OK. Before we dive into this particular topic, let me just say that 1) a lot of this data was citedbefore the pandemic (which means that not having sex because of COVID doesn't really fly here) and 2) if you're someone who's having less sex because you're abstinent by choice, believe me, I get it (check out "I've Been Abstinent For 12 Years. Here's How."). Still, because I am a fan of sex, I write A LOT about sex and I work with couples who should be having sex (also check out "What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage"), when I noticed that there was article after article after article that said Americans are having less sex than they've had in quite some time—not only did it pique my curiosity, I knew that I had to share it with y'all. Because sometimes, it's not until something is specifically brought to our attention, that we'll even notice that it very well could personally apply to what we've currently got going on.
Anyway, some folks are calling this coitus valley a sex recession. Others, a sex depression. Either way, let's explore what in the world is going on—or rather, not going on—in so many bedrooms across the country, so that we can make sure that you don't become a statistic (if you don't wanna be).
Who’s Having Less Sex and Why?
Now, before you assume that the people who are having less sex are your grandparents, let me debunk that myth, right out of the gate. Believe it or not, there is something that's literally known as the 70-year itch. Not only that but a Duke University study revealed that around 20 percent of seniors over the age of 65 said that they are currently having better sex than they ever have in their entire life. Also, according to an AARP study, among those who are between the ages of 45-59, 56 percent said they are gettin' it in at least once a week and 46 percent of those between the ages of 60-70 and 34 percent of people over 70 said the same.
So, who is showin' out on the inaction tip right through here? You might be surprised.
Between June of 2019 and June of 2020, 1 in 3 men between the ages of 18-24 said that, not only had they not had sex during that time, they didn't participate in any sexual activity at all. (Wow.)
Next up. Millennials (those are people who were born between 1981-1996). They are actually the reason why the term "sex recession" was coined. The drop in their sex life went from 62 to 54 times a year, on average.
Then there's married folks. A June 2020 study that was published on The Knot said that 24 percent of the individuals who took part in their survey had sex four times a week before marriage; those same folks dropped down to nine percent after saying "I do", although it should go on record that 62 percent of men and 47 percent of women did wish that they were having sex more often.
So, why aren't these people doing-the-do more often than this? As I dug even deeper, it appears that several factors come into play:
While it would be awesome to put it all on the stress and pressure that come with work demands, guess what? Actually, it's the couples who are the busiest who seem to have sex the most.
Younger folks? It would appear that many are struggling with adulting on a whole 'nother level. In fact, some data says that because so many individuals between the ages of 18-24 are taking longer and longer to live an independent life, it's ultimately taking a toll on their sex life.
I'm not shocked in the least that social media and constant online interaction are doing some real damage. Not only is it causing some people to become overstimulated, many are actually getting used to the idea of solely interacting with other people on their smartphone and laptops instead of engaging in face-to-face interaction. Plus, there are other studies which say that social media can trigger depression-related symptoms, not to mention what always taking in photoshopped and filtered images can do to one's sexual self-confidence.
Don't even get me started on all of the questions I've got about "Americans aren't making enough babies to replace ourselves". It's almost like sex has become so recreational that folks forgot that it is how we populate the earth too (SDMH). Anyway, having less of a desire to have children plays a role in less copulation as well.
For married folks and couples who live together, there's also the sleep divorce thing. This is when couples make the conscious decision to not share the same bed. Some do it because one or both individuals snore. Some do it because they've got different sleep or nighttime patterns overall. Others do it simply to get some "me" time or space. Anyway, it would appear that these are on the rise. While some researchers say it could benefit sex lives overall, other experts think that it is just one more thing that makes sex more…complicated.
And then there's our diet. Aside from how much a lot of us eat sugar, salt and processed foods and all of this can throw our libido way off, 36.5 percent of Americans are considered to be obese while 32.5 percent are considered to be overweight. When we as women fall into this category, it can put our hormones into a tailspin. When men do, it ups their chances for high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
Gee. When you take all of this into account, it makes more and more sense why less of us are having sex, doesn't it? At the same time, these stats aren't something that you've got to—pardon the pun—lie down and take. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to keep this from becoming an issue in your own home.
5 Tips to Keep Your Sex Life Going Strong
1. Be intentional about having more sex. Sex doesn't just happen. We have to make it happen. And to make something happen, there has to be a plan. That's why I find it so fascinating that some people frown upon scheduling sex. Why? You get paid on pay day because you go to work at a certain time. You are able to get a lot of things accomplished because you plan them out to happen at a certain time. Don't let these rom-coms fool you—sex oftentimes needs to have a schedule because there are only so many hours in the day as well. Besides, we typically prioritize what matters to us, so if you want to have a healthy sex life, be intentional about having sex. To do so regularly and consistently, sometimes that requires a sex schedule—and then following through with it.
2. Connect emotionally, not just physically. When sex is just a physical matter, it's pretty easy to have sex with pretty much anyone. Know what else? It's also fairly easy to become bored and feel somewhat of a disconnect, even from the act itself. That's why it's important to make sure that you're doing your part to secure an emotional connection with your partner. Go on dates. Have meaningful conversations. Learn the art of mental foreplay. Cultivate intimacy outside of the bedroom. Laugh together. There are some people I've been in relationships with where, I dug them so much on the mental and emotional tip that sex—including the amount—was never an issue. I was pretty much always down. If you're in a relationship and your sex life is tanking, what's your emotional connection like? The answer to that question can reveal a lot.
3. Unplug more often. There are some studies that say that it's because of social media that cheating is on the rise. Honestly, I think social media addiction is a far bigger relationship culprit because, if you're more interested in what's happening out on these Instagram and Black Twitter streets than what's transpiring in your own life, at the end of the day, that's a problem. And how do you know if you're addict in this area? If checking social media is the first and last thing that you do every day. If you can't turn your notifications off. If you think you would just die without your phone being in your room at night or you can't even imagine going a weekend without being online. If you're neglecting other priorities to be on social media. Sometimes, we don't realize how attached we are to something until we decide to go without it. If you take out this upcoming weekend to "unplug", you might be floored by, not just how much more free time you've got but how much time you have to do…other things. #wink
4. Take care of your health. Feeling lethargic, to the point where sex totally disinterests you, isn't just some random occurrence. It could be your diet ("So, Here's What Your Diet Says About Your Sex Life"). It could be that your sleep patterns are all over the place. It could be that your hormone levels are imbalanced. It could be that you need to exercise. It could even be something that is related to your mental health; something that could benefit from a therapist/counselor/coach working with you to sort it all out. Remember how I mentioned earlier that depression and being overstimulated can play a role in one's libido drop? Sometimes you can't fix those things on your own. Sometimes you need a professional's assistance—and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is knowing that something is beyond your own capacity and not seeking out some reputable help.
5. Talk it out. Finally, talk to your partner; especially if you're in a long-term relationship. While everyone's sex cycles and patterns are different, if you feel like your sexual needs aren't being met, there's a chance that your partner may either sense that to be the case or feel the same way as you do. And here's the thing—one of the absolute best aphrodisiacs is open and honest communication. That's why it's so important to do it. Often.
Less folks are having sex. There's plenty of proof to support this fact. Now you know why and what you can do to prevent that from being a reality that you can personally relate to. Besides, it would be a shame if your grandparents were blowing you out of the water on the sex tip. From the stats that I've seen, it's not as far-fetched as you might think. Crazy, huh? Hmph.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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