Most sex scenes in movies and books frame sex as an effortlessly spontaneous, conveniently uninterrupted act.
In fiction, everyone is physically and emotionally prepared to have sex on the spot. They don’t have to talk about boundaries, triggers, safer sex choices, or lube. Any children, pets, or dependent adults in their lives are magically taken care of off-screen. There is no back pain, vaginismus, erectile dysfunction, dislocating joints, or medication side effects to navigate. Nobody ever uses sex toys or positioning pillows; their needs seamlessly line up, and their orgasms come easily and simultaneously.
In real life, sex isn’t magically orchestrated on our behalf. We have to communicate with our partners. We have to navigate our schedules and responsibilities. We have to deal with the physical and emotional realities of intimacy. We have to have real sex – without writers, directors, and a full set crew to coordinate everything on our behalf.
Is scheduling sex a good idea?
Pre-planning sex is a strangely controversial concept. Some people view it as “chore-ifying” sex, stripping away any playfulness or spontaneous sizzle. But what it actually strips away – if we let it – is the stress and guilt we feel about not being able to juggle everything and have a movie-perfect sex life.
Scheduling something means it’s important to you, that it’s worth prioritizing. There’s nothing sexier than feeling wanted. Scheduling also gives you time to make arrangements (such as hiring a sitter or getting something fun shipped to your door) and limit distractions (like keeping dinner short by getting takeout, making sure your housemates are out, or turning off your phone.)
With all of that out of the way, you have the space to pay attention to your partner(s). To flirt. To exchange those sultry looks that so often precede steamy scenes in movies.
And contrary to the phrase “scheduling sex,” you don’t actually have to schedule sex. You can schedule intimacy, then let things evolve if you and your partner(s) feel moved. For example, you can set aside time for a shared shower, or a cozy cuddle and an episode of Our Flag Means Death. Maybe your dedicated downtime turns sexy, or maybe it’s just intimate bonding time; either way, you’re spending uninterrupted time together.
A scheduled sex life is more realistic and accommodating for those of us who juggle work, family, chronic illnesses and disabilities, and our daily dose of doomscrolling.
Can sex be too routine?
Can sex be too repetitious? If you’re worried that your usual routine is no longer satisfying you and/or your partner(s), there are countless books and articles offering advice on “spicing things up.” I’ve written several for this blog! But sometimes our worries aren’t because we’re legitimately dissatisfied. Sometimes we worry because we think we should feel dissatisfied.
Generally, the sex scenes in fictional media (including porn, which is first and foremost entertainment) are highly idealized. They rarely depict pleasure needs as individual; instead, everyone gets off quickly and easily from a brief, passionate round of penetration. In real life, sex requires a lot more effort to be pleasurable and satisfying for everyone involved.
There are a lot of reasons people find what works and stick to it. Maybe you have a busy or demanding schedule, and you want to spend your limited time and energy efficiently. (Grabbing your Magic Wand Rechargeable for a fast, no-fuss orgasm right before bed? Valid!) Maybe you’re disabled, chronically ill, or neurodivergent, and what works for you was difficult to find in the first place. Maybe you’re a sexual assault survivor, and sticking to the same sex moves helps you feel safe.
If the so-called “same old same old” sex satisfies you, there’s nothing wrong with that! You’re not basic, or boring, or “missing out” by seeking pleasure in the ways you’re familiar and comfortable with.
But what if I want to change things up?
All that being said, schedules and routines sometimes stop serving us. If you and/or your partner(s) are feeling restrained by the structured nature of your sex life, it might be time to explore.
Changes to your sex life don’t have to be radical. Sexual exploration doesn’t have to be jarring or uncomfortably spontaneous. You don’t have to throw away the positive aspects of schedules and routines.
Before you start looking into spice ideas, stop and consider why you have sex. Maybe it’s all about the big O for you, because orgasms reduce your chronic pain and help you sleep. Maybe it’s about feeling closer to your partner(s). Maybe it’s about feeling at home in your body. Whatever the reasons, write a list with your partner(s). As you start discussing ways to freshen up your sex life, prioritize ideas that center those motivations.
Switching Up Scheduled Sex:
- If your sessions have to be short, try taking turns! Dedicating the entire time to one partner means you get to do more to them. It also builds anticipation for your turn.
- Do your best to change up your scheduling. Our bodies feel different at different times of day. An early afternoon roll in the sheets might be more energetic than a late night quickie.
- Take turns pre-planning sex. The labor of orchestrating when, what, and how can become wearisome!
- To make sex feel less boxed in, begin foreplay hours or even days before the next time. Send flirty sexts about your anticipation, drop reminders in casual conversation, dress or pose in ways you know will catch your partner’s attention. But be clear you’re courting them, don’t just hint!
Reevaluating Routine Sex:
- Make a list of potential change ups (from new positions to new activities/techniques) you’re interested in and rate them based on emotional and physical difficulty. When you’re ready to explore, consider how you’re feeling, and choose things at your current readiness level.
- Try enhancing what you already know and love. Add a wedge pillow to missionary to change the angle. Do you usually mutually masturbate? Try dirty talking through a role play scenario.
- To reduce pressure/nervousness, try limiting wholly new experiments to a few minutes at the start or end of sex. This can make exploration feel less daunting!
- If sex toys are central to your pleasure-seeking, try something new! Bodies can be very particular about stimulation (as any sex toy reviewer will tell you, vibrator motors vary widely) so if you’re particular, look for your favorite toy’s sibling. A fan of the We-Vibe Tango’s shuddery rumbles? Try the We-Vibe Nova 2.
But the most important advice I can give is: talk to your partner(s). Be honest about how you’re feeling about your sex life. If one of you wants to shake things up, make sure it’s a discussion, not an accusation or a challenge. Your current sex life isn’t a failure just because you want to change it up. Your current sex life is the foundation for that change.
-Betty Butch (they/she) is a queer sex and relationships writer. By blogging about their experiences as a fat, trans, autistic person, they hope to help change the narrative of who has sex and what sex "should" be. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.