11 April 2011

Sex for 30 days?

What happens when a couple has sex every day? INTIMACY initiated the first “30-day sex challenge” in South Africa to find out...


What happens when a couple has sex every day? INTIMACY magazine initiated the first “30-day sex challenge” in South Africa to find out...

American wife and mother Charla Muller’s life was, like the most of ours are, pretty jam-packed full of ironing, dishes, nappies and squabbles... which usually left her sex life with much to be desired. When her husband’s fortieth birthday dawned, Charla decided to give him an incredible gift – something only she could offer him: sex, every single day, for an entire year! After this year, in which her marriage underwent a dramatic turnaround, she wrote the book 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy, which documents her experience.

The IMTIMACY team promptly decided that this was a wonderful idea and, as things often do when women talk… one thing led to another and we decided to initiate a challenge similar to Charla’s, only shorter! It was decided that a month would fit the bill perfectly, and that the challenge would begin on the 1st of November, with three ‘passes’ given to each couple for use in extreme cases (those ‘I have a headache’ moments, or on a day when hubby is out of town). Various couples were selected, seven of which chose to participate in the end. All are different ages, and have been married for differing numbers of years.

Shortly after the INTIMACY challenge commenced, American Pastor Ed Young, who recently preached at The Rivers Church in Sandton, made headlines when he challenged his flock to have sex for seven consecutive days. His belief is that if the sex is good, the marriage will also be good. He challenged married couples to become “sexperts” in this “sexperiment”, but pretty soon after making the declaration, it was revealed that even Ed could only manage six of the seven days! Perhaps the challenge would be a little more difficult than we had anticipated...

Does it make a difference?
The purpose of INTIMACY’s challenge was to establish if regular sex really is positive and if it really does make a difference in marriages. Some experts believe that regular sex is capable of saving a couple whose relationship is waning, but others aren’t as sure. Following Charla’s experiment, another American conducted his own version of the initiative over 101 days. Doug Brown documented the experience in Just Do It: How One Couple Turned Off the TV and Turned on Their Sex Lives for 101 Days (No Excuses). Both Charla and Doug are convinced that this strengthened their marriages. When Doug started with his experiment in 2006, he was juggling two kids, two posts and suffering from performance anxiety.

“I thought that I either had to be a pornography star, or an Olympic athlete. This anxiety melted away with (daily) sex. We learnt so much about each other... we rediscovered the chemistry which wasn’t there before.” Charla, too, admitted that she wasn’t aware of how much pressure their relationship was under as a result of the absence of regular intimacy.

Of course, there’s also the theory that ‘the more you have it, the more you’ll want to have it’, as confirmed by Andrea M. Macari, a clinical psychologist who specialises in sex therapy. “Frequent sex increases sexual desire in a couple’s relationship… in other words, the more you do it, the more the individual will desire it. You develop an appetite that wasn’t there previously,’’ she explains.

But is it attainable? Pepper Schwartz, a professor in sociology at the University of Washington, believes that whether it works or not is beside the point as most couples aren’t able to do it. “I have yet to meet a couple who are both in the mood every day, or who have that kind of energy,” she states.

“It is a model that very few will resonate with, and which even fewer will be able to follow.” Yet she does argue that there is merit in it, explaining that sexual attraction and sexual arousal involves important hormones which influence a person’s level of happiness and feeling of closeness towards their partner, and that even if a sex session starts with only a degree of interest, this hormone will result in a feeling of intimacy and pleasure as soon as arousal starts.

The INTIMACY 30-day sex challenge
The participants were: *Amy and Mark (married 10+ years); *Angelina and Nicolas (married 20+ years); *Reneé and Philip (married for less than a year); *Lisa and Werner (married 10+ years); *Louine and Jack (married 5+ years); *Deshnee and Peter (married 1+ years); *Margaret and Johan (married 1+ years). Some of these couples have children, whilst others don’t.

(*Names have been changed)

We have lift-off!
For some, the challenge started out with a certain degree of fear but, for others, it started out well. On day 1, Amy wrote: “I’m cautiously optimistic for this month. I think it’s going to be fantastic”. Angelina and Lisa were away on a women’s camp, and Margaret wrote: “It was a gruelling Friday night and I was literally too tired. I’ve already used my first pass!” Louine and Jack also used their first pass, but Jack admitted that he was a little disappointed. On day 2, he caught up by surprising his wife in the kitchen while the kids were bathing. Margaret also managed to catch up, while Johan gave their sex an 11/10! Amy, however, wrote: “It’s only the second day, and the wheels are coming off. We are both exhausted and could do with a good night’s rest...” Lisa and Werner attempted a new move in the shower, and predicted it would be a wonderful month for the two of them...

Day 5-10
Werner wrote: “I’m very glad we have to do it every day!”, while his Eve admitted, “I went to sleep with a smile on my face.” Johan wrote: “It was great – a mind-blowing session in three different positions!” And Margaret? “A wild session! Amazing. We skipped four days because we were just too tired, but I drank a few vitamins and tonight was heavenly!” Philip worked late four nights in a row, and Angelina and Nicolas had words on day 5 while their visitors made privacy difficult. On the 10th of November, Amy wrote: “Great…but it feels like we’re busy going through the motions without any emotion!”

Day 11-20
The challenge begins to take its toll: Louine and Jack pull out on day 12. Amy admits that they are doing it just because they have to, and Werner says, “It takes a lot of effort to push through!” Louine writes: “Two nights in a row... this isn’t a picnic!” , and Nicolas admits that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. But not everyone feels this way… Werner enjoys knowing that he’s guaranteed sex every night. On one particular night, Lisa wasn’t feeling optimistic but, the following day, chants the Kellogg’s mantra: “Guess who got it all this morning?!” She enjoys her “Sunday morning wrestling match” on the 16th of November. On day 14, Amy has a headache and, the next day, her Adam has a migraine! On day 17, this couple’s comments dry up completely. Margaret and Johan also become more silent.

Day 21-30
On the 20th of November, things come to a head when Lisa and Werner admit their true feelings towards the challenge. They decide on the 24th of November to persevere, despite their struggle. “Make-up sex was great,” writes Werner, and Lisa adds: “I’m glad the silliness is over, and that we tackled the misunderstanding.” The next morning she gets an “early morning surprise” and Werner writes: “I love it when my wife is a little wild!” Nicolas and Angelina get their second wind, but admit that it’s difficult to keep up. On day 25, both of them agree that every day is just too much. Nicolas writes on day 27: “It has become an absolute habit. I wonder if I’ll be able to do without it next month!”

Moments of laughter...

  • “We tried tingle lube, but it burnt the living daylights out of me!” – Margaret, 14 November
  • “I tried everything – including chasing him around the house with a vibrator!” – Reneé, 12 November
  • “I was looking forward to the rugby (South Africa versus England), so my thoughts weren’t on sex. It felt like work!” – Nicolas, 22 November
  • “He wasn’t in the mood. I couldn’t believe it! He said we should toss a few numbers into a hat – and that the one we picked could be our score out of ten!” – Louine, 3 November
  • “I sang for him, and it was really funny! We decided that next time we’ll use a CD! – Lisa, 10 November

... and moments of insight

  • “We made a love nest for ourselves on the trampoline under the stars… what a great idea!” – Lisa, 3 November
  • “I wanted to roll over and sleep when he started rubbing me! We used toys and massage gel from the INTIMACY gift package. Jack made it great for me.” – Louine, 9 November
  • “I dressed up for him and did a strip-tease... fantastic!!” – Reneé, 13 November
  • “Sex in the shower is always one of my top choices. It looks like it does in the movies!” – Werner, 13 November
  • “Candles in the bath took us from zero to hero!” – Lisa, 4 November
  • “He gave me chocolates and flowers... the best aphrodisiac ever!” – Reneé, 22 November
  • “Lubricant, toys and unbridled passion… an absolute winner.” – Lisa, 27 November
  • “A massage and candles – what more does a woman want?” – Reneé, 24 November.

What were the results?

A boost for communication
Deshnee and Peter abandoned the challenge very early on. Both of them enjoyed the first five days, but it soon felt like hard work. They two talked about it, and realised that they were both happy with the ‘where, how often and how many times’ in their sexual relationship.

“I’m already under severe pressure to perform at work, and my ‘to do’ list just gets longer. I didn’t want my marriage to become part of this need to perform, and shared my fears with my husband. He agreed that our marriage should be a place of sanctuary and escape – and that pressure to be a ‘Stepford Wife’ shouldn’t come into the equation at home.” She was relieved to hear that Peter is happy with their sex life and that she didn’t have to fill in forms or try to reach a certain level in the bedroom. They are both fulfilled in their marriage, and believe that it is pointless to “fix what isn’t broken”! They threw their forms away and decided to trust their instincts and rely on communication and love to lead them – not a feeling of “I have to...”.

Did the challenge teach them something?
“Definitely,” admits Deshnee. “The challenge reminded me that I have a wonderful husband, a wonderful marriage and a wonderful sex life which doesn’t need to be changed...” She also discovered the following: “1. Men don’t always feel like sex (it’s true!) 2. If I don’t enjoy it, he won’t enjoy it! 3. A change is as good as a holiday (in terms of the location in which you enjoy sex!) 4. Men can sense when you ‘lie back and think of England’ – so DON’T! 5. Passivity isn’t an option – the challenge forced us to communicate!”

Creative inspiration
Reneé and Philip also experienced the challenge as difficult, but creativity was the lifeline which helped them complete the challenge: “We incorporated long baths, lots of candles, music and sexy nighties every time – with a Red Bull or an Energade and, of course, a glass of wine... or three!” They had a ‘show night’ on one occasion, which saw her wear a sexy dress and do a strip-tease for Philip with sexy music playing in the background.

Did the challenge teach them something?
“The challenge helped us realise that we need to place sex a lot higher on our priority list. And of course – the more a person practises, the better!”

Finally, a good night’s rest!
“At the beginning of the challenge, it felt as if I was attempting the Tour de France!” laughs Louine. “When we committed to the challenge, we had hoped we could take it in our stride – but we had another thing coming! We failed miserably.” Many factors made it difficult for the couple, including that she discovered she was pregnant on the 3rd of November. “Secondly, we have a 17-month-old daughter who demands a lot of attention, still sleeps in our bedroom and isn’t a good sleeper. Thirdly, it was November – the end of a long and difficult year for us both.”

They pushed through in the hope that hormones would take over and that sex wouldn’t only depend on will power. “In the end, it was the pregnancy that gave our challenge the final blow.” They decided to withdraw. The one good thing that happened as a result of the challenge is that Lilly now sleeps in her own room.

Did the challenge teach them something?
“My belief is that the challenge isn’t possible, practically. Inevitable, one or other factor is bound to make the challenge impossible. Any couple who succeeds in overcoming these stumbling blocks should be nominated for a Nobel prize!”

A wake-up call
Margaret and Johan’s daily entries dried up on day 20. “We never formally abandon the challenge, but later just decided that we weren’t going to force ourselves, in spite of our exhaustion, to have sex daily. We did, however, decide to see if the challenge would teach us something.”

Exhaustion continued to make it difficult for the couple, until a friend suggested that they try early morning or late night sex. This worked much better, and the couple was surprised to see what a difference sex at a different time can make to a marriage. “Although a few days of red-hot midnight sex and steamy morning sessions made things easier, we definitely didn’t do well,” admits Margaret. Johan felt they didn’t give of their best, but adds that it couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time of year. The couple agree that in their relationship, romance disappears the moment sex is scheduled.

Did the challenge teach them something?
Definitely, says Margaret. “It reminded me that we will definitely have to do something about our ‘frequency’. I was under the impression that we have regular sex, but when I saw the figures on paper, I was shocked to realise that I had over-exaggerated. I also learnt that we definitely prefer spontaneous sex!”

An eye-opener after 22 years!
The challenge made a huge difference in Angelina and Nicolas’ lives: “What a wonderful month!” she said, adding that it was just what she needed at the age of 44 and after 22 years of marriage. “It was a real high in my own life, and did wonders for my self-image. I saw my husband blossom after all these years, and he treated and made me feel like a princess.” To her surprise, she enjoyed sex most of the time. “What an eye-opener after 22 years of married life!” wrote Nicolas.

“As a healthy, young-at-heart man, I saw this as the opportunity all married men dream of, but to my surprise, the big S isn’t the only thing life revolves around.” He admits that he thought the challenge would be the solution for a marriage in which a lack of sex has been blamed for many a squabble, and was convinced that he would push for a more permanent arrangement, because, logically, “My wife would see how great it was for me, and how well I would treat her. But with my tail between my legs, I have to admit that this wasn’t entirely true.”

The first few days were wonderful, but as soon as the couple ran into a small disagreement, they realised the month may be a little longer than they had anticipated. “I started to feel as if my wife was expecting more from me in the day-to-day aspects of life… as if she was suddenly expecting me to start doing more around the house than I had always done.” The rest of the month went smoothly for the couple, even if there weren’t fireworks every time. They did, however, discover that they believe in quality rather than quantity. Although every night was enjoyable, it could quite easily be watered down to every second or third night, they commented.

Did the challenge teach them something?
“From my side, I can honestly say that I rediscovered my wife as a woman and realised, once again, how very differently men and women are wired. I need to thank her because it was definitely more of a challenge for her than it was for me. Our communication in general, and definitely around what we want in bed, improved drastically. I am convinced that the month had a positive effect on our marriage, improved our quality of life and caused us to become more ‘tuned in’ when it comes to matters in bed.”

On a more personal note, Nicolas admits that the challenge made him more tolerant and that things that would have upset him previously were easier to ignore. “Very important – and I need to say this – is that girls walking down the street, or women in our friendship group, were suddenly not as attractive as they had been before... my thoughts were focused on my wife and my own happiness at home.”

Angelina realised that women say ‘no’ too easily. “I believe with my whole heart that we women have the ability to change our attitude and enjoy a wonderful marriage with our husbands. A person just needs to come to the realisation of how important sex is for men and what a small sacrifice (as we call it) this actually is. It’s a vitally important issue which is so necessary for marriages and a healthy sex life.” Most importantly, the couple realised that, with God, everything is possible.

Too much pressure on women
Amy admitted that at first, they tackled the challenge with gusto. “I was really looking forward to it because I felt that I could definitely give more of myself in bed. I was convinced it would do our marriage the world of good...” In the end, though, the challenge proved quite the opposite and caused them to go through a very difficult patch in their relationship. The fact that they didn’t complete the challenge caused additional stress.

“I think that if you’d asked for feedback after December, the results would have been more positive.” At first, the couple spoke about it, but even their dialogue dried up after a while. “I feel very strongly about the fact that women experience a lot of pressure to keep their husbands happy, yet men have no idea how to keep their wives happy! At the moment we’re working on this aspect of our relationship.”

Did the challenge teach them something?
Although it may sound as if Amy isn’t any wiser as a result of the challenge, Mark was grateful for the extra sex and feels it did have a positive effect on their relationship in the end.

Perceptions and assumptions solved
Lisa and Werner persevered because they knew they wouldn’t be sorry after the time. On the 9th of November, Lisa wrote: “Adventure and pleasure! Our room has become a boudoir of passion!” They overcame the difficult time by creating an atmosphere conducive to lovemaking and trying new things to keep it exciting. On the 20th of November, however, Lisa was convinced that the challenge was causing her Adam to make her feel more like Snow-White than Cinderella! She expected more flowers and love, but Werner, completely unaware of this, simply enjoyed the fact that sex every night was ‘a given’.

When she confronted him, he was very unhappy and suggested they shouldn’t continue with the challenge if it was making her upset. In the end, they carried on even though she didn’t like the fact that she had to be permanently ‘available’. “I miss my husband having to hunt me!” she admitted.

Did the challenge teach them something?
Werner doesn’t think so. “We already have regular sex when both of us are in the mood. It didn’t work this way with the challenge. It felt forced.” Lisa, on the other hand, believes that it did make a difference in their marriage. “I learnt more about my husband and about how he feels towards intimacy. It was a relief to discover that he also isn’t always in the mood and that he sometimes also rates sex a 6/10 . We managed to clarify many perceptions and dispel our assumptions!” The couple also discovered which frequency they prefer.

Interesting truths...

  • The Adams and Eves’ pleasure barometers were usually very similar. It seldom happened that an Adam scored sex 10/10 while an Eve gave it 5/10.
  • There were days when even the Adams didn’t feel like sex – believe it or not!
  • The couples had sex at all different times of the day or night, from early morning to midnight!
  • Partners were sometimes on completely different wavelengths when it came to being ‘in the mood’.
  • Usually, when an Eve wasn’t in the mood, but agreed anyway, they both enjoyed sex.
  • Scores ranged from 3/10 to a substantial number of 12/10s!

If you don’t think you can manage sex every day, try the following:

  • Increase your capacity slowly. Charla recommends that a couple double their capacity, and then attempt the same after six months.
  • Re-examine your sex life on a regular basis. Although they try to achieve an average of three times a week, says Doug’s wife, Annie, even this takes a bit of warming up or the occasional marathon session.
  • Live out your desires. When you feel like sex, go straight to the bedroom (or wherever!). The more time you permit between the idea and acting on it, the more motivation you’ll lose.
  • “Fake it ‘till you make it”. Different experts agree – even if you’re not in the mood when you start, you’ll probably enjoy the sex in the end!

* Additional sources:,,
This is an edited article that first appeared in INTIMACY, October 2009


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