Do Vulva Owners Like Sex? is The Wrong Question Heres what You Should Ask Instead

What’s the short answer?

It depends on the person.

Some do like sex and some don’t. Just like some penis owners like sex and some don’t.

This question, in and of itself, isn’t great, though. It makes some broad generalizations and assumptions about people and sex in general.

So instead of asking whether vulva owners like sex, you should really be focusing on the person you want to have sex with, and ask them how they feel, what they want, and what they need.

With that in mind, here are some of the questions you should be asking instead.

What are we talking about when we talk about ‘sex’?

There are lots of different ways to have sex. Penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse is just one type.

Other types of sex include:

  • oral sex
  • anal sex
  • hand-to-genital contact
  • genital rubbing
  • masturbation

So, how someone feels about sex is actually a little more nuanced. They might like one type but not another.

For example, “some people just do not enjoy the sensation of being penetrated,” says Britney Blair, clinical psychologist and an AASECT certified sex therapist.

“For many people, it happens much too quickly, before they are adequately lubricated. It may be painful, rough, or just not that pleasurable,” she says.

If someone has experienced sexual assault, certain kinds of sex, including penetrative sex, can be traumatic or triggering in certain circumstances.

Sometimes, people may only enjoy a certain kind of sex — say, PIV — if it comes with other types of stimulation.

“The average clitoris needs 20 minutes of direct stimulation to reach orgasm,” Blair says. “And that stimulation is rarely accomplished with just penis-in- vagina sex.”

In fact, a 2018 study found that many vulva owners don’t or can’t orgasm from penetrative sex alone.

As a result, many heterosexual vulva owners may not enjoy this kind of sex as much because they’re less likely to experience orgasm.

Researchers found that vulva owners, regardless of sexual orientation, were more likely to orgasm if any of the following occurred alongside PIV sex:

  • deep kissing
  • manual genital stimulation
  • oral sex

Is sex something everyone wants?

No, and that’s OK!

Some people have a really high libido, causing them to want to experience a sexual release, and some people don’t. If someone has a low libido, they might not have a desire to have sex.

Some people decide to be celibate for religious, cultural, or personal reasons. Some people experience limited or no sexual attraction, and so they may not have a desire to have sex either.

Some people just don’t enjoy sex, or they only want sex with a partner whom they’re in a relationship with.

This may stem from a number of different reasons. For example, they may not be enjoying the sex they’re having, or they only experience sexual attraction and sexual desire toward folks they have a close emotional connection with.

Someone’s sexual desire can also change over time

“Desire for sex may change over time depending on life circumstances, current partner, physical illness, and level of stress,” Blair says.

For example, one study found that stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which both can affect your libido.

Another study found that vulva owners with high levels of stress experienced lower levels of genital sexual arousal, even when they’re psychologically aroused.

The researchers found that there may be a relationship between participants’ levels of stress and ability to focus during erotic stimulation, which could explain the decrease in genital arousal.

Major life changes, such as pregnancy, marriage, divorce, kids, menopause, and work-life imbalance, can all affect libido and sexual desire, causing it to wax and wane.

Not wanting sex isn’t always trauma-related

If someone has experienced a sexual trauma, they may not have a desire for sex. This can be temporary or long lasting.

But it’s important to note, says Blair, that “it’s possible to not really be all that into sex or not enjoy sex without having a trauma history.”

“It’s also very important to note that the vast number of those who have experienced sexual trauma do enjoy sex and have a normal level of sexual desire and do not suffer from sexual dysfunction,” she continues.

In other words: A person’s sexual desire is unique to that person, and it doesn’t always have a cause.

Does that mean vulva owners and penis owners are truly ‘wired differently’?

A 2001 research review combining the results of 150 studies found that penis- having folks had more frequent sexual “thoughts, fantasies, and spontaneous arousal.”

It also found that their desired frequency of sex was higher throughout their relationships and that they masturbated more frequently. They were also more likely to initiate sex and refuse it less often.

In other words, just because folks with penises have higher libidos or want sex more often doesn’t mean they necessarily enjoy sex more.

It also doesn’t mean they’re necessarily innately “wired differently.”

In fact, Masters and Johnson, pioneers of sexual health research, found that both sexes experienced the same human sexual response cycle.

One 1995 study did find that when trans men were given hormones as part of their transition, their sexual arousability went up, and when trans women were deprived of those same hormones, their arousability declined.

However, this research had a small sample size, so it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions from it.

So where did this idea of ‘wired differently’ even come from?

Sex experts used to confidently assert that people assigned male at birth and people assigned female at birth had different sexual natures.

But this has been questioned more recently as our understanding of sexuality continues to evolve.

“For centuries, those with vulvas have had their sex and sexuality controlled by those with penises,” Blair says. “This likely started in the agricultural age when women’s bodies were traded for land.”

“Even in 2020, there is ample ‘slut shaming’. People with vulvas who really love sex and even sex with multiple partners are considered sluts or ‘damaged’ in some way where, in large part, those with penises are lauded for the ‘notches in their bed post,’” she explains.

“There has been much research on the spectrum of sexuality,” Blair continues, “and we now believe that this is also much more fluid than previously thought.”

So how do you know whether someone you’re interested in wants the same thing(s) you do?

The only way to really know is to ask. That’s why open, clear, and honest communication is key with your sexual partner. (As is consent!)

“I recommend starting outside the bedroom,” Blair says. “Maybe while driving or going on a walk so the eye-to-eye contact isn’t too intimidating.”

“It may also be helpful to begin the conversation by acknowledging that this can be a difficult subject, but that having a healthy — and even vibrant — erotic life is a big priority for you and for your relationship.”

To be truly honest with each other, it’s important that you both feel safe and free to express whatever your desires are. To achieve that, try to listen and not judge.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘fantasy crime,’ and many fantasies are just that: fantasy,” Blair explains. “In the world of the erotic, there’s no such thing as ‘right or wrong’ as long as activities are mutually consensual, safe, and legal.”

If you’re having trouble opening up, it might be helpful inviting your partner to share their desires first. Hearing what they want might help you feel more confident sharing your fantasies.

What if you want different things?

That’s common. It’s rare for two people to want exactly the same things.

In fact, Blair says, “I’ve never worked with a couple who didn’t have different levels of libido. We describe this as ‘desire discrepancy,’ and it can change over time.

“For example, one partner may want lots of sex in the beginning of the relationship (more than their partner) and notice that this then lowers after a child, making their partner the higher-desire partner.

“It’s important not to pathologize the lower- or higher-desire partner. Sex can be hard for couples to talk about, and I think it’s important to agree to make a safe space for one another,” Blair says.

When differences arise, you’re going to have to make some decisions.

For example, if one partner wants PIV sex and the other wants slow, erogenous play, is there a way you can meet both your needs?

Are you both willing to compromise and try different things for the other? Are you both willing to put in the work to improve your sexual compatibility?

If this is just a temporary change in your sex life — say, because your partner is going through a stressful time — are you willing to work through it with them?

How do you move forward?

Sometimes, the differences between you might not be bridgeable.

If you really want a certain kind of sex (say, oral) and your partner isn’t willing to do it, then that’s kind of the end of the story. Remember, enthusiastic consent is always a must.

It might be kind of awkward if your fantasy is turned down, but try not to feel bad — and definitely don’t shame your partner. Not all relationships will work out.

The bottom line

The only way to know whether your partner wants sex is to have an open and honest conversation.

It can be awkward sometimes, but just remember that sex is always more rewarding if you’re both on the same page about it.

And if you’re not into the same things, that’s OK too!

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