Why I Refuse To Call It "Maintenance" Sex

There's no doubt that sex is an important component in a lot of romantic relationships out there. But, as most people who have been in a relationship for longer than a few months can tell you, not every sexual encounter is going to involve tearing of garments, Olympic-level acrobatics, or even particularly intense cardio. As your life as a couple gets more intertwined, you may find your bodies becoming less intertwined. Enter "maintenance sex," i.e. the sex you have when one or both of you is only sort of feeling it. Only I refuse to call it maintenance sex.

As a concept, I'm all for having sex when you'd just as soon not from time to time, for a number of reasons. (In fact: full disclosure, I've actually described this type of sex as "maintenance sex" in the past. I've since reconsidered the term, if not the spirit. So I guess the more accurate title for this article could be "10 Reasons Why I Refuse To Call It Maintenance Sex Now That I've Given The Term Some More Thought.") For one, sometimes you don't know you're actually up for a really good screw until you get going. So-called "maintenance sex" can often turn into a surprise party you throw for yourself. Secondly, I feel like the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — is definitely applicable to sex. You don't want them to "do unto you" when they actively don't want to, but if it's not a big deal for them, you'd appreciate it, right? It's just nice.

Not so nice? The term "maintenance sex" and the way it's been discussed as the term becomes more widely known. Fair warning: I fully cop to the fact that some of my reasons are nit picky. But, like I always say, if someone doesn't pick the nits you'll eventually get a head full of lice. So, with that to guide us, here are some of the reasons I will refer to my unexciting sex as anything but "maintenance."

Sex Is Never An Obligation

"Maintenance" is something you have to do in order to keep something up and running. Sex is never something you have to do. Now, sex can be motivated for a lot of different reasons — love, hormones, money even — but never obligation. So right off the bat, the term is sort of creepy.

It's Super Unsexy

It just sounds boring. You maintain your lawn or your car or civility with your obnoxious cousin who posts lots of politically idiotic things on Facebook because it would break your grandma's heart if you didn't get along. Maintenance is never fun. The only routine maintenance I want around my vag is annual visits to my gyno. My fancy bits require sweet, sweet loving, not "maintenance." Come on now: dream better for yourself, everyone.

Not All Relationships Require Sex

Sexless relationships work for some people, and power to them. Or no sex works for one person and the other goes outside of the relationship for sex. I think we do a great disservice to everyone by pretending there's only one version of what a successful, happy relationship looks like. Of course sex in a relationship is important to a lot, perhaps even a majority, of people, but maybe, for many, that sense of sex being important comes from feeling like it has to be. Maintenance sex perpetuates the idea that your relationship is better off looking like "everyone else's."

Sex Can Be Magical, But It's Not Magic

I feel like the concept of maintenance sex sort of gives sex too much credit, which is sort of weird for me because I am a really big fan of sex and think it's good for a lot of what ails you.

Friend: I'm so stressed!
Me: Have you tried having sex?
Friend: I have such terrible insomnia lately.
Me: Have you tried having sex?
Friend: I have a hangnail.
Me: Have sex!
Friend: Will that help?
Me: No, I don't think so, but it's a nice distraction!

But I feel like, built into the idea of maintenance sex, is the idea that it's going to help solve a lot of problems within your relationship. Look, if your problem is that you're not making enough time for sex and you both want to have more, "maintenance sex" is an excellent solution. But if your problem is lack of communication, or financial issues, or jealousy or whatever, that's not something you can sex away.

Relationships Are More Complex Than This Idea Gives Them Credit For

Again, sex is often an important part of a relationship. Not giving yourselves enough love between the sheets can certainly branch out into other areas of your life. However, I would argue that, more often than not, issues with sex are the symptom rather than the root of the problem.

Every Relationship Has Valleys And Peaks

I feel like the idea that sex requires "maintenance" plays into the idea that the frequency with which we want to bang doesn't really change. Hormones and moods fluctuate, people, and a couple's sexual appetites can wax and wane over the course of weeks, months, or years. You might go through a period where once a week is going to keep everyone happy. Other times once a month is sufficient. Every now and then, six times a week is a compromise because you'd like to quit your jobs and spend all day humping, but that's not practical.

"Maintenance" Can Look Very Different From Person To Person


So here's the thing: if one partner wants to have sex every day and the other partner wants to have sex once a month, what does maintenance sex look like? Whom are we maintaining here? In a case like this we're talking "compromise sex," no?

It's Frequently Discussed In A Sexist Way

So often, when I read about maintenance sex, it's discussed from the point of view of "Hey ladies, your man wants sex. Ugh. I know, right? But whatever, just do it or he'll get upset, and opening your legs is easier than dealing with his whining."

First, it usually hinges on the idea that guys are biologically and across the board naturally hornier (a departure from Medieval belief, I should mention, which perceived women as sex-crazed beasts), which is crap. Second, it perpetuates the idea that all relationships involve an even mix of X and Y chromosomes. Third, there's often a creepy "grin and bear it" tone that isn't really discussed or explored in a way that would ameliorate the sexist, almost rape culture-y implications at play. Like I said above, I am actually totally fine with "Meh, makes no difference to me, so if you want to I'll go for it" sex, which some might argue is the same difference, but I would argue that the tone makes a difference.

It's Sort Of Condescending

"Now let's get one thing straight: I don't want to have sex. This is maintenance sex. I don't want you to leave or get all depressed or whatever, so I am having sex with you to maintain you."

No thanks.

Seriously, Why Does Everything Have To Be A Thing?

Like I said: in practice, this isn't a terrible thing, in my mind. In fact, I think making sex a priority is good advice for a lot of people. But, seriously, why does this have to all of a sudden become a thing that we're now obligated to at the very least consider. Like "babymoons" (just go on vacation before you have a kid) or figuring out a clever way to ask someone to prom (what's wrong with, "Hey, do you want to be my prom date?") or gender reveal parties (why?) — all of a sudden the things you do for your own fulfillment and happiness are marketed as Habits Of Happy And Successful People And You Have To Do This Or You Are Somehow Missing Out On Life.

Stop making this a thing. Just have sex. Or not. I don't care. But if you do have sex, even if it's sex you're having despite not being super excited about it, don't call it maintenance sex. There's no damn need.