I believe that it is not uncommon for marriages to become sexless as people grow older, because sex drive declines with age and also other medical problems occur with older age. So while it’s normal for some couples to continue to have sex as they get older, it’s just as normal for other couples to stop having sex, but the Oprah-society has decreed that the couples who have stopped having sex are not normal and have some big Problem that can only be fixed by psychological counseling. This Oprahfication leads to more divorces and erodes family values.He seems to have dumped the empirical approach to questions in favor of a semi-rapid fire sounding off on human biodiversity-related current events. Far be it from me to criticize him for the transition, since he has an apparent knack for his new avocation.
Instead, I'll just confirm what is already hinted at in the NYT article that spurred his post. As married couples age, they in fact do have less sex than they did when they were younger. The graph shows frequency of sex*, by age range, among those who are married:
Unsurprisingly, the older couples are, the less frequently they have sex. With the exception of a relatively sharp decline going into the mid-twenties, the decrease is remarkably steady.
Specifically addressing Half Sigma's belief that it is not unusual for sexless marriages to occur as couples age, the following graph shows, again by age range, the percentage of married people who abstain completely:
His assertion is contingent upon what is considered "not uncommon", but until couples reach their late-fifties, fewer than one in ten marriages are sexless. Prior to the mid-forties, virtually all married couples are sexually intimate. Married men in their forties and early-fifties average once per week--certainly higher than guys who are still trying to swing at that age. For this reason, from a carnal perspective, marriage is an attractive proposition for middle-aged men.
Although the article relays information from the GSS to determine the average number of times a married couple has sex in a year, the question of how common sexless marriage has been over time is left unanswered. The GSS only allows us to go back two decades, not two centuries, but a relatively short duration is still preferrable to shoulder shrugs. The following table shows, by age range, the percentage of sexless marriages for the period of 1989-1993 and 2002-2008, representing the earliest and latest date range in which the question regarding frequency has been asked:
|Age||89-93||02-08||Sexless inc (dec)|
Each age range has an average sample size of 232, lower on the youthful end of the spectrum and higher on the wizened side. The differences appear to mostly be random fluctuations, with one age range showing a drop over the last 15 years and the range just above or below it showing a roughly corresponding increase.
Looked at more holistically, during the 1989-1993 period, 7.0% of marriages were sexless. The mean age of those who were married during this time was 46.5. From 2002-2008, 7.9% of marriages were sexless and the average age was 48.3. So the marginal increase in the percentage of sexless marriages looks like it is accounted for by the greying of the US population that has occured over the last couple of decades.
GSS variables used: SEXFREQ, MARITAL(1), YEAR(1989-1993)(2004-2008), AGE([range])
* There are seven response categories for the GSS item, which inquires about annual levels of sexual activity. To figure numerical means, I calculate an annual total as follows: Not at all = 0, once or twice = 1.5, once a month = 12, 2-3 times a month = 30, weekly = 52, 2-3 times per week = 130, 4+ per week = 260. For weekly averages, which are easier to digest, the resulting figures are simply divided by 52.