerators are turn-ons and brakes are turn-offs. This can help us want to try and figure out what works for a patient.

When asking a patient what their brakes are, commonly they’ll say fatigue, stress, overeating, feeling bloated, bad breath, whatever their brakes may be. More often than not, though, those experiencing low desire have around two accelerators and a list of 10 brakes. Then, what we try and do is really tune into those turn-ons and how we can minimise the turn-offs. This helps us to figure out what context makes sex sexy for you.

For couples who may be looking at starting their own intimacy schedule, what are your top four tips for success?

1) Work with your partner to determine what you can realistically achieve: Take time with your partner to understand your schedules and prioritise pockets of time dedicated to intimacy with each other. Some weeks may look different to others and that is okay.

2) Redefine what intimacy means to you: There are times when penetrative sex is not achievable, but that doesn’t mean we should take an all-or-nothing approach to intimacy. Brainstorm with your partner all the ways you can experience pleasure and connection that don’t necessarily include ‘sex’.

3) Lean into the anticipation: Create a build-up with your partner around the event. Even though you are scheduling intimacy, anticipation and desire are built around the novel and unknown. Take turns planning something new and exciting to bring to the experience, such as toys, or incorporating a blindfold, etc.

4) Remove sexpectations: If something comes up don’t beat yourself up; the last thing you should do is have sex if you just aren’t feeling it. Focus on pleasure rather than pressure.

You can keep up with Aleeya here.

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