Expert Insights

Why Scheduling Intimacy is Important: The Myth of Spontaneous Sex

When I suggest scheduling intimacy or physical touch time, I often get pushback from sex therapy clients.

Some common gripes I hear in response include that scheduling:

  • takes the excitement out of things
  • adds pressure
  • feels constraining 

Often, people think that “sex should just happen.”  

They’re typically thinking back to the beginning stages of their relationship when they had more rip-each-other’s-clothes-off moments. 

I like to tell them about the “myth of spontaneity”: When we take a second look at the steamy moments that seemed to come out of nowhere, often they weren’t so spontaneous at all. 

Typically, you set a time for where and when to meet with your date. As the day approaches, you likely start to get nervous and excited as you mentally prepare to meet up.

On the day of, you may have a shower, plan your outfit, and pick out some underwear that doesn’t have holes in it. You might be thinking that sex is on the table.

I hope to reconnect you with this frame of mind when I suggest scheduling sex. 

It doesn’t mean sex has to happen. But it does involve planning to be in a mental, emotional, and physical space to slow down with your partner. 

Planning an intimacy date isn’t just about picking a date on your calendar. Here’s what you need to do to prepare.

Understand your desire style 

There is no one way to experience desire. Most sex you’ve seen happen in movies, TV, and porn reflects spontaneous desire. But desire falls on a spectrum between spontaneous and responsive desire.

Where you land on this spectrum is impacted by your sexual accelerators (turn-ons) and brakes (turn-offs). 

Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, compares spontaneous desire to a quick-to-heat microwave and responsive desire to a slow-to-warm oven. 

Factors that might influence your brakes and accelerators can include:

  • mental and physical wellbeing
  • relationship characteristics (e.g., trust, connection, or power dynamics)
  • partner characteristics (e.g., presence, mental health, or hygiene)
  • physical setting
  • work and family stress. 

According to Nagoski, the most common combination of factors that help fuel sexual desire is an environment that is high trust, high intimacy, low stress, and explicitly erotic.

Focus on turn-offs

A lot of pop culture sex advice focuses on sexual accelerators, like getting sexy lingerie, buying a new sex toy, or going on an all-inclusive vacation. 

And hey, all these can be wonderful, but your brakes can make the biggest difference in desire.

For many people, stress is the biggest libido buster. 

When Emily Nagoski wrote Come As You Are, she said the chapter people most came up to talk to her about after speaking events was the chapter she wrote on stress and burnout. She even went on to write an entire book about stress.

The best way to take care of sexuality? Take care of yourself. 

Evaluate your current capacity

When planning your week and making space for sex, make sure to factor in time to decompress. If this feels impossible, it’s likely a sign that you’ve got bigger things going on that need attending to. 

It’s normal to go through seasons of life where you’re more and less interested in sex. If sex is something important to you (which it doesn’t have to be!), trust that you’ll be able to find your way back to it when you have more capacity. 

Reflecting on your context and identifying your brakes and accelerators can help you understand the factors that boost or hinder your desire. 

Self-reflection can guide you in finding windows of time where more accelerators can be ON and your brakes can be OFF. 

Emily Nagoski (can you tell I’m a huge fangirl?!) has a helpful worksheet on her website to help you brainstorm your context, which you can check out here.

Plan your intimacy date

Let’s talk logistics. 

Remember, when putting sex on the calendar, all you’re agreeing to is finding space to engage in a way that feels good. 

Think of sex like a buffet. Instead of a pre-ordered meal, it’s any form of sensual touch with the intention to create pleasure — massage, making out, foot rubs. Sex is so much more than penetration.

Many of us have a script for what “counts” as sex. And ultimately, that script is highly limiting. Sex doesn’t need to be goal-oriented. Consider broadening your definition of sex to take the pressure off and focus on having fun. 

If you’re unsure where to start, check out this 3 Minute Game from Somatic Sex Educator Betty Martin.

Don’t forget about solo sex

Put aside intentional time for a self-touch date. Let curiosity be your focus. 

Like with meditation, it’s easy to become distracted. Whenever you notice you’ve drifted off, come back to your senses. Investigate what textures, temperatures, and pressures you notice as you touch. Pay attention to feelings that arise. 

Final word

Spontaneous sex can be fun. That early relationship fireworks feeling is great, and you might miss it. But anticipation has its benefits, too. 

There’s something meaningful and delicious about the intimacy you can create intentionally with someone who knows and cares for you deeply. The kind of sex that comes out of awareness and honesty about your preferences and desires and the ability to be present in your own skin is truly special. And if you ask me, it’s worth opening your calendar for.

Erin Davidson, MA, RCC, CST
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Erin Davidson (she/her) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Sex Therapist working in private practice in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a firm believer in the healing power of pleasure and being kinder to ourselves. Erin is the author of two books Break Through the Breakup and Thriving in Non-Monogamy. She is most proud of her new fluffball Marv who recently graduated top of his class in puppy preschool.