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Why is “DeadBedrooms” trending on Reddit?

Sophie Saint Thomas interviewed me for her September 2015 article on sexless marriage and other sexless relationships for Connections.Mic — “The One Problem 20-Something Couples Have That No One Talks About.”

Following on Salon Magazine’s “The Bed Death of Sexless Marriage is Real,”  and the surprising popularity of the Sub-Reddit r/DeadBedrooms, Saint Thomas was most interested in exactly why “bed death” (or Sexless Marriage) appears to be so common these days.

Is it just because we’re the first few generations in which everyone is supposed to be having great sex?  Or are couples actually losing their erotic connection more often?.

DeadBedrooms are Surprisingly Common

2009 New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope estimated that that almost 15% of married couples are in sexless marriages (i.e. they haven’t been sexual together for the past 6-12 months). If you count “near-sexless marriages,” the number is no doubt higher.  SRI antidepressants may play a role in some cases. ED can be a factor as well, even in younger couples. 

Women are more famous for losing sexual desire. The new libido-restoring pill Addyi is targeted for just this market. See my October 2015 article, “25 Things You Need to Know About Addyi – Flibanserin” for details.

But as I told Saint Thomas, in my office it’s more often the man who’s dragged in by his female partner because he’s stopped initiating. Sometimes it’s due to his having lost desire, and sometimes it’s due to other things. Either way, it tends to be a severe stress on the woman he lives with. Women rely on their partners’ erotic attention to feel validated as sexual beings — probably even more than men do, as I discussed in my articles “The Woman in the Mirror” and “Juego.”

Many r/DeadBedrooms readers whose posts Saint Thomas studied were women upset about their male partner’s lack of sexual initiative. Men’s desire is supposed to be automatic, so couples often experience a man’s loss of sexual feeling as an especially serious threat to the relationship.

Why Do Men Avoid Sex?

Here are my notes from the interview with Saint Thomas:

SAINT THOMAS:  How common are sexless relationships in younger couples?

SNYDER:  We don’t know for sure. I only know that among young couples who come to me for consultation, a relationship that’s gone sexless or nearly-sexless is one of the most common problems for which people seek help.

SAINT THOMAS:  In your office, is it more often women or men who’ve lost desire for their partners?

SNYDER:   Women’s low desire gets more press (e.g. flibanserin – Addyi). But in my office, it’s usually the man — often dragged to the office by his female partner because she’s sick and tired of not feeling affirmed as a sexually desirable woman.

SAINT THOMAS:   Why do men in otherwise good relationships avoid sex?

SNYDER:   Here are seven of the most common reasons:

  1.  Erectile dysfunction.  If a man isn’t confident that he’ll be able to get and keep an erection, he’ll often avoid sex.  ED is probably the most common reason that men avoid sex.
  2.  Vicious cycles involving criticism.  If a woman criticizes a man for never initiating sex, this may get him so upset that he stops initiating sex. Which makes her even more critical, and so on.
  3. No-sex leads to more no-sex.  If a couple for whatever reason stops having sex for a significant period of time, then something like the incest taboo can kick in. Our minds seem programmed to interpret“person I’m living with, but not having sex with” as equivalent to “sibling.” In other words, temporary sexual avoidance can lead to permanent sexual avoidance.
  4. Pornography.  If a man has a big porn habit, and he’s become used to getting all his sex on the internet, then over time his partner may come to feel to him like a non-sexual being.
  5. The relationship is at an end. Sometimes he’s really done with the relationship, but hasn’t been able to admit this to himself or to her yet.
  6. Inability to connect love and lust. Some guys have a “madonna/whore” thing where once they love a woman deeply, they can’t stand the thought of ‘debasing’ her by thinking of her as a sexual object.
  7. That’s just who he is.  For whatever reason, some guys just don’t seem to be able to sustain desire in long-term committed relationships. Sad but true.
stephen snyder md author photo Stephen Snyder, MD

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