Sex & Relationships

“How Can I Make my Boyfriend Initiate Sex More?”

Our wicked-smart sex and relationships columnist, Kate Carraway, to the rescue!

Charlotte couldn't get Trey to initiate the throwdown, no matter what she tried, on Sex and the City © HBO/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

On Sex and the City, Charlotte couldn’t get Trey to initiate the throwdown, no matter what she tried (Photo: ©HBO/ Courtesy: Everett Collection)

How can I make my boyfriend initiate sex more? He’s into it when I get things going, but he doesn’t feel the need to seduce me in any way, and acts like he could do without it. I do so much to look good for him and keep him interested. I tried withholding sex from him to see if that worked but I couldn’t last more than a few days. —S.W.

The greatest, lamest myth of our time is that guys like to get down more than women. Have you met a woman? Are you a woman? Then you know.

The received socio-sexual wisdom suggests that men think about and want sex differently than women in ways that appear as “more,” like more frequent thoughts about sex throughout the day, and sex-assessing every woman they meet or just see, and a generally… quantity-oriented approach, overall. This, unfortunately, gets rounded up to mean that in a hetero relationship the guy is eternally after sex, and eternally being refused, and despite the veracity with which sitcoms insist on this as reality, it’s not.

What I think is more true more often is that a straight sexual relationship produces two different and sometimes conflicting ideas of what “good sex” is, where maybe a man is interested in more frequent but shorter, lower-impact, lower-intensity sex and where maybe a woman is more interested in seduction and long-form intimacy, a.k.a. mad foreplay. There may be no significant differential in wanting it, but the ideas and ideals about how and when and for how long makes it seem like there is. Since your boyfriend is into it when you initiate, he probably digs sex as much as you do. He probably notices that he is getting laid, and probably hasn’t noticed that you’re the one initiating that laying (ews) every time. If you’re thinking that he’s slapping five with himself about having one over on you by not initiating, don’t: never assume that other people, in scenarios sexual and otherwise, are having even five percent of the same thoughts and making even five percent of the same assumptions that you are.

It’s easy to become lazy and even apathetic about the life and relationship labour that your person just takes care of. Initiating sex isn’t the same as taking out the garbage or making dinner reservations (I’m obsessed with “making dinner reservations” as a relationship theme, like, maybe one time someone other than me could do this, and do this exactly the way I want them to do this?) but it also kind of is: it’s part of a routine of some kind, it has to get done, and it takes some rallying when you’re sleepy, but the payoff is good. Why do something that someone else is already doing for you?

I mean, you know why. And as much as “withholding sex” is a super-cynical power move and I don’t recommend it, you proceeding as usual won’t help you out, either. The next time you’re feeling it (I refuse to use the “h” word), initiate a conversation about initiating instead of initiating sex. Tell your boyfriend a) that you feel like you’re usually the one making the first move, and then b) how much you like and appreciate it when he makes the first move, and how attractive it is to you—I feel like guys rarely receive nice intra-relationship compliments and posi vibes about their appearance and sexual attractiveness the way women do, because we’ve all been instructed forever that men are only around for providing and protecting—and c) how important it is for you (and every other person in any kind of relationship) to feel wanted within that relationship. Wanted, specifically and explicitly and regularly. If you can remember some hot early-relationship example of him initiating sex with you (and if you can’t… hmm), tell him about it and how it made you feel and how you want him to be more included in that part of the sex you have. Framing this, or anything, in an us-team-we way instead of “you’re fucking up” will always work, if not to perfectly solve everything in your life, but to establish realness and honesty and make a little space for something to change. Whether he responds blankly or defensively or with the open heart of a generous fairytale lion is up to him.

More great advice from Kate:
We Had the Perfect Date and Then I Never Saw Him Again…
Help! My Boyfriend and I Are From Different Worlds
Help! My Friend Has Become a Selfie-Obsessed Monster
Help! My Girlfriend Is Always on a Diet
Help! My Boyfriend Is Better Looking Than Me
I’m So Tired of Hearing About My Friends’ Boring Babies.
I Have Proof My Friend’s BF Is Cheating. Do I Tell Her?
My Best Friend’s Life Is Perfect. Can I Tell Her to Stop Complaining Already? 
How Young Is Too Young?
Is Long Distance a Dealbreaker?
When Do I Need to Disclose My Dismal $$$ Sitch?
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?
Why Aren’t I More Obsessed With My BF?
Should I Propose to My Guy?